Howelsen Hill had a record winter as a ticket, merchandise sales soared

Steamboat locals Genevieve, right, and Sydney Lanham ride the Barrows chairlift on the last day of the season at Howelsen Hill on Sunday April 3.
Dylan Anderson / Steamboat Pilot and Today

Howelsen Hill has had a big winter this season as Ski Free Sundays were a hit, the new chairlift worked like a dream and ticket sales soared.

Steamboat Springs Director of Parks and Recreation Angela Cosby was joined by members of her staff as she reviewed the 2021-22 season before Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday, July 12 and sought guidance on the future projects and opportunities.

In the 2021-2022 season, which was Howelsen Hill’s longest on record, more than 19,000 lift tickets were sold, generating more than $200,000 in revenue, the highest on record for the oldest ski resort in continuous operation in North America. Just over 1,000 season tickets were sold, bringing in nearly $250,000 in revenue for the city.

Both figures were higher than those of the previous four winters. While total season pass sales were similar last year – which brought in just over $230,000 – day passes were only around $120,000 in winter 2020. -21 and just under $50,000 in 2018-19, the last full season before the COVID -19 pandemic.

Attendance at Ski Free Sunday has also increased, as more than 12,000 people took advantage of the free days on Howelsen last winter, compared to the previous four years when numbers were consistently between 9,400 and 10,400.

Of those 12,000 Sunday Free Ski attendees last winter, the largest demographic was people from other parts of Colorado at 44%. Residents of Steamboat made up about 36%. About 18% came from out of state and nearly 2% from out of the country.

The most significant addition last winter was Skytrac Inc.’s new chairlift, a three-seat chairlift that increased climbing capacity. The lift was funded by several sources, including a grant from the VF Corporation, the company that owns Smartwool. The rest of the funding came from the city and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

“(It was) a very successful first year of operation,” said Howelsen Hill and Rodeo Manager Brad Setter.

The Outrun snack bar also made its debut last winter, expanding the stand of existing concessions operating out of the Howelsen Hill lodge. The Outrun Snack Bar included a large menu, full bar, high tables to sit on, and accepted Apple Pay.

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In previous years, the box office and concessions shared the space, but the box office has moved this year. According to Setter, moving the ticket office to its own building has expanded office space for city staff and made the ticket office easier for customers to find.

Merchandise sales also nearly doubled from the previous year. Last winter, merchandise at Howelsen fetched more than $11,000, compared to around $5,400 in each of the previous two years.

“With the separate box office from the concessions, I think it made the merchandise more accessible to people,” said Hayley Powell, the city’s recreation supervisor.

Last year, Howelsen staff partnered with Ohana, a local craft store, to get help designing their products.

At the end of the presentation to City Council, Cosby and his staff communicated Howelsen Hill’s short, medium and long-term goals.

Construction crews are already doing grading work to prepare for the snow tubing that will debut in December. Another short-term goal at Howelsen Hill is to improve staff workspaces, which are cramped and lack designated areas for changing and undressing, according to Cosby and his staff.

As part of mid-term goals – to be achieved within the next three to five years – parks and recreation staff want to extend the concessions to the top of Howelsen Hill, which would also require placing at least one bathroom primitive at the top. .

Their mid-term goals also include expanding the services to offer event space rentals for weddings, renovating the Tow House and integrating new software for processing ticket sales.

In the long term – defined as the next six to 10 years – Howelsen Hill staff would like to add office space above the weight room, renovate the clubhouse, add summer operations such as a zip line and raise $1 million. dollars in the endowment fund by 2030. According to Cosby, the fund is around $120,000.

Expanding the terrain on Howelsen was also listed as a long-term goal, which would require increased lighting on the hill and additional snowmaking capacity. City Council President Robin Crossan agreed that expansion should be a goal, so much so that she encouraged Cosby and his staff to designate the land expansion as a project for the next three to five years at the instead of six to 10.

The other board members agreed, with the exception of Dakotah McGinlay, who said she was worried about committing to land expansion until she had a clearer picture of the environmental impacts of the facility. expansion of land on Mount Werner.

McGinlay also recommended that staff consider installing lights in the parking lot, to which Cosby replied that she could review some cost estimates and report back.

After so many projects and a banner season, Cosby and his team said they would like to be able to focus on day-to-day operations before embarking on bigger projects.

“Congratulations to each of our staff members,” Cosby said. “They’ve been hard at work and rushed, so you need to give them a year to focus on the details and really get it online.”