Base area taking shape

Geothermal snowmelt system likely to be abandoned

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Under Construction

Read more about how downtown and base-area construction is transforming Steamboat Springs.

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Project Coordinator Joe Kracum says three 500-foot holes were drilled in locations around the base to search for possible geothermal activity.

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Project Coordinator Joe Kracum discusses the multi-year, $23 million public redevelopment project at the base area on Thursday afternoon.

— Public construction projects at the base of Steamboat Ski Area are beginning to take their final form, relieving anxiety about what shape the ski base will be in by opening day Nov. 21.

"It's starting to look like something," said Joe Kracum, project coordinator for the multi-year, $23 million public redevelopment project at the base area. "We're still planning on being out of here mid-November."

On Ski Time Square Drive, which was very torn up just a few weeks ago, many improvements have become visible. A roundabout has been added to the road, sidewalks have been laid, curbside bus stops have been constructed and new lampposts line the street.

Kracum said crosswalks would be put in this week and an informational kiosk is on the way. Remaining asphalt work will be done the week of Oct. 22 and landscaping should be complete this season, Kracum said.

Construction crews spent weeks working underground during the summer, resulting in various inconveniences - including the periodic loss of utility service - for residents and businesses in the area. Kracum said he is thankful that part of the project is over.

"It was very frustrating for all of us to deal with all the problems underground," he said.

In addition to being on schedule, Kracum said that "barring anything drastic," this year's work should also come in under budget.

Work being done by the developers of One Steamboat Place near the Gondola Transit Center also is expected to be complete come ski season. Jim Wells, project director for One Steamboat Place, said the work will result in an improved transit center, with longer islands for the buses, curbside bus stops and increased capacity for private, short-term drop-offs.

"We're definitely planning on using it in its new configuration this winter," said Jonathan Flint, operations manager for Steamboat Springs Transit. "It should be pretty similar to what was there last year."

Snowmelt a hot topic

The city will likely abandon a plan to install a direct geothermal snowmelt system at the base area. The system would primarily have been used to melt snow on a promenade designed to span the bottom of the ski slope, roughly from One Steamboat Place to Slopeside Grill. Construction of the promenade is scheduled to begin in 2009.

Kracum said three 500-foot holes were drilled in locations around the base area in search of possible geothermal activity, such as hot water, that could have been used to melt snow. Kracum said only one of those holes showed any promise, with temperatures increasing more than usual at a depth of about 450 feet.

"If we wanted to keep investigating, we'd have to go down 3,000 feet," Kracum said. "I don't suspect we're going to be recommending that direction."

At $100 a foot, that project would cost the base area's urban renewal authority $300,000, with no guarantee of success. The first three holes cost $110,000.

At a meeting of the authority's advisory committee Friday, the committee voted unanimously to recommend to the Steamboat Springs City Council - which acts as the city's redevelopment authority - that it abandon the search for a direct geothermal source of heating for a snowmelt system.

"We've chased this long enough," committee member Bill Jameson said.

Kracum said another possibility would be to use ground-source heat pumps, which pump water through holes in the ground and absorb natural heat. But that prospect also has problems. Kracum said ground-source heat pumps would likely require about 1,000 holes at the base area, each 200-feet deep, again with no guarantee of success.

"The thing is you don't get enough heat to melt snow," Kracum said of ground-source methods.

As such, the system will likely have to be supplemented with a gas-fired boiler. Other options include a system totally powered by a gas boiler or abandoning the snowmelt system altogether in favor of traditional snow removal methods.

"It would tickle me not to see snowmelt here," Dan Koelliker, a mechanical engineering consultant, told URAAC. "The carbon footprint is tremendous."

Next year

Kracum said about $2.5 million will be available for public infrastructure projects in 2008. Those projects will likely include a roundabout - with an 80-foot radius - to replace the intersection at Mount Werner Circle and AprÃs Ski Way, reconstruction of the intersection of AprÃs Ski Way and Village Drive and pedestrian connections between Burgess Creek Road and Ski Time Square.

Brent Lloyd, a design consultant with Wenk Associates, said about 95 percent of the projects involve public right-of-ways.

Base area projects look to become even more intensive in two years, when as much as $14 million is expected to be available.

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