Steamboat Springs Snowmobile races will return to Howelsen Hill this year with a two-day event at the end of December.
After a heated discussion, the City Council gave the go-ahead for a Colorado Sport Racing Circuit Snocross Event at the city rodeo grounds.
The event would run Dec. 28 and 29.
Howelsen Hill held a similar race series during the spring of 1998, with only a few complaints made by surrounding neighbors.
The question that came before the council Tuesday night was if it was willing to waive city-imposed noise decibel levels, which the event would exceed. But the discussion spanned from the appropriateness of motorized vehicles at Howelsen Hill to the need to diversify the economy.
The council waived the noise level decibel requirements in a 4-2 vote, with council members Arianthe Stettner and Steve Ivancie opposed to the event.
The snowmobile races, which will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 28 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 29, would exceed the city's allowable 55 decibel levels.
In his comments to the council, Director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Chris Wilson stressed the popularity of snowmobiling in the area.
"It is huge in our county. There are a lot of people who will find the event very enjoyable. And I have heard from a number of businesses and participants," Wilson said.
Councilman Loui Antonucci said adding the snocross event to the winter list of activities could be a way to diversify the economy, and he was willing to give it a whirl.
"In a time when the community and national economy has gone down and skier days have gone down, it is important to try to diversify the economy," Antonucci said. "And there are a lot of people in this community that would be into this event and I think it would be fun."
Council President Kathy Connell, who is co-owner of Colorado Resort Services, said after skiing, snowmobiling is the No. 1 activity booked by her guests, and it is a way to attract younger visitors. She also said she would be more hesitant if the event was at night or if more residents complained during the last snowmobile race series.
But Stettner said that snowmobiles contradict with Howelsen Hill's tradition of nonmotorized sports, like Alpine skiing, ski jumping, Nordic skiing, ice skating and the summer rodeo series.
"One of the things about Howelsen Hill, in its 90-plus years of history, for most of its history, there has been a long tradition of nonmotorized sports," Stettner said. "They are all human powered, all non-fossil fuels, all very, very quiet, except for the squeals of delight. I don't think this is place for that (motorized) type of activity."
Stettner later suggested moving the race to Steamboat Springs Airport as a viable alternative.
And Ivancie said the race noise could disturb the visitors who come during the busy Christmas season and that exhaust released from the snowmobiles could decrease the air quality downtown.
Wilson said the city would work with the surrounding neighbors if complaints on noise arose.