Steamboat explores new gondola, paid parking at Meadows lot

The Steamboat Springs Mountain Area Master Plan outlines the potential for paid parking and a large gondola at the Meadows Parking Lot.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

A new gondola to the base of Steamboat Resort and paid parking at the Meadows Parking Lot are both on the table, according to a draft of the city’s Mountain Area Master Plan.

The plan was written after seeking residents’ and visitors’ input through a survey. The survey included a good mix with 41% of respondents living in Steamboat Springs’ mountain area, 29% living in the city but outside of the mountain area, 21% living outside of Routt County and 9% living in the county outside of Steamboat.

“A lot of people wrote in comments that they know parking was going to be paid one day,” said Julie Baxter, the city’s water resource manager and a former city planner who helped write the plan.

The Wildhorse Gondola, which takes visitors from the Meadows Lot to the base of the resort, is open to the public, but few people know about its public access. Plus, the Wildhorse Gondola does not have the capability to move as many visitors as the city and Steamboat Resort would like.

“The idea would be to have less people circulating around Ski Times Square Drive and looking for parking,” Baxter told Steamboat Springs City Council during a Tuesday, Jan. 11, work session. “We’d be looking for the Meadows Lot to have greater capacity.”

Several council members mentioned that projects, such as a parking structure or gondola, would be quite costly, and council members said they would rely on Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. or other developers to help the projects come to fruition.

Council President Robin Crossan also noted that if the city and Ski Corp. were to charge for parking in the Meadows Parking Lot, they would likely need to carve out free parking somewhere else.

“I think we would have to work with the county, because, for me, there has to be outlined parking in other places,” Crossan said. “We have a transit center on one side of town. I’m wondering if we need to start working with partners to do something on the southeast side of town, so we don’t bring all of these cars (to the Meadows Lot).”

The plan also suggests development for a conference center, which several council members said was necessary, as Steamboat does not have a large conference center in town.

“I sure hope there is a conference center in there somewhere, because that is so badly needed,” said council member Joella West.

In addition to a conference center, the plan outlines room for hotels, a performing arts center and events programming. Because several hotels have recently been converted to workforce housing, council members said they see a need for more hotels closer to the base of the resort, especially as the resort expands.

While they welcomed development, council members Michael Buccino and Heather Sloop raised concerns about ensuring the city does not suffer the consequences of development without a reward.

“There needs to be some sort of offset cost,” Sloop said. “These impacts should not be felt by the community; they should be felt by the people that are developing this community.”

The planning department will present council with a final version of the Mountain Area Master Plan later in the year. Survey respondents also identified more restaurants and shops in the mountain area and a greater vibrancy in the shoulder seasons as top priorities.

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