New agreement expected to bring more clarity to future of Howelsen Hill
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club are expected to sign an agreement next month that would bring some more stability and clarity to the future of the country’s oldest operating ski area.
There will be no jarring changes at Howelsen Hill stemming from the pending agreement. But the document ultimately reaffirms the city’s commitment to maintaining the ski hill and clarifies the answers to some lingering questions such as how the city should prepare financially for the prospect of future landslides and when the public has access to the hill.
City officials have also endorsed the creation of some discretionary funds for capital improvements, slope stabilization and the replacement of aging facilities and equipment.
The new winter operating agreement at Howelsen Hill would have the city set aside $50,000 each year for costs related to keeping the ski slopes stable and other related capital expenses. The city also would continue investing $550,000 a year to operate the ski hill.
Under the agreement, the Winter Sports Club would invest at least $100,000 a year in capital improvements at the ski hill.
In addition, the agreement clarifies public skiing hours, city maintenance obligations and the process that should be taken when new amenities are added to Howelsen.
City officials and the head of the Winter Sports Club this week praised the potential supplemental agreement as a positive step for the future of the ski hill.
It would not replace the existing joint use agreement the city and the Winter Sports Club signed to govern the use of Howelsen more than three decades ago.
“I think it’s a good compromise,” City Attorney Dan Foote said of the new document.
Winter Sports Club Executive Director Jim Boyne said he thinks the agreement puts the club in a much more stable environment going forward.
“I can’t wait to get to the point where we can sign something and get moving on replacing (the Barrows chairlift) or working on other projects,” Boyne said.
The Steamboat Springs City Council is expected to review the operating agreement, which would last for a decade, late Tuesday evening.
Boyne said there were a few substantive items still left to discuss with the city regarding the agreement, but he was happy with the response he got from Winter Sports Club board members who will be asked to approve it.
The City Council in 2015 set out to modify the joint use agreement it had with the Winter Sports Club at Howelsen because the council was worried about the city’s financial liability in the previous contract.
The talks were born out of a landslide on the hill that led to costly repairs.
Boyne said he thought the city and the Winter Sports Club had worked well together under the existing agreement and the club would have never pushed the city to spend money that would break the city’s budget.
“With the recent slope instability, there was uncertainty as to what the city’s (financial) obligations were, and we were more than happy to clarify that,” he said.
The public can view the document below.
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