Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008
- Bryna Larsen, publisher
- Brent Boyer, editor
- Mike Lawrence, city editor
- Tom Ross, reporter
- Eric Morris, community representative
- Paul Draper, community representative
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Steamboat Springs Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. officials say the parking mess of Jan. 12 was an anomaly rather than a precursor. While that may be the case in the context of the 2007-08 ski season, all signs point to a continued increase in skier traffic in the coming years - and the necessity for comprehensive base area parking plans sooner rather than later.
The ski area's two free parking lots - the upper Knoll lot and the Meadows lot adjacent to the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs - filled to capacity two Saturdays ago, forcing Ski Corp. to enact a makeshift plan of ferrying skiers and riders from Central Park Plaza. While the loss of about 150 parking spaces in the Knoll lot because of the presence of a temporary concert tent certainly played a part, Ski Corp. officials said it wasn't the biggest factor. Andy Wirth, vice president of marketing for Ski Corp. and Intrawest, said a substantial amount of overflow parking was lost when former ski area operator American Skiing Co. sold land to the developers of Wildhorse Meadows.
Regardless, most casual observers have noticed the availability of skier parking becoming an increasing problem this season. And it's not likely to get any better in the near future.
We could be just one or two seasons away from overflow parking on a daily basis during the ski season, a dilemma that demands immediate attention.
Wirth says the ski area has been pursuing a number of short-term and long-term parking options. He also stressed the issue is bigger than Ski Corp.
"We have seen this coming," Wirth said Friday. "Addressing this issue has to incorporate who are the users of the lots, what are their final destinations and what is the occupancy of their vehicles."
Wirth's comments point to Ski Corp.'s assertion that parking must be addressed by multiple stakeholders. He's right, to an extent.
Too many skiers and riders, primarily locals, drive themselves - and only themselves - to the ski area. Changing the transportation habits of local skiers will be difficult and likely will necessitate increased public transportation. But we're wary of Ski Corp. planting the seed for increased public funding to help solve the impact of their private enterprise.
What will really change the habits of locals is paid parking, and that's a likely scenario when the discussion moves to long-term solutions. And whether or not Ski Corp. likes it, the reality is the vast majority of people who seek parking at the base area are skiers and riders, not retail shoppers. It is Ski Corp.'s responsibility to provide adequate parking for its customers.
Wirth and others are floating several long-term solutions, including a tiered parking garage at the Meadows site and a partnership with Wildhorse Meadows developers for a high-capacity, people-mover gondola.
While the former comes as no surprise, the latter does. Ski Corp. officials previously have been hesitant to embrace the idea of partnering on a gondola from the development to the base of the ski area. Perhaps such a public stance was a negotiating ploy, but Ski Corp. sang a different tune this week, when officials confirmed they are discussing a high-capacity gondola that could transport as many as 3,000 skiers an hour.
It's a sound idea, but we're concerned the problem will reach critical levels before such long-term solutions are approved, funded and completed. Wirth said the ski area will seek to add 300 spots to the Meadows lot for the 2008-09 season. We hope that will be sufficient for the next couple of years. With so many positive development projects ongoing throughout the downtown and mountain areas, failure to immediately begin work on enacting long-term parking and mobility solutions would be a significant misstep.