Officials seriously considering $1 lift tickets at downtown Steamboat ski area
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — If Steamboat Springs City Council President Walter Magill has his way, the historic Howelsen Hill ski area will be home to $1 lift tickets this season.
During the council’s day-long budget planning session Tuesday, Magill pitched the idea to his fellow council members, and most seemed to like it.
“I just want more skiers out there,” Magill said. “More people using the park.”
The $1 tickets would apply to both Nordic and Alpine skiing terrain.
The idea comes as the community struggles to figure out the future of the ski area, which is in need of some expensive improvements.
The city will be spending $750,000 on a new water line that will be used for snowmaking.
Landslides during the spring shifted the alignment of a lift tower, and it needed to be repaired. The city, which owns the ski area, believes the lift will likely need to be replaced soon.
Magill’s idea is to make the $1 lift ticket available to residents in Routt and Moffat counties.
“We could potentially have a locals pass,” councilwoman Heather Sloop said. “Say it ain’t so.”
Council members discussed possibly doing the $1 lift tickets just on weekends to start. They also entertained the idea of making the lift tickets available to everyone and not just Northwest Colorado residents.
“This is a public park,” councilman Scott Ford said. “It’s a public park, and we want it to be utilized.”
Council members expressed their desire to create memories for children of learning to ski at Howelsen.
The program would come at a cost thought.
The ski area this year is expected to generate $185,000 in revenue from season pass and lift ticket sales. About $72,000 of that will come from season pass sales, and members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports club would likely still purchase season passes.
The city though could recoup some of that revenue.
There might be additional concession sales. The program would likely gain media attention so there would be value in that free marketing.
Howelsen could also become a destination for Front Range families, who would spend money in town while teaching their kids to ski at bargain prices.
“This could conceivably make a pretty big splash in the ski industry,” said Craig Robinson, the city’s parks, open space and trails manager. “We could be busy. We could be real busy.”
There could potentially be more costs if the city needed to increase staffing at Howelsen.
Before implementing the $1 lift tickets, council members said they needed to identify what their goals were.
“I just want to make sure that we agree about what the goal is,” councilwoman Kathi Meyer said.
There were discussions about it being an opportunity to get solid numbers on how many people utilized Howelsen if it was essentially free.
This information might be useful as the city prepares to potentially ask taxpayers for additional tax dollars in the 2018 election.
“If we don’t move forward, we are going to get stuck in the past,” Sloop said. “We have an opportunity to move forward.”
Before moving ahead with the plan, City Manager Gary Suiter said it was important for the council to get feedback from the leaders at the Winter Sports Club, who are the primary users of the ski area.
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