Community members express strong support for improving Howelsen Hill | SteamboatToday.com

Community members express strong support for improving Howelsen Hill

Eric Friese, director of operations for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, uses a snow groomer to build a stage on the infield of the Vanatta baseball diamond at the base of Howelsen Hill for the NCAA National Skiing Championships.

— More than 50 community members stepped up to the podium in Citizens Hall on Tuesday to heap praise on the city’s historic ski hill and offer their visions for how it can remain a “crown jewel,” “playground,” and “babysitter” for future generations.

Many community members said the beginner skiing terrain at the park should be expanded so the hill’s promise of allowing all children to learn to ski can be better realized.

Others suggested opening a restaurant, allowing snowmobiles to compete at the park or opening an international youth hostel at the park.

And many former and current winter athletes called on the city to find a way to bring the ski jumps up to a level at which more prominent events could be hosted at the ski hill.

“We have to make a plan that includes developing new jumpers,” Jim “Moose” Barrows told council members at the work session, which was called to discuss the future of the ski hill. “As custodians of this hill, I think your responsibility for the future is to find a champion (and to show) leadership to secure the finances.”

Other ideas proposed included a terrain park and more free ski days.

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Many of the dozens who spoke urged the city to not focus on making back all of the money that is spent to operate the ski area. There is a value that extends far beyond dollars and cents, they said.

Community members stressed the hill’s uniqueness and the impact it has had on many people in Steamboat Springs.

“I think we have an amazing park, so if we fund it, it will make it even more amazing, and it will make us more happy to be here,” Winter Sports Club ski jumper Charlie Reisman told the council.

A number of other speakers discussed the challenges the city faces in providing adequate funding for Howelsen.

Some community members said they would support paying more in taxes to support the recreational amenity.

Other said before new ideas are implemented, the city should focus on maintaining what it already has.

After fielding public comment for nearly three hours, the council lauded the range of ideas that were put on the table.

But they said they needed time to digest the feedback and talk about a vision for Howelsen at a series of future meetings.

More than 100 people attended Tuesday’s work session.

Acknowledging the community support, Winter Sports Club Director Jim Boyne said the conversations about Howelsen, some of which have focused on big repair bills to fix such things as landslides, have taken a turn for the better in recent weeks.

“We went from using words (such as) subsidizing and problems to talking about investment,” Boyne said.

He said the latter is a more constructive conversation for the city to have.

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