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Our view: New attractions, new revenue

At issue

The city is faced again with paying for costly repairs at Howelsen Hill

Our view

Investing in repairs at Howelsen makes sense especially in light of the hill’s untapped revenue-generating potential

Long before Steamboat Ski Area attracted visitors to the slopes of Mount Werner with promises of Champagne powder, there was Howelsen Hill. The historic ski hill — the oldest continuously operating ski hill west of the Mississippi — celebrated its 100th birthday this year, and it’s our hope the Steamboat Springs’ jewel continues to operate for another century.

At issue

The city is faced again with paying for costly repairs at Howelsen Hill



Our view

Investing in repairs at Howelsen makes sense especially in light of the hill’s untapped revenue-generating potential



Now that the winter season is over, the city is finished again faced with the prospect of repairing Howelsen due to mudslides that plague the hill each spring. During the past 10 years, the city estimates it has spent $730,000 repairing mudslide damage at Howelsen, and this year, because one of the chairlift’s towers shifted, it’s expected the city’s repair bill could reach six figures.

That large price tag has a few council members questioning the need to repair the chairlift and others searching for new ways to generate revenue to cover the cost of maintaining and operating Howelsen Hill. We think that’s an important conversation for City Council to engage in, and we also think the historic ski hill and surrounding park are worth the investment.

When we learned the Alpine slide attracts an average attendance of 60,000 each summer, we became convinced the city needs to fix the chairlift to keep that amenity going. It also opened our eyes to the untapped revenue-generating potential that exists at Howelsen Hill.

The city currently partners with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to operate the slide — a successful collaborative model that could be replicated to provide other activities at Howelsen.

As an editorial board, we agreed that a zip line and ropes course would be a great addition to the activities already offered at Howelsen and Emerald Mountain. The use would attract outdoor enthusiasts and thrill-seekers, and it would further strengthen Howelsen’s reputation as a fun destination for visitors. Locating the activity at the top of Howelsen would open up the use of the hill in the summer, and it would complement the overall Steamboat experience while helping to maintain one of this town’s most historic institutions.

We were encouraged to learn last week that the city’s parks and community services department is already starting to investigate the possibility of adding an attraction similar to the one we imagine working so well at Howelsen. A company that specializes in developing aerial adventure courses met with parks and rec personnel to assess the hill’s terrain to see if it would be suitable for such an attraction. A preliminary report is pending, and once received, the city will determine whether such a venture is worth pursuing.

An aerial adventure course would be accessed by the chairlift and could include such features as zip lines and tree-top ropes courses. We think this would provide another fun family activity for those vacationing in Steamboat, and a course like this also could be used in conjunction with corporate conferences to host team-building activities.

Howelsen Hill remains the epicenter of tourism in the summer with visitors looking to enhance their vacations with horseback riding, hiking, biking and rides down the Alpine slide — all offered within walking distance from downtown. We’re excited about the prospects of enhancing the attraction by adding low-impact activities that would help cover the city’s costs to maintain and operate Howelsen Hill while enhancing the visitor experience.

A new attraction at Howelsen won’t bring people to Steamboat on its own, but the activities offered there are part of the overall experience that makes visitors want to spend their vacations in Steamboat Springs. We also think the amenities at Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain, especially the trails, the parks, the tennis courts and the ballfields, are heavily used by locals as well.

It’s time for some creative thinking, and it appears as if city leaders are already heading down that path. Let’s keep the conversation going so that next spring the cost of repairing Howelsen is covered by revenue generated by new activities added at Steamboat’s historic hill.


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