No hill climb on Howelsen; Steamboat City Council squashes Triple Crown snowmobile race proposal
March 6, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs City Council nixed a snowmobile hill climb on Howelsen Hill next spring.
The event, proposed by Triple Crown Sports and sanctioned by the Rocky Mountain States HillClimb Association, would have included a contest with sleds climbing the face of Howelsen and a B Fest featuring "bourbon, barbecue and braaps."
Triple Crown CEO Keri King said he sought to bring the event in for a one-year trial.
"Our purpose is to bring athletes and families together," King said. "We're a sports tourism company. If this city is interested in that kind of an atmosphere, I think Triple Crown is a good avenue to continue that sports tourism. It brings athletes and families to your city and creates great economic impact. I love Steamboat. I truly do love this town."
According to documents presented at the Tuesday night’s meeting, city staff forecasted $1.2 million in direct spending from 200 participants and 2,500 spectators at the event.
Other cities were considered for the event, according to the staff report.
Steamboat Resort was also considered, though King said it would require closing Mount Werner Road to get snowmobiles from parking lots to the hill, and late season snowpack might be inadequate on the lower mountain.
City Council expressed concerns about the timing of the event and its impact to the stability of the historic ski hill, which has seen shifting infrastructure due to landslides and unstable soils. The noise and character of the hill — and Steamboat's snowmobiling community — were also issues for council members and those who spoke in public comment.
The event was slated for the last weekend of March or first weekend in April 2020.
To create a healthy base of snow for the snowmobiles to climb on, Howelsen snowmakers would have to create about three times the manmade snow they normally make on the face at the start of the season, which would mean an estimated additional cost of $3,840. This additional snowmaking would also keep the hill closed to Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club practices for an additional two to eight days.
Typically, Howelsen closes in mid-March. At the recommendation of Yeh and Associates, the engineering firm that conducted soil stability studies on the hill, city crews scrape the snow off the hill in an attempt to prevent landslides due to the spring runoff.
According to a comment from Yeh included in council documents, additional snow "would likely impact the upper hill the most due to shallow failures seen in the area," though what that impact would be, and if there would even be an impact, is unclear.
The Parks and Recreation Department recommended allowing the event after negotiating an agreement with Triple Crown that would require the company make financial contributions to the stability of Howelsen.
Council member Heather Sloop said she thought the event was a great thing, but "the timing stinks." Nearly all of the council members mentioned that the date of the event played a role in their decision to reject it.
"The fact that we have surface slides scares me. That's my number one concern," Sloop said. "My number two concern is that now we're going to impact the club at early snowmaking season, which turns into a fiscal issue for us on how much time we're spending putting snow on the hill five months before you show up."
Noise and the character of the event were also concerns.
"We have great concerns about the manner in which snowmobiling is being represented in our community as a whole," snowmobiler Tori Koski said in public comment. "It makes me worry about snowmobiling and how it's going to be perceived after this event. We must tread lightly.
"It is loud," she said. "They're not running stock sleds. They're piped. They're extremely loud. The other thing is, I know Mr. King mentioned a one-year test. A one-year test could actually ruin our reputation as snowmobilers in this town. If we want a snowmobile event in this town, I think we make it an annual event and do it right."
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"Doing it right" in Koski's eyes would be an event hosted by community snowmobiling organizations, such as Routt Powder Riders, with a snowmobile freestyle event held on the rodeo grounds. Others in public comment said they'd hope an event would benefit local nonprofit organizations.
Lisel Petis questioned if a bourbon festival could be produced as a family-friendly event.
Council members unanimously opposed the event in an informal consensus. Council member Sonja Macys was not present at the meeting.
To view the meeting in which this topic was discussed, visit docs.steamboatsprings.net:10100/OnBaseAgendaOnline.