Potential Howelsen Hill suitors emerge
January 12, 2017
Steamboat Springs — The city of Steamboat Springs’ search for a new operator of Howelsen Hill has produced four potential bidders.
The parties that have expressed an initial interest in taking over some or all of the operations at the city's historic ski hill include Steamboat Ski Area, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Torsell and Sons LLC, and Cedarhouse Partners, a real estate development firm that has an office here in Steamboat.
Representatives from the groups attended a mandatory pre-bid meeting held at the ski hill earlier this week.
City Manager Gary Suiter said he was tempered by the initial response.
"I'll have more of a reaction if and when we get proposals," he said. "It's all so preliminary, and there are so many questions and a lot of information we need to generate."
The groups will have until March 7 to submit a proposal.
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The city is searching for a new operator of the ski area to take over next ski season.
In the advertisement seeking proposals, city officials say they want a "turn-key solution that will maximize revenues and minimize expenses."
Winter Sports Club Executive Director Jim Boyne said the club cannot be the new operator if the city is only interested in the turn-key solution.
But he said the club might have an interest in providing some shared resources or shared services if it makes sense economically.
"We'll see where it goes," Boyne said. "The challenge is what would an operator's role be? Are they required to maintain or repair the existing infrastructure? Because we don't have the financial resources to say we are going to replace the Barrows chairlift. But we do think from an operating standpoint there is a role the club could play."
Boyne noted the club already has a lot of history on the ski hill.
Representatives from Steamboat Ski Area were not available on Thursday to comment on their attendance at the meeting.
A website for Torsell and Sons LLC lists the company as ski area operators but offers little more information.
Members of the Torsell family have leadership positions at Ski Cooper near Leadville, but city officials said representatives at the meeting stressed that they were not there representing that ski area.
Ralph Walton, the principal of Cedarhouse Partners, served as a senior executive at the Crested Butte Mountain Resort from 1993 to 2002.
City parks manager Craig Robinson said the advertisement for proposals to operate Howelsen reached 300 ski areas.
The city originally wanted proposals by Nov. 7, 2016, but extended that deadline.
Boyne told Steamboat Today in October it's important to the Winter Sports Club that the economic solution at Howelsen Hill deliver the best outcome for the community and that includes its niche as an affordable place for youngsters to learn to ski and snowboard. He thinks more consistent hours of operation are essential to building public participation.
"We do believe we could be a credible part of the operation," he said. "Having said that I'd love to see Steamboat Ski Area take a good look at it."