STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Triple Crown Sports is proposing to bring a new snowmobile hill climb race to Howelsen Hill in 2020.
The Steamboat Hill Climb and the B Fest would feature a professional race up Howelsen Hill as a part of the Rocky Mountain States Hill Climb Association series, complete with a barbecue and bourbon festival with a Saturday night concert at the base.
“They try to go up the hill as fast as they can. Most people think it’s straight up. There’s actually gates like a slalom course for downhill skiing,” Triple Crown Sports CEO Keri King said. “They have to go through in between the gates 20 feet away from each other from Vanatta baseball field to the summit of Howelsen Hill. The festival is going to be attached and hopefully at one point be the best bourbon barbecue festival west of the Mississippi.”
King proposed the event be held April 3 through 5, 2020, and he hopes to feature a large musical act like Chris Stapleton or Sturgill Simpson.
The inspiration comes from a similar event at Snow King Mountain in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the Snow King Hill Climb has remained a marquee event since 1975 that attracts an estimated 10,000 spectators and 300 racers every March.
The Snow King is geographically centered downtown, like Howelsen, and the race starts at the base from a set of baseball fields. King wants to bring the event to Howelsen so they have a chance to explore downtown Steamboat Springs, but for logistical reasons, the rodeo grounds will provide sufficient space to park trailers and snowmobiles close enough to Howelsen Hill for the event.
“Snowmobiling is unfortunately not a small scale activity,” King said. “There’s no good option at the big ski resort in Steamboat (Steamboat Resort) to park trucks and trailers and to get the snowmobile from the trailer to the bottom of the race course.”
King proposed his idea at the Steamboat Springs City Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 8, saying that he estimates the event could bring 2,500 spectators and 200 participants to the city in its first year. He estimates that food and beverage, local fuel and repair, lodging, entertainment and retail could bring in more than $1.2 million in total direct spending.
During a three-day period, he expects each person to spend about $160 per day.
By 2030, King believes the event will attract 10,000 spectators and 500 snowmobile racers, bringing in more than $9 million in direct spending.
But there are concerns over the timing of the event and its impact on the topography and wildlife on Howelsen Hill.
“Our largest area of concern is the possibility of effects of additional snowmaking on the hill,” Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby said. “Part of that is due to the water coming down in spring. Parks and maintenance staff push all the snow that’s left off into better drainage areas. That way, excess water doesn’t create stability issues.”
The most efficient time to make snow is at the beginning of the season, and snow needed for this event would require 48 hours of snowmaking at ideal temperatures.
“The additional snow would likely impact the upper hill the most due to the shallow failures seen in the area,” Yeh and Associates stated in a news release from the city. “From our piezometer readings, the snowmaking appears to have more impact on shallow hillside conditions and have limited impacts on deeper water levels. It is difficult to say what impact, if any, the additional snow would have.”
But holding the event in the winter would conflict with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s training, since snowmobiles would tear up the groomed surface for Alpine skiers and snowboarders, and take days to recover. It would also be advantageous to have an event in April, where it could fill a lull in tourism. Howelsen Hill Ski Area closes to the public on March 15 every year.
King, who grew up coming to Steamboat Springs, said it is important to operate in the good graces of the SSWSC and would even like them to be a part of the event down the road.
“Having an iconic snowmobile race in Ski Town, USA on the first-ever ski jump hill in North America would be the catalyst to break down the walls that exist today between motor sports and nonmotor sports,” King said. “I would like to do ski jumping down the road to broaden spectator base and bring those walls crashing down.”
Steamboat is used to the personnel it will require from public safety for large-scale events, but Howelsen Hill also has a 55 decibel sound limit, and noise impacts to the community are a concern. Exemption from the sound limit will require approval by the city manager.
Triple Crown would need to provide garbage and recycling cans at the venue, fencing and entertainment equipment. The chairlift and poma operation are $144 for the first hour of the day and $74 for every hour after. Additional 48 hours of snowmaking costs at Vanatta baseball field and Howelsen Hill will cost $3,840. Snowcats are needed for eight hours to build the course with two hours of grooming for each event and will cost $3,400.
A fuel and safety plan for snowmobiles and a parking plan for competitors also needs to be developed.
“Obviously, the event draws attention to Howelsen Hill,” Cosby said. “We’re working to make improvements and keep Howelsen Hill in the community. Really, the more funding the better. This is a part of the economic development.”
City Council will vote on the Steamboat Hill Climb later this Spring, and welcomes input from the community.
To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.