Residents want more nightlife, better transit at mountain area, according to survey

The fencing is in place, and crews were hard at work Monday preparing to move the gondola at Steamboat Resort. The old gondola building will be demolished as part of this summer's renovation of Gondola Square at the base of the resort. This is the first part of a three-year plan that will see improvements at the base, the addition of the new Steamboat Boue Gondola and expanded terrain on Pioneer Ridge. (Photo by John F. Russell)

As part of the larger Mountain Area Master Plan, the Steamboat Springs Planning and Community Development Department conducted several surveys about what city residents would like to see in the city-owned land surrounding Steamboat Resort, and residents who responded were aligned in what improvements they’d like to see at the mountain.

Improving the pedestrian experience, implementing year-round nightlife, adding more restaurants and retail options, addressing parking issues, reinvesting in Ski Time Square, building a gondola from the Meadows Parking Lot and improving the Gondola Transit Center ranked as the five highest priorities. Maintaining Steamboat’s western identity and providing more partnerships between the public, businesses and nonprofits also were high on the list.

Council member Robin Crossan said all community feedback should be considered, but parking and transit should be an immediate priority, as she believes Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. may begin charging for parking in the lots that are currently free. Residents who took the survey also agreed that current parking is sufficient, but future demand may require more options.

“The minute that becomes paid, that means more visitors and our locals will start taking our bus,” Crossan said. “Those costs will be inherited by the city.”

Council members agreed these projects will require funding partnerships with Ski Corp. and other businesses in order to be achievable.

“This is going to be perceived as the city’s plan, and therefore, there’s an expectation that the city has the money to implement the plan,” council member Kathi Meyer said. “That’s not the case, and there is an expectation of huge partnerships financially in order to make this a reality.”

Right behind parking and transit, council members and senior planner Julie Baxter suggested the city work with Ski Corp. to help businesses relocate and open in the mountain area to create a year-round business district, rather than having businesses that are open only during the winter and summer seasons.

“I think there needs to be more thought on the non-ski season function on how the base area would be,” Meyer said. “We’re focusing on four months of the year that there’s a ski activity, and I’m trying to figure out how we get people up there and get them around and comfortable in the other eight months.”

In addition to commercial operations important to residents and visitors, Baxter said several public safety officials expressed concern about inefficient access for emergency responders to move in and out of the Gondola Transit Center.

Council member Lisel Petis emphasized that council should focus its first round of effort on Ski Time Square, as that area can attract more businesses and visitors.

“I think it’s kind of a no-brainer that we start there,” Petis said.

Council President Jason Lacy said he believes the current construction at the resort will inevitably bring more year-round visitors.

“I think it’s going to be a big impact starting the next few years,” Lacy said. “I think its going to be important for council to start thinking and talking with our partners at the mountain about how we address our parking and the transit situation now.”

Council directed Baxter and other members of the planning department to draft implementation strategies and begin communications with Ski Corp.

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