Steamboat City Council to move forward on discussing winter tubing at Howelsen Hill |

Steamboat City Council to move forward on discussing winter tubing at Howelsen Hill

Snowmaking crews work to create Howelsen Hill's new sledding hill, which is located near the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena. It will be open free to the community from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily beginning Friday. (Courtesy photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department and City Council will move forward on discussions to implement snow tubing on Howelsen Hill Ski Area’s list of winter activities.

“There is a high demand for other things to do while you come here on a ski vacation,” said Brad Setter, Howelsen Hill and Rodeo manager. “A lot of people are looking for other options to do while they’re here to ski.”

Steamboat staff members also said they hope the tubing option — which would be the second tubing location in Steamboat — would bring more people to the downtown area.

“People might be visiting and skiing at the resort and if they come to Howelsen for tubing, they might get dinner or go shopping downtown or consider skiing at Howelsen,” said Angela Cosby, Parks and Recreation director.

The project is also intended to help offset the money the city uses — currently about $1 million per year — to subsidize Howelsen Hill, which is owned and operated by the city. City Council has had a longtime goal of having Howelsen better sustain itself so the city can put funding toward other measures. Staff hopes to reduce city subsidizing by 50% over the next three years.

Local contractor Gates Gooding, who the city hired to figure out logistics of the tubing hill, proposed a new Magic Carpet lift and several new tubing lanes coming down Mile Run.

The base cost for a new Magic Carpet lift would be $294,707, though the council could opt to pay an additional $140,733 for a polycarbonate shell, which has been recommended because it reduces wear and tear on the lift and reduces the amount of snow shoveling.

“It would pay for itself and it would increase guest comfort,” Gooding said.

“Tubing hills are very popular and it’s a great business,” Gooding told City Council in an April meeting. “Especially for the type of guests we attract here in Steamboat, who come for an extended stay and are looking for diverse activities while they’re here.”

While the city has not decided on a dollar amount to charge those interested in snow tubing at Howelsen, patrons would pay for a one-hour session that includes equipment.

“I appreciate how innovative staff has been with changing things up with normal operations,” said Holly Weik, vice chair of the parks and recreation commission.

Tubing would be the third additional activity to join Howelsen Hill Ski Area after city staff built a sledding hill this season after seeing sledders using the ski hills and realizing that was a safety concern. Howelsen staff have also installed seasonal ice rinks.

“Really what our department has focused on this past year with COVID-19 is trying to provide additional recreational opportunities outside,” Cosby said. Howelsen has also seen large increases in visitors since COVID-19 hit Routt County.

While city staff built a separate zone specifically for sledding, tubing will be held in the ski area but with shaped lanes specifically blocked off for tubing.

“This will allow tubers to get a little bit higher speed,” Setter said.

City Council first discussed the measure in April, then included it in their 2021 budget discussed in October and will bring the item back up earlier this winter before purchasing equipment.

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