Large chunks of earth and vegetation on the front side of Howeslsen Hill broke loose and slid down the hill Friday morning. City officials said they have been keeping an eye on the hill since several cracks started forming Tuesday, adding that the slide has progressed this week.

Photo by John F. Russell

Large chunks of earth and vegetation on the front side of Howeslsen Hill broke loose and slid down the hill Friday morning. City officials said they have been keeping an eye on the hill since several cracks started forming Tuesday, adding that the slide has progressed this week.

Spring runoff leads to large slide on face of Howelsen Hill

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— The term “mud season” took on a new meaning for Steamboat Springs city employee Craig Robinson on Friday as he watched rivers of mud slowly make their way down the face of the hill.

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Craig Robinson, Howelsen Hill facilities superintendent, checks out the face of the ski area Friday morning after a large section of the hill slid. Robinson said officials will continue to watch the hill, but they probably will have to wait several weeks —until things dry out in the area — before repairs can start.

The city’s Open Space and Howelsen Hill Facilities superintendent wasn’t totally surprised by what he saw on the face of the city-owned ski area, but this mudslide was something he had hoped he wouldn’t see this spring.

“I never know what to expect,” Robinson said before he climbed up the steep slopes to get a closer look at what was happening. “Just about every year, something is moving up here.”

A few minutes later, Robinson was investigating what might have caused the hill to slide and was snapping a few photos to record the slide’s progress.

He has been watching the hill since Tuesday when two small cracks appeared halfway up the slopes between the first and second exits for the Poma lift. Robinson said he could see the cracks getting larger and the hill changing every day. Today when he showed up, it was easy to see where large chunks of the hill had broken loose and two rivers of mud reached for the bottom of the hill.

“Each day it has progressed a little bit more,” Robinson said. “We noticed it on Tuesday for the first time. The next morning we saw the highest crack, which is visible now. Each day it has changed a little bit and shifted down hill with gravity.”

Robinson said he has talked to soil engineers, and Northwest Colorado Consulting has been working with the city on all the slides that Steamboat has had throughout time. He said it’s a wait-and-see approach right now.

“We are hoping that it will stay in place, and if it comes down, we will have to see what the recommendations are for putting it back together,” he said.

This isn’t the first slide on Howelsen Hill’s steep-pitched slopes. Last year, there was a small slide just below this year’s slide. In 2011, the city repaired a slide area near the Alpine Slide, and in 2004, a section of Howelsen Hill’s largest ski jump slid.

Robinson said it would take some time before crews could begin to repair the damage. He thinks that heavy equipment will be brought in to push the soil back up the hill, where it will be packed and eventually seeded in order to keep the ground in place.

However, the next few days could change that outlook. The weather forecast is calling for periods of rain and snow. If that happens, it will be hard to predict what this slide will do.

Until then, Robinson warned people to stay off the hill and out of the slide area. The ground still is shifting, and there is a danger that it may slide again before workers can repair it.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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