Our view: $1 lift tickets are a distraction | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: $1 lift tickets are a distraction

It came out of left field when Steamboat Springs City Council President Walter Magill pitched the idea of $1 weekend lift tickets at Howelsen Hill during last week's budget retreat.

The purpose of the cheap tickets, Magill said, would be to attract more skiers to Howelsen and "get more people using the park." And the concept seemed to gain traction with other council members at a time when they're grappling with how to fund some of the expensive improvements needed at the ski hill, including a new chairlift and a new $750,000 waterline that will be used for snowmaking.

In theory, $1 lift tickets seem like a fun, intriguing idea, but in practice, the concept seems more like a gimmick — one that is unsustainable and does nothing to solve the serious questions facing the city on how to make Howelsen pay for itself.

This past year, the council heard loud and clear from its constituents that the community treasures the historic ski hill and is counting on the city to find a way to keep Howelsen viable. It's also understood that it's not cheap for the city to operate and maintain Howelsen.

Over the past several months, the city, under council direction, had taken some very positive steps forward to explore ways to make the hill a profitable enterprise for the city — these steps included putting out an RFP for managing ski hill operations as well as hiring a consultant to create a conceptual plan for the development of more revenue-generating amenities at Howelsen.

We've previously editorialized in support of both ideas. In the case of the RFP, we think the city would benefit from having ski industry experts, like Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., managing the facility. And we also see great potential in adding amenities at Howelsen, like expanding Olympian Hall to house a full-service restaurant, to attract more people to the hill and drive revenue.

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In fact, combining both ideas — with Ski Corp. managing restaurant operations at Howelsen like it already does at Haymaker — could be a big win for the city.

We now fear the $1 lift ticket idea could represent a huge about-face for the council. Just a few months ago, the city was intent on finding ways to make Howelsen more of a revenue generator, and in our opinion, giving away lift tickets for $1 would seem to put the city further in the hole.

If the city wants to increase skier days at Howelsen, we suggest adding a few more free ski days to the schedule this winter or offering a "Ski Free with a Friend" day, allowing season pass holders to bring a friend with them to Howelsen to try out the hill at no cost. These marketing tactics would entice more people to try skiing at Howelsen without breaking the bank and would also serve as a great avenue for the city to build community good will.

The issues facing council when it comes to Howelsen are complex, and we don't think offering $1 lift tickets is a good solution. We hope the council rejects that idea and instead stays the course by turning its attention back to finding a more sustainable plan for improving the facilities at Howelsen and pursuing a course of action that will help the city generate money to support one of its most precious jewels.



At issue: Council President Walter Magill proposed the idea of offering $1 lift tickets to ski Howelsen Hill on weekends.

Our view: The idea is unsustainable and the council should keep its attention trained on finding ways to make Howelsen profitable.

Editorial Board
• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Tom Ross, reporter

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.