Filled in 4 minutes: Steamboat Springs' summer camps in high demand |

Filled in 4 minutes: Steamboat Springs’ summer camps in high demand

Young camper Reagan O’Connell listens to instructors in 2016 in a youth theater workshop at the Chief Theater. O’Connell was part of the city of Steamboat Springs ASSET program, where campers sign up for different camps based on their interests.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Registration for the city of Steamboat Springs’ summer day camp for kids entering kindergarten and first grade opened at 7:30 a.m. April 1. Kids were waitlisted by 7:34 a.m.

The city offers general day camps for kids entering kindergarten through sixth grade on weekdays from mid-June to mid-August, as well as interest-specific camps that offer lessons in sports, art and outdoor activities.

While the city’s summer camps have regularly seen waitlists, they’re filling up more quickly. For the first time this year, kids registering for the Mountaineers camp, which is for kids entering fourth through sixth grade, were waitlisted on the first day of registration.

“Basically, everything was full within 24 hours,” said Steamboat Parks and Recreation’s Youth and Teen Programs Coordinator Alexis Wolf.

A growing demand

When registration was done in person 15 years ago, parents would line up at 3 and 4 a.m. outside of the Parks and Recreation Office to get their kids signed up for summer camps, Wolf said. The city bumped up numbers, allowing more kids in the program. Parks and Recreation staff tried different registration methods. 

For a while, increasing the number of kids in the program worked, she said. The city didn’t see the waitlists that exist now.

But about three years ago, the city limited the kindergarten camp to 15 kids.

“All the parents of kids who were going into kindergarten were there the first day. When that started happening, they were registering their other kids at the same time, and word got out that the camps filled up quickly,” Wolf said. “Last year, it was even more dramatic, and this year, it was four minutes.”

Wolf has a few guesses as to why the Adventurers Camp is in such high demand. 

As a whole, Routt County child care providers struggle to meet demands for early childhood care, though that need is most acute for kids from birth to 3 years old.

The city’s camps are more affordable than most private preschools, and at the same time, 4-year-olds are frequently growing out of preschool developmentally. The Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Colorado Summer Camp accepts kids ages 6 to 18, so pre-kindergarten kids are often too young to spend summer days there.

Licenses, space limit participation

Wolf said capacity, staffing and licensing limit how many kids can participate in these programs.

The city is working to get a state license to designate the Howelsen Hill Lodge as a summer, school-age child care center. This would free up the city’s mobile child care license, which it has used to operate the program out of the Howelsen Lodge since the Igloo closed.

“That’s where we have potential to expand programming,” Wolf said. “Without a facility and having gotten rid of the Igloo, we don’t have another building, but the mobile license could — I’m not saying it will because it would require more staffing and a higher budget — it could offer additional slots for whatever age group we can figure out.”

The city doesn’t have its own child care facility, so it’s limited to whatever space it can use at Soda Creek Elementary. For this reason, even if the program had a bigger budget for “all the staff in the world,” space and licensing places a capacity on how many kids the city can provide programming for.

Wolf said the city is hiring staff members for this summer’s programs.

Hope for those on the waitlist

Wolf said there are a few spots left in the city’s ASSET Camps — the ones that include specific activities. Participating in an ASSET Camp gets a child into the general day camp when they aren’t golfing, on stage or in a kayak.

As of Tuesday, there also were two or three days open in general day camps scattered throughout the summer, she said.

As people’s summer plans change, there will be cancellations and waitlisted kids will be able to participate, Wolf said.

“If someone tried to register for five days a week right now, it’s probably not going to happen, but the waitlists do move, for sure,” Wolf said. “People go on vacations. They have birthday parties or a sleepover or ‘somebody invited my kid over today for a play date’ — we’ll fill that spot.”

The city has the capacity to serve 104 kids per day in general day camps, with an additional eight to 28 kids in the ASSET Camps, meaning each day, there are about 120 available slots. More than 700 slots for day camp are currently waitlisted.

The Adventurers camp for kids entering kindergarten and first grade has the longest waitlist, ranging from zero to 25 slots depending on the day.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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