Austin Moore skins up the ski mountain for preseason turns Friday as work on Bear River Bar & Grill continues behind him. The ski area’s new glass enclosed umbrella bar is visible behind the front end loader. Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Vice President of Skier Services Jim Schneider said work may continue into the second week in December but the exposed dirt in the middle ground will be cleaned up and covered with snow before the ski area opens for the season Wednesday.

Photo by Tom Ross

Austin Moore skins up the ski mountain for preseason turns Friday as work on Bear River Bar & Grill continues behind him. The ski area’s new glass enclosed umbrella bar is visible behind the front end loader. Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Vice President of Skier Services Jim Schneider said work may continue into the second week in December but the exposed dirt in the middle ground will be cleaned up and covered with snow before the ski area opens for the season Wednesday.

Work ongoing at Steamboat base area

Promenade construction wrapped up as work continues at Bear River

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— The next piece in the push to install snowmelt systems in public areas at the base of the ski area was coming together Friday as several dozen construction workers toiled down to the finish line at the Bear River Bar & Grill.

Gravel trucks were coming and going, and a small army of stonemasons still was toiling Friday where snowboarders and skiers will arrive Wednesday when Steamboat Ski Area opens for the season on Scholarship Day.

“I can see about 40 workers out there right now,” said Jim Schneider, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s vice president of skier services. “We should be finished by the first or second week in December. But this will all be cleaned up by Wednesday.”

The ski area is investing in extensive new decks faced with stone that wrap around the Sheraton Steamboat Resort just across the plaza from the gondola. Facing south into the winter sun, they are meant to attract skiers for après ski time on mild days. A glass-enclosed umbrella bar that has been erected at snow’s edge completes the renovations.

The plan is to have one of four gas-fired boilers in place to melt the snow from the pavers on the newly refurbished decks this winter. By next winter, the busy area where skiers arrive to board the gondola for the ride to Thunderhead also will have a snowmelt system.

The work being done on ski area facilities, which is funded by Ski Corp., is coinciding with a larger multiyear project to build a snowmelted promenade in a horseshoe around the base area. By the end of summer or early fall 2011, it also will include the daylighting of Burgess Creek.

Public improvements at the base area are funded by tax-incremental financing that captures property taxes generated by private improvements in the area. However, the Steamboat Springs City Council agreed in Aug­­­ust to the sale of $21 million in municipal bonds, backed by the TIF, to refinance existing debt on the project and move forward to completion next year.

Redevelopment coordinator Joe Kracum said the summer’s program of work this year was completed within the $2.18 million budget.

That included the installation of underground utilities, construction of an arcing concrete wall that forms the basis of a concrete ramp leading the new promenade up to Torian Plum Plaza and drains for ponds along the creek.

“The creek is roughed in, and a wall was built next to Torian where the slope for the stairs and ramp have been created,” Kracum said. “Next summer, all of the hardscaping (on the promenade) will be done, most of the landscaping will be done and kiosks” will be installed.

One of the most interesting processes will be placing the boulders that will give Burgess Creek, resurrected from a culvert, its character, Kracum said. Once the project is done, the resort will be able to maintain a consistent streamflow of 5 to 6 cubic feet per second, even during spring runoff, Kracum said.

Ski Corp. President and CEO Chris Diamond said maintenance crews still may be hand-clearing snow on the new Bear River Terraces for several weeks. But the ski area has plans for a temporary backup boiler if completion of a new boiler room between the ski school building and Bear River is delayed. Early in the winter, the first of four boilers is scheduled to be installed to handle snowmelting on the terraces.

Diamond said Ski Corp. would be responsible for all of the snowmelting costs this winter and explained that the boiler facility ultimately will be used to help melt snow on the public promenade, as well.

“The maintenance agreement on the promenade required the landowners to maintain their own portion,” Diamond said. “So we are obligated for promenade maintenance, including heating, from the Torian property line to One Steamboat Place. We have a side agreement with Sheraton for cost sharing based on their promenade frontage.”

Ski Corp. is constructing the boiler room and will get credit toward its obligations on a portion of the promenade, he said.

One Steamboat Place, a new condominium development, already has substantial plazas with snowmelt systems.

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