After month-long delay, Steamboat’s Alpine slide scheduled to open Saturday
June 19, 2017
If Howelsen Hill will just sit still, the Alpine slide will finally open on Saturday.
The opening of the summer attraction has been delayed for about a month because a spring landslide once again nudged one of the towers on the Barrows Chairlift, which ferries riders up to the top of Howelsen.
City officials initially thought costly repairs might be necessary to reposition the lift tower.
The city also determined it was not safe to run the lift while the ground below it was continuing to move. But now that the ground appears to have settled, the outlook for the lift has improved.
The city was able to make adjustments to get the cables on the lift in alignment without repositioning the tower with the help of a crane or a helicopter.
And the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board recently inspected the chairlift and deemed it safe to operate.
But the board's blessing came with the caveat that the lift is safe only if the tower has stopped moving.
In a memo to the Steamboat Springs City Council, City Manager Gary Suiter reported monitoring devices buried in the hill have picked up an insignificant amount of movement below the lift tower in recent weeks.
Suiter added the city has hired an engineering company to monitor the lift tower on a weekly basis this summer to ensure there is no additional movement.
"Winter Sports Club staff understand and agree with the City that safe operation of the chairlift is our highest priority," Suiter wrote. "If at any point, the tower begins to move again, the City may have to close operations of the chairlift down and the Sports Club understands this position."
Sports Club Executive Director Jim Boyne said last week the lift was operating well, and the slide should be open on June 24 barring heavy rain or any other obstacles.
"We're watching water levels (in the soil) to make sure any soil stability issues are behind us," Boyne said.
The slide employs about 35 people during the summer and fall.
The city had to delay the opening of the summer attraction as recently as the summer of 2015, when a small landslide impacted the same lift tower that was moving this spring.
The city spent $275,000 to realign and stabilize the exact same lift tower after that landslide.