City of Steamboat wants to know what community thinks Howelsen Hill should look like 23 years from now | SteamboatToday.com

City of Steamboat wants to know what community thinks Howelsen Hill should look like 23 years from now

Manmade snow hangs in the air above Howelsen Hill Thursday morning. Crews have been battling warm temperatures and time in an effort to make the hill look a little more like winter.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — City officials are visiting classrooms and holding open house meetings at local bars and hangouts to try and get the community's pulse on what Steamboat's historic downtown ski hill should look like in 23 years.

But while the city gathers ideas for Howelsen ranging from maintaining and improving the ski hill to starting an international youth hostel at its base, officials say they still haven't gotten an answer to a very important question:

How are we going to pay for it?

The funding question has spoiled previous master plans and visions for Howelsen, including one that was put together and ultimately tabled just three years ago after the price tag came in at a whopping $31 million.

Much of the cost stemmed from adding new amenities, such as a recreation center.

"It's a hard question," city recreation and enterprise manager Kyrill Kretzschmar said of how to pay for the city ski facility. "What's lacking is a good conversation about now that we know what we want, how much does this cost in the future? And how do we pay for it?"

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The city was hoping a new operator could come in and take over operations from the city.

But with only one proposal from Steamboat Ski Area to instead providing consulting work, the City Council decided it should come up with a vision for the facility.

When the visioning process enters the final phases this year, Kretzschmar suggested the city would want to do some polling to gauge what the community would support in terms of a funding option.

Some elected officials have also in recent months floated the possibility of asking voters to approve a dedicated tax that would be used to preserve and improve the city's historic ski hill.

Residents who have an opinion on what the vision for Howelsen should be have plenty of chances to weigh in this winter.

Attendees of the community holiday party at the ski hill on Sunday can fill out a survey that will help the city with the 2040 vision for Howelsen.

The city also has set up a website where community members can weigh in.

City officials held an initial meeting at Townies.

City Manager Gary Suiter described the turnout as “light.”

Kretzschmar said the engagement meetings he has held, including sessions at middle school classrooms, have been productive.

He said the students had some of the same answers and values about Howelsen as adults have.

“People skiing every year, every day,” Kretzschmar said as he read one of the students’ answers about what they’d like to see at the hill in the future. “The kids were actually excited we came in to ask their opinion.”

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

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