Photo by Brian Ray
Skier Michelle Marsh trades her ski boots for street shoes in the Meadows parking lot after a day on the slopes at the Steamboat Ski Area on Wednesday afternoon.
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has re-entered the city approval process with a plan to increase the capacity of the Meadows parking lot during the summer by about 350 spaces. The parking lot additions would bring the total number of parking spaces to just more than 1,300.
Ski Corp. is in the midst of revisiting its master plan for the Steamboat Ski Area and making changes to its base facilities to remain current with other developments at Mount Werner. Documents filed with the city this month suggest those planning efforts could lead to a change of use on the Meadows parking lot site in the future.
"We won't know what we're doing there until the plans are complete," Vice President of Skier Services Jim Schneider said.
Ski Corp. worked with city planners throughout summer 2007 on a plan to expand the Meadows parking lot, but it withdrew from the process in September when several issues could not be resolved. Subsequently, the remote parking lot saw heavy use by the public during the current ski season. There were fewer than six days this winter when a lack of spaces meant skiers were asked to park at the Doak Walker Care Center, where they were met by shuttle vans to take them to the Gondola Transit Center.
The status of the primary automobile parking lot for the ski area is in a period of flux as new development encroaches on a variety of parking alternatives.
Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond confirmed to the Steamboat Today last week that his company is in talks with Resort Ventures West to increase the capacity of a new people-mover gondola that could help ferry day skiers to Gondola Plaza.
Resort Ventures West is developing Wildhorse Meadows immediately to the east and south of the Meadows parking lot. The company already was planning a similar public gondola from the heart of its residential village into One Steamboat Place, which is under construction just steps from the Steamboat Ski Area gondola.
Diamond said discussions could lead to boosting the uphill capacity of the Wildhorse Meadows gondola from about 500 people an hour to 3,000.
Schneider described how the people-mover gondola might interface with the parking lot in a March 7 letter to the city.
"The current use of the lot, whereby passengers are picked up and delivered directly from and to their vehicles, would remain until such point as this gondola is installed," he wrote. "We will then install appropriate pedestrian routes through the lot to this gondola."
Schneider said this week that a range of options for increasing the convenience of pedestrian access to the gondola are being considered.
Schneider said it's difficult to be precise in describing the number of winter parking spaces in the lot because it also must store snow. The actual number of parking spaces varies with the season and the weather, he said.
Even at peak snow storage in a heavy winter, parking availability remained greater than 950 spaces this season, he said.
The ski area's overall parking was affected this season by the construction of One Steamboat Place in its former Gondola parking lot and by the temporary erection of a music performance tent for much of January in the smaller Knoll parking lot.
Ski Corp. sought temporary relief from city sidewalk and landscaping requirements while it sought permission to expand the Meadows lot last summer. Representatives characterized the expansion as an interim solution.
Ski Corp. is seeking to build temporary asphalt paths instead of more expensive 8-foot concrete sidewalks. They would remain in place for two years until permanent plans for the 8-acre site are clearer.
Schneider's correspondence with city planners offers hints Ski Corp. someday could develop something beyond just surface parking on the site.
"At such time as this site has a change of use, necessitating changes to the access and no longer requiring a berm and mature landscaping, we would construct an eight-foot concrete walkway and appropriate other landscaping along Pine Grove Road," he wrote. "To do that now and then tear out significant sections does not seem reasonable."
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