Peter Sloop, right, and his wife, Heather, enjoy a conversation while eating dinner at The Rio Grande restaurant in downtown Steamboat Springs on Friday night.

Photo by Brian Ray

Peter Sloop, right, and his wife, Heather, enjoy a conversation while eating dinner at The Rio Grande restaurant in downtown Steamboat Springs on Friday night.

City officials disagree with federal, state population figures


— City officials disagree with state and federal census figures that say Steamboat Springs' population is shrinking, and are taking a head count into their own hands.

In June, the U.S. Census Bureau released data estimating Steamboat's population on July 1, 2006 to be 9,315 - down 14 people from July 1, 2005. It was the third year in a row, and sixth year out of seven, that the bureau estimated a population decline for Steamboat.

City planning director Tom Leeson flatly disputed that trend.

"We have definitely not gone down in population," Leeson said in June.

Thursday, Leeson said a distrust of federal and state population estimates for Steamboat has stirred the city's Planning Department to produce its own yearly estimates of the city's current population.

"We're making sure we have accurate numbers we can trust," Leeson said.

The Planning Department's estimate for Steamboat's population on July 1, 2006 is 11,221, nearly 2,000 people higher than the Census Bureau's estimate. The department's estimate for July 1 of this year is 11,496, a 2.4 percent increase from a year ago.

Leeson said the city's population estimate report was first undertaken when the city disputed estimates of the city's population from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs' State Demography Office.

"The state sent us an estimate that we felt was low," Leeson said. "We challenged it."

After the challenge, Leeson said the state increased its estimate by about 200 people.

"They were very appreciative of us going through the process," Leeson said.

Leeson said population estimates have funding implications, so it hurts the city to have lower than accurate numbers. For example, organizations such as Great Outdoors Colorado - a major grantor to the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreation Department - use population estimates to determine grant amounts, Leeson said.

A spokeswoman for the Census Bureau said in June that the bureau uses mostly administrative data - such as birth records, death records, tax records and building permit data - to arrive at the estimates. When asked how confident the bureau is in its estimates, she replied, "These are the official population estimates."

The federal data prompted local developer Jim Cook to say: "It amazes the hell out of me. I don't believe the number."

Cook said he subscribes to various reports of demographic data, all of which suggest the opposite of what the Census estimates. He said income statistics, demand on services and new construction are all up.

The Census Bureau's estimates also showed population declines in Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa, with the largest being a five-person decline in Hayden. Despite the estimated declines in these communities, the Census Bureau estimates the population in Routt County has grown 9.6 percent since the 2000 census, from a population of 19,690 to 21,580.

A full copy of the Planning Department's population estimate report can be obtained in the department's offices at Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., or at


id04sp 9 years, 4 months ago


Get out more? No . . . apparently I have stayed away from those parts of town long enough to miss the changes. I consider that a success for me.

I am familiar with them, though, and they were crowded ten years ago. The new development downtown is going to be crowded too. Lincoln sure seems crowded.

I guess all those former second homes were sold to take the profits and use them somewhere else. Fair enough.


ColoradoNative 9 years, 4 months ago

Well our federal government thought there was WMDs in Iraq also.


id04sp 9 years, 4 months ago

With half the houses in the county being somebody's second home, including houses which used to be the only home (like my old one was), it makes sense that the population would be down. Everybody tells us the working class population is moving away.

There was a definite trend in the data from 1990 to 2000.

Could it be that the population is "up" in the crowded areas and down everywhere else? It escapes me why people would leave the crowded cities and move to Colorado, only to want to live in a smaller crowded city.

"We have found the enemy, and they are us." Pogo


another_local 9 years, 4 months ago

  1. School attendance tends to follow population. School attendance is up.

  2. Ask the post office. We have approximatly 11,000 post boxes in the city. Kids do not have boxes, businesses do. Kids outnumber businesess. Most families have one box, not one per person. Most second home owners do not have boxes.

id, the second homes are being built and many formerly second homes are now primary residences. Have a look around Walton Creek Condos and Shadow Run, and up and down the streets between Walton Creek Road and Whistler Park from US 40 up to Village Drive and you will find several hundred condos that used to be second homes and nightly rentals are now year round residences.

By the way, if you think it is crowded here, you need to get out more.

The numbers from the state are nuts.


thecondoguy1 9 years, 4 months ago

"census count", there in lies the rub there are a lot of people in town not being "counted" just check out the construction sites, (easy to do), do you think for one second a lot of these folks are being counted? where do you think they are living? where do you think they are going for medical attention and other services? these counts have to be adjusted for certain variables or we are going to get beat out of the funds nessessary to accomodate our "extra" people.


buck 9 years, 4 months ago

Population counts should not matter. The problem lies with the Feds and State taxing us, then sending back some money based on population. Reduce the Fed and State taxes, and let us decide on what we need. I think the Census has it right. I know more people that have moved out of the city than have moved in over the past two years. The construction workers are temporary, and most will be gone in a couple of years (or much sooner), back to where they came from. They should not be counted in Steamboat's population unless they claim it as there primary residence. Second home owners are spending more time here, too. And if Steamboat's population is under estimated, shouldn't other places be also?


Brian Smith 9 years, 4 months ago

Maybe the population has moved to Stagecoach, Milner, Hayden and North Routt?


sportzmama 9 years, 4 months ago

Ummm a couple of thoughts here.

1) Post Office Boxes: I personally know of over 20 "kids" that have PO boxes even though they're only here for the ski season. It's easier to keep the box than to keep changing addresses.

2) Working class people are moving out: I totally agree with that. I'm having a horrible time finding a professional position that pays what I was making on the front range AND i'm paying more to live here, so I do believe working class folks are moving out. I moved here to enjoy Steamboat and not to work 2+ jobs just to make ends meet, and to be honest, I'm a little old for room mates. It's very difficult here for the normal everyday professional even, much less the seasonal workforce!

3) Issues retaining teachers should tell you something. Teachers can not afford to live here without having room mates and/or second jobs.

I'm not sure what the resolution is, but there has to be something that can be done. For heavens sake, mobile homes in Fish Creek selling for $65K????? Give me a break!


id04sp 9 years, 4 months ago


I agree with you.

I think the Census (which really does more to measure full-time residents) is more accurate, but, they only do it once every ten years. Estimates come in-between. I wonder if they use payroll data or tax return stats . . . .

Transients and second-home owners who do not spend the majority of their time in Steamboat probably would not be counted in a true census. They would be counted "back home" where they came from.


another_local 9 years, 4 months ago

So you folks buy the story that fewer people live here than lived here 5 and 10 years ago?

I have bridge you may be interested in.......


justathought 9 years, 4 months ago

another_local, I have affordable housing for that bridge...


another_local 9 years, 4 months ago

justa, whose money do you propose pays for that housing?


id04sp 9 years, 4 months ago

I've got an idea. Let's dig tunnels into Mt. Werner and put affordable housing in there.


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