Smartwool parent company’s foundation gifts $1.5M to Steamboat for new Howelsen chairlift |

Smartwool parent company’s foundation gifts $1.5M to Steamboat for new Howelsen chairlift

A duo of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club members ride up the Barrows Lift at Howelsen Hill on Opening Day in 2019.
File/Derek Maiolo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — An unexpected $1.5 million gift to Steamboat Springs that was announced on Wednesday will be used to build a new Barrows Chairlift on Howelsen Hill.

The gift comes on behalf of Smartwool, the wool-knit clothing brand popular for its line of socks and base layers that was founded in Steamboat. The company recently relocated to Denver with its parent company, VF Corp.

The $1.5 million grant from VF Corp.’s private grantmaking organization, The VF Foundation, was given to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, according to a written statement released Wednesday by Smartwool.

Jen McLaren, brand president of Smartwool, said the gift is a way of giving back to the community, which she described as “the special place that fostered our love for the outdoors and the communities that explore it.”

The new chairlift will replace a decades-old, two-person lift with a new, fixed-grip triple chairlift, which McLaren said she hopes makes the mountain more accessible to more people.

“Howelsen Hill Ski Area is a community treasure and at the center of Steamboat’s recreational heritage,” said Gary Suiter, Steamboat city manager. “This gift will not only aid the SSWSC in inspiring people to participate in the outdoors but will provide a substantial economic impact to the city of Steamboat — making the mountain easier to access for visitors and residents.”

Steamboat City Council decided in July to move forward with building a new chairlift, and this grant will help complete that project.

“This gift will help ensure Howelsen Hill remains a vibrant place for the community to congregate and celebrate all things winter,” McLaren said.

The council renegotiated its contract with Howelsen Hill at its weekly meeting Tuesday, and members unanimously agreed to renew the contract and move forward with the lift project.

Before the grant was awarded, council members considered two options for a replacement chairlift: one quote obtained from Austria-based Doppelmayr/Garaventa, the manufacturer of the new gondola at Steamboat Resort, was $3 million and a quote from Utah-based Skytrac was almost $30,000 less

Howelsen Hill is home to North America’s oldest ski resort, where dozens of Olympic winter sports athletes train each season.

“Howelsen Hill is the cornerstone of Steamboat Springs,” said Sarah Floyd, executive director of SSWSC. “The new Barrows Lift will allow us to continue our mission of making the outdoors more accessible for everyone.”

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