Winter tubing on Howelsen Hill postponed to next season due to supply chain delay

Howelsen Hill Ski Area.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

There will be no winter tubing on Howelsen Hill during the 2021-22 winter season, a result of an international delay in supply chain.

Matt Barnard, the city of Steamboat Springs’ Parks and Recreation project manager, said the tubing lift, which was set to operate this winter, is still sitting in the Port of Houston.

“We ordered our lift as soon as we could, and just with the upheaval with international trade and trying to get something from Europe to the U.S., nobody expected it to sit in the Port of Houston for two months,” Barnard said. “Every day that ticked by with it floating on a ship just kept closing our window.”

Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby said the city had a deadline to install the lift by Friday because anytime later there would be the risk of snow on the ground, which Barnard said would make installing a lift nearly impossible.

“I think we just need to accept the fact that with all the delays in shipping ports and trucking we’re not going to get it in time, so we have to start thinking ahead to next year for the tubing (opportunity), unfortunately,” Barnard said.

Because tubing is a funded capital improvement project, the city will install the lift in the spring or summer after it arrives, but Barnard said he does not have a timeline for when it will reach the city.

“They’re telling us that it’s making its way here, but I’ve been hearing that for quite a while,” Barnard said.

The city has not run its winter tubing operation for more than five years, but in previous years, tubers used the magic carpet on Howelsen, which was provided by the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Barnard and Cosby said the city opted to buy a separate tubing lift this year because Howelsen has seen more traffic, and the city wanted to separate tubers from skiers and snowboarders, which can be a safety hazard.

“The hill is getting bigger, the demand is getting bigger for use from different groups, so that’s why the city designated an area that’s specific to tubing that’s safe and controlled,” Barnard said. “Everyone is assuming it will show up at some point, but the window for us getting it installed, at this point, has closed.”

Cosby said the city plans to bring back winter tubing to help offset the money the city spends on Howelsen and make the operation more revenue neutral.

While it was only predicted to generate an estimated $18,670 in revenue due to startup costs and only having 21 days of operation in the 2021 fiscal year, Cosby predicted it would become a much more profitable operation moving forward, with profits projected at $195,011 in 2022 and $208,582 in 2023.

“It is really unfortunate, because we were looking forward to providing that service to the community and increasing Howelsen Hill revenue, but it will have to wait until next year,” Cosby said.

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