Have an idea for the future of Howelsen Hill? City Council wants to hear from you Tuesday | SteamboatToday.com

Have an idea for the future of Howelsen Hill? City Council wants to hear from you Tuesday

Community members invited to share vision for historic ski hill

Odin Gruben lands a jump at Howelsen Hill during the 2016 ski jumping jamboree event.

— The Steamboat Springs City Council will spend Tuesday evening listening to community members who have ideas for how to keep the city’s aging, historic ski hill a centerpiece of the community for another century and beyond.

In recent weeks, the council has heard from city staff and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club about several possible improvements to Howelsen Hill.

Now, it’s the public’s turn to weigh in.

Councilman Scott Ford is hoping the conversations, and any changes in the future, lead to more people using the hill.

“The challenge we have, and I think it’s a good one for us as a council to have, is we need to bond a whole new generation to this hill, because it’s such a special asset,” Ford said. “A lot of towns have ballfields and soccer fields and walking trails within walking distance, but there are very, very few places that have a ski area like ours.”

He noted a recent free ski day at Howelsen, which was initiated this winter, drew hundreds of users to the ski area.

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The council’s only agenda item at 5 p.m. is a work session seeking public feedback on plans for Howelsen’s future use.

City staff will recommend the council ask the public what improvements the city should focus on over the next five years to improve the experience at the park.

But many other questions are still looming.

Should the ski jumps be brought up to International Ski Federation standards so that more competitions can be hosted here?

What amenities and changes could draw more visitors to Howelsen in the near future?

And what will become of a $31.1 million draft master plan for the hill that was created in 2014 but never adopted in part because of funding limitations?

The council in January reaffirmed it wants Howelsen Hill to remain both a public ski hill and a training ground for winter athletes for years to come.

The council initiated talks about Howelsen due, in part, to recent costly repair bills at the facility triggered by landslides.

But the conversation in recent weeks has mostly pivoted away from those funding challenges to potential opportunities the city has to draw more visitors and increase revenue at the facility.

Last month, the Winter Sports Club presented a wide range of possible improvements it thinks could benefit local athletes and the public at Howelsen.

The improvements included such things as a renovated lodge, upgraded lift capacity, increased community access and an enhanced terrain park with a mini-pipe.

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