Survey finds overall better quality of life in Steamboat than in previous years |

Survey finds overall better quality of life in Steamboat than in previous years

Rhonda and Josh Mejia ride mountain bikes at the base of Howelsen Hill. (Photo by John F. Russell)

The 859 Steamboat Springs residents who responded to the city’s 2020 community survey, which is completed every three years, said they were more satisfied with most city services than those who completed the survey in 2017.

The survey, randomly mailed to 2,500 households with a 36% response rate, asked residents about inclusivity, government performance, public safety, general quality of life and community priorities.

“There’s always a lot of conjecture and a lot of opinions that you hear on the street. You read the blogs, and you try and form opinions as to which direction the city should go,” City Manager Gary Suiter said. “When cities (survey residents), it provides a statistically valid response to (Steamboat Springs) City Council upon which they can form their policy decisions.”


Residents reported higher satisfaction levels this year than in previous years across several areas, including animal control, street repair, public information and communication services, city recreation facilities, municipal court, city recreation programs, economic development efforts, overall customer service by city employees, police services, financial support of nonprofit organizations, crime prevention, storm drainage and overall quality of life.

Compared with 2017, 25 items increased by 10% or more, 21 items increased by 6% to 9%, 73 items remained stable and four items decreased anywhere between 6% and 9%.

Specifically, the survey saw a 17% increase in the approval of City Council and city staff, a 15% increase in value of services paid for with sales tax, a 13% increase in openness and transparency of city government, a 9% increase in treating residents fairly and a 7% increase matching expenditures to community priorities.


While most residents said they were happy with the overall quality of the city, several items saw a decrease in approval ratings. This year, 59% — opposed to 87% in 2017 — of residents said they attended or watched a performing arts event, including via livestream; 56% — opposed to 65% — said they felt the city approved of and accepted people from diverse backgrounds; 55% — opposed to 63% — used Steamboat Springs Transit; 46% — opposed to 52% — participated in a local club or group; and 68% — opposed to 74% — volunteered with a local group or activity.

Council members said while it’s important to acknowledge and work to improve the items that saw a decrease, most agreed the items with lower satisfactory may have been due to COVID-19 rules and restrictions.

Council member Kathi Meyer also said the city should focus on improving its transit system, specifically by implementing transit stops in more residential neighborhoods.

“It’s something we can encourage through actions and through money towards a vibrant transit system,” Meyer said.

Community priorities

When asked to rank their top priority, 47% of respondents indicated it was maintaining police, fire and EMS services; 44% said it was supporting new community housing for locals; 34% said it was climate action and resiliency; and 29% said it was maintaining wildlife habitat and open space acquisition. Residents also said they were more satisfied with the management of the Yampa River than in 2017, which Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby said is a crucial part of life in Steamboat.

“Management of the Yampa River health and management of the Yampa River recreation do go hand in hand in most cases,” Cosby said.

The survey also saw an increase in the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which Wendy Kuhlman, human resources and risk manager, said goes hand in hand with the City Council’s idea of hiring an auditor to measure DEI within city staff departments.

With the survey completed this year, the city will now use the results to determine which priorities to continue funding, which to improve and which to cut back on. The next survey will be mailed out in 2023.

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