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Steamboat Magazine

A Shine in the Heart of Steamboat

12/28/2022 08:00AM ● By Suzy Magill
(Photo: Robbie Shine rides Howelsen Hill’s three-person Barrows chairlift with his daughters, 8-year-old Kaia and 10-year-old Emery.) 

Steamboat Springs, CO - Like many before him, Robbie Shine is a victim of the Yampa Valley curse. Growing up, Shine attended Steamboat Mountain School and raced for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. After college and time on the professional Alpine ski circuit, Shine found himself drawn back. “I just couldn’t shake it,” he says. “Steamboat is home, right?” At the time, no one knew just how crucial Shine’s return would be for Steamboat’s winter  sports community. 

Once back in the Yampa Valley, Shine worked as the parks and rec department’s crew leader. When the ski and rodeo supervisor position opened up, he saw his chance to make a difference in Steamboat. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says.

Winter work starts once Howelsen is  cold enough to hold snow, and this is aided by the mountain’s north-facing slope. Shine says his crews have made snow as early as September. He’s on call 24 hours a day for three months as the snowmaking team works to build Howelsen’s winter base. “It can be tiresome,” Shine says. “Last year, I had two 23-hour days."

Once snowmaking ends and Mother Nature takes over, Shine’s winter work includes managing SSWSC events and ensuring the hill is properly maintained and safe. He has also overseen new lift installations, recently replacing Barrows with a triple chair and adding a tubing carpet.

 (A snowcat grooms Howelsen Hill, where Robbie Shine supervises operations.) 

“Robbie is essentially the spirit of Howelsen Hill,” says Angela Cosby, the city’s parks and recreation director. “He has the best interests of the community and the Winter Sports Club in mind, and he’s truly invested in making that place as unique and special as it is.”

 “I think he has a vision for what Howelsen is and what it can be,” adds Dave Stewart, athletic director at SSWSC. 

Shine operates the oldest continuously operating ski area in North America, in existence for more than 100 years. He recognizes how special Howelsen makes Steamboat. “It’s what we provide for the community,” Shine says. “We see it in the excitement of the kids. We see it in the excitement of the people that come and don’t live here and ski at Howelsen.”

Shine says that as snowmaking improves, Howelsen will only get better. “You have to look at the whole hill as a canvas,” he says. “What we’re trying to do is just create more skiable terrain with what we have. Look at it with an open perspective. We have a great staff. I have a great team right now, and we’re just trying to widen runs and be prepared for any type of snowfall.”

“It’s exciting,” Shine says. “I think the next five years for Howelsen are big-time.”

Shine adds that the atmosphere of the Winter Sports Club is also what makes Howelsen so special. “People that come visit Howelsen like to see the vibe, you know? They like to feel that vibe of all the kids skiing around, the atmosphere of Olympians, and the possibility of skiing next to an Olympian,” he says. “They are Howelsen.”