Socks line a wall of SmartWool's newly renovated corporate headquarters in Steamboat Springs. The city is working to resolve an issue with jet fuel odors that are making it into the building from the runway outside.

Photo by Scott Franz

Socks line a wall of SmartWool's newly renovated corporate headquarters in Steamboat Springs. The city is working to resolve an issue with jet fuel odors that are making it into the building from the runway outside.

Jet fumes a problem at SmartWool's corporate headquarters in Steamboat Springs



SmartWool's recent renovation gave the building seven formal conference rooms and five other meeting areas. A conference room at the back has a view of airplanes.

— Steamboat's famous Merino wool sock company is dealing with a smelly problem at its corporate headquarters that retail companies don't often encounter.

At times, the jet fuel fumes coming from the planes and helicopters that taxi behind Smartwool's offices in the terminal building of the Steamboat Springs Airport are making it into the sock company's building.

“Anecdotally, it hasn't been anything rampant, and it doesn't seem like its a big deal,” SmartWool Communications Director Steve Metcalf said Friday. “But with the right combination of weather and planes operating on the runway, the odor is certainly at times detectable.”

City staff and SmartWool say the odors have not posed any sort of health or safety threat to the 65 employees who work inside the newly renovated building Smartwool is leasing from the city, but the fumes have at times become bothersome enough to cause some employees to work from home.

Employees were busy testing products and sitting in on conference calls throughout the building on Friday, and the odor wasn't apparent after a helicopter took off right behind the building.

City Manager Deb Hinsvark said the city thought it had resolved the problem for its tenant after some previous work and tests, but the odor reappeared about three weeks ago.

To help find a solution, the city now has called in an air quality expert that has experience working at Denver International Airport.

Hinsvark said the company soon will spend a day or two here investigating the problem.

“We're trying to locate the exact cause, because it's an issue with the building when it does happen,” Hinsvark said.

Metcalf said the city was “lockstep” with SmartWool in working to mitigate the situation.

The odor problem appears to have started after SmartWool finished expanding its offices at the city-owned airport terminal in March.

Metcalf said the expansion entailed the installation of more heating and cooling systems that are taking in more air from outside.

After the work was done, Metcalf said the city installed volatile organic compound detectors that would shut the system down if they detected an unsafe level of harmful fumes, but the odor is still making it through sometimes.

“I think it certainly is unique,” Metcalf said of the odor problem. “Aside from those who work in municipal airports, this is not your typical work environment. But at the same time, I think the partnership with the city outweighs any of the issue.”

SmartWool moved into the airport in 2002, and in 2011, the growing company agreed to extend its lease at the airport through at least 2022.

The city loaned SmartWool $450,000 to renovate the building, and the company will repay the loan with a 3.5 percent interest rate throughout the course of the lease. The total cost of the renovation project was more than $2 million.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


rhys jones 3 years, 4 months ago

No wonder the lease was so cheap, eh? Can you sub-let? You set up shop next to a runway, well, you sort of asked for it. Nobody thought about this? Snicker snicker.... maybe we should just move the airport for them.


walt jones 3 years, 4 months ago

Did the Paper really take the time to write an article about this? This sounds like something you would see in the police blotter, "police were called to steamboat airport about a complaint of jet exhaust smelled from a departing jet" Good grief this is ridiculous. For one let's see if that jet purchased fuel here he spent about $1000 on that, not to mention what all he spent while in town for the designated time. Hard to feel bad for Smartwool when they chose to use an Airport Terminal as a corporate office. Maybe that's why you don't see this type of relationship at JeffCo or Centennial.


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