Chairlift tower shifts again, delays Alpine Slide opening at Howelsen Hill

The Howler Alpine Slide at Howelsen Hill is not operating this summer due to a stabilization issue with one of the chairlift towers. The Steamboat Springs City Council will be discussing options for fixing the lift at Tuesday's night council meeting.
Tom Ross

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The leaning tower of Steamboat is acting up again, and city officials will have to decide if they want to spend money on a temporary fix.

City Manager Gary Suiter is asking for guidance from the Steamboat Springs City Council after it was discovered that Tower 6 along Howelsen Hill’s Barrows Chairlift has moved again, and there are serious concerns about operating it safely.

Stabilizing the lift would cost $30,000 or more, according to Suiter.

The City Council is expected to discuss the issue during its meeting Tuesday night.

The city is investigating replacing the lift, but in the meantime, officials need to decide whether they want to keep spending money on temporary fixes.

This is not the first time there have been issues with Tower 6. The area has been prone to sliding each spring when the snow melts.

Work completed to stabilize the leaning lift in 2015 cost an estimated $267,000. More repairs were needed in 2017.

With the newest lift tower movement, the haul rope is not centered in the sheave, which is a wheel with a groove for the rope to run on. This creates the possibility of a derailment.

“Similar to last year, we could contract to have the tower stabilized to get us through another year; however, it is very likely the tower would move again next spring during runoff,” Suiter wrote.

During the summer, the Winter Sports Club uses the lift to bring people up Howelsen to use the Howler Alpine Slide.

Winter Sports Club Executive Director Jim Boyne said the Alpine Slide generates about $200,000 for the club each summer.

“We get a lot of calls right now about the Alpine Slide,” Boyne said. “On our website, it says ‘closed until further notice.’”

Boyne is hopeful the city will fix the lift if it does not cost a significant amount of money.

“The primary concern is one of safety, and if the city determines the lift can’t be operated safely, we’re supportive of that,” Boyne said. “What we’re happy to do is find a long-term solution all parties get the benefit of.”

The city has contracted with Doug Allen, Steamboat Ski Area’s retired vice president of mountain operations, to help find a new chairlift and develop plans for tower locations. Allen would need to study proposed tower locations during a spring drainage cycle, and his conclusions would not be available until early summer 2019.

Not having the lift running this winter could jeopardize the city’s ability to host Ski Free Sundays at Howelsen Hill.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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