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Steamboat Springs Burgess Creek Promenade

Landscape Architecture by Wenk Associates

The disjointed base area of the ski resort in Steamboat Springs, Colo., lacked adequate pedestrian and gathering space for a world-class location that often accommodates more than 10,000 skiers daily. Five years and nearly $10 million in construction costs transformed the area with a new snow-melting pedestrian promenade centered on Burgess Creek, a waterway diverted underground in the 1970s and restored to the surface for seasonal use.

The horseshoe-shaped base of the Steamboat ski area in Steamboat Springs, Colo., is made up of five small retail and residential areas that surround the ski slopes. Since the space was expanded more than 30 years ago, the area suffered from a lack of pedestrian gathering places and was in need of a revitalized and welcoming commercial atmosphere.

The Burgess Creek promenade project created a snow melted pedestrian walkway and daylighted the creek, which was diverted below grade in the 1970s, linking major destinations and businesses at the edge of the base area. The new walkway and creek have become a winter and summer destination of their own, and the site has become popular for activities that range from weddings and sporting events to large concerts.


Granite boulders sit at the promenade's north portal, abutted by sedimentary ledge rock that simulates the Rocky Mountain tableau visible from the resort. The waterfall originates from within the rocks, and fire features flank the portal.

Prior to construction, pedestrian connections at the base area were nearly nonexistent, infrastructure needed upgrading, and retail activity was limited. The master plan recommended upgrades to pedestrian and transit circulation throughout the base area, and the pedestrian promenade and daylighting of Burgess Creek was identified as the most important component in improving the economic vitality and recreational potential of the area.

In response, utilities were upgraded; Burgess Creek was diverted and restored for summertime activities; and the pedestrian promenade created a link that runs through the resort's major destinations and adds new elements that enhance the site.


A clay pond liner was substituted for a geotextile liner to reduce upkeep needs during snowmaking operations and allow the pond to drain more efficiently between seasons. The clay liner can be maintained by ski area employees, eliminating the need for specialized liner technicians and further reducing maintenance costs.

The landscape architecture team from Wenk Associates, led by project manager Nicole Horst and designer J.C. Culwell, oversaw a multidisciplinary design team from master plan through construction. The landscape architects conceptualized and detailed the creek, stone water features, fire features, circulation routes, and custom site furnishings. The landscape architects worked closely with a design review board formed specifically for projects within the Urban Renewal District at the base area, and with the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority.

During the first phase of the project, a large mock up called the "stone outcrop" at Burgess Creek Plaza served as the standard for how stone was to be placed for the remainder of the project. At the start of the second phase of construction, a site meeting was held with the contractor, owner's representative, and landscape architects to discuss the difficulty in placing the stones in the first phase. The difficulties of achieving the aesthetic intent identified by the contractor in the first phase were discussed, and details were adjusted to allow the project to be more constructible.


The new promenade links new retail and restaurant elements with adjacent hotels, condominiums and Gondola Square with 100,000 square feet of snow-melting brick pavers. Additional fire features warm diners and visitors on cold Colorado nights.

Credit: (C)Larry Pierce/Steamboat Ski Resort

The landscape architect asked everyone working on the project to treat it as a legacy that they could bring their children and grandchildren to, a place that visitors and local residents could enjoy, a place that they would feel proud to say that they had a hand in bringing back to life.

Burgess Creek Restoration
In the early 1970s, a 72-inch culvert pipe was constructed beneath the ski base area, burying Burgess Creek to accommodate base area skiing activities. Over time, the culvert deteriorated. As part of the restoration, the creek was daylighted from the underground culvert into a new surface creek channel that flows along the length of the promenade. A diversion structure was installed in the first phase of construction, with two control valves that divert a specified amount of water from the culvert to the new creek bed. The challenge was designing a channel that appeared to be full of water in the fall conditions, while not overflowing or moving at a velocity that would be hazardous for small children during the spring months. By fine-tuning the amount of water diverted at the structure and installing a series of weirs and drop structures, the creek slowed and pooled as it moved through the channel. The drop structures, made of boulders and sandstone, provide a variety of sounds and experiences as the water ripples through, creating the ambiance of a mountain creek.


The creek water moves from an underground pipe to the creek bed over a terraced stone outcropping. A grassy lawn and custom site furnishings soften the water feature and provide seating and recreational opportunities.

Following the snowmelt and closing of the ski area - typically around mid-April - the main gate valve at the diversion structure is opened and the stream flow is adjusted to the desired level. The water travels through the creek and drops into another control structure at the lower end of the Promenade that redirects the water back below the ski slopes.

The creek runs between two and five cubic feet per second consistently from spring through the summer. Above the diversion structure, the creek flow fluctuates from a peak spring snowmelt run-off to a mere trickle in the fall months.


Slot canyons, small pools and boulder drops were designed to establish a natural feel to the creek. Rocks and stones were selected by hand to match the natural conditions upstream, and sedimentary slabs were customized for the outcropping and creek bed.

At its narrowest point near the riffle drops, the creek is just three feet wide, easy to cross by skipping across strategically placed boulders. Below three of the large drop structures, a series of pools expands the creek to a width of nearly 30 feet. The creek's riffles, pools, boulder drops, slot canyons, waterfalls and stone crossings have become a tremendous recreational destination in the summer. Cobbles line the bottom of the creek, and boulder fields flank the creek edges to create informal seating and play elements. Chief among the restoration challenges was mimicking the natural upstream creek bed as much as possible. The slab boulders were carefully cut, fitted and placed, and rocks and stones of all sizes were hand selected to mirror the natural conditions upstream. The main valve at the diversion structure is usually closed at the end of October to transition from summer to winter. From winter to spring, the water flows through a newly constructed 78-inch culvert. Since the creek includes a series of pools, drains with valves were added to divert the remaining water from the pools to the culvert. Throughout the winter, the ski area crew makes snow and grooms slopes over the top of the creek bed so skiers can move to the promenade uninterrupted. All the creek features remain intact, while the base area is transformed into one of the most popular ski and snowboarding destinations in the United States.


Custom fire features (Warming Trends) on a brick patio above the waterfall's origin point resemble the granite upthrusts of the Rocky Mountains and keep visitors warm during the winter.

Pedestrian Promenade
The promenade provides important access to a series of plazas that accommodate winter and summer events. Prior to construction, the Torian Plum parking garage rose 20 feet above the surrounding area, creating a significant barrier between retail and commercial destinations and the residential district. Major garage renovations allowed for construction of a monumental stair connecting the promenade to major commercial and residential destinations, and allowed for the creation of an informal amphitheater for small events, as well as an upper-level terrace on the renovated parking garage for multiple events and activities.

The 20-foot wide snow-melted promenade creates a key pedestrian connection that links Gondola Square, adjacent hotels and condominiums, and retail properties that line the base of the mountain. More than 100,000 square feet snow-melted pavers were installed in total, and run on two separate boilers.


A key improvement identified in the master plan was the "daylighting" of Burgess Creek, which redirected the water's flow from a below-grade culvert to an aboveground channel during the summer. The water is redirected to the culvert in the winter so skiers can cross the creek bed and reach the promenade uninterrupted.

Beneath the pavers, a series of one-inch diameter flexible polymer tubes set eight inches on center in a sand base course forms a closed loop system. These tubes are separated into zones ranging from 2,000 to 20,000 square feet, and are collected into manifolds that are connected by mainlines to a boiler system. A propylene glycol liquid and hot water mixture is run through these tubes from a natural gas fired boiler heated between 140 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The glycol mixture travels out of the boiler room, distributes the heat to the pavers, and then is recycled back into the boiler to be reheated and continue the cycle.

The snowmelt system is controlled by a series of temperature sensors in the pavers that distribute real time data to an automated control system, optimizing energy efficiency. The system is monitored and can be modified by an off-site computer. Before the snowmelt system was installed, the property owners relied on maintenance staff and chemical deicers to keep ice and snow from piling up on the pavers. Wear and tear from chemicals and snow plow blades significantly shortened the lives of the pavers. The snowmelt system will lengthen the life of the pavers and reduce maintenance needs and snow removal requirements in the winter.


Renovations to a parking garage that created a barrier between the residential district and retail destinations led to construction of a monumental stair that connects the promenade to the residential and entertainment centers beyond. The renovations also created a new mixed-use upper terrace and a small, informal amphitheater for events.

Significant grading created a functional walkway at the snow level in the winter and an accessible path to the creek in the summer. The promenade is at the same level as the snow pillow in the winter, providing direct ski access to the promenade. The terracing of the stone slabs allows sufficient depth of snow to maintain a skiable surface to the walkway. These same terraces, when uncovered in the summer, provide seating along the creek edge.

Integrating Mountain Landscape
The folding and uplift of Rocky Mountain granite and sandstone features combine with thermal hot springs to create an arresting natural landscape, which provided the vision and inspiration for new fire features and the creek restoration.

A signature stone outcrop and fire feature create the focal point at the north end of the project, where the creek surfaces from an underground pipe flowing out of the outcrop. A 10-foot tall, nine-foot wide granite boulder was specified in the design as the area's central feature, and was a challenge for the contractor to locate. During the demolition of the plaza area, a granite boulder was uncovered that met the criteria for the feature boulder nearly identically, matching the boulder drawn in the design plans. The plantings on the project were native to the area and well adapted to the mountain climate. Since half of the project was on the ski slope and would be buried and compacted by snow for half of the year, perennials and small shrubs such as lupine, Indian paint brush, and red twig dogwood were used to add color and texture highlights in summer months.


New signage (ADCON) identifies Gondola Square and highlights seasonal activities in the area. Fourteen hundred tons of Siloam Stone, more than 200 boulders from two to eight feet in diameter and nearly 500 cubic yards of cobble were installed for the new creek bed.

At the interface of the promenade and the base resort buildings, Quaking aspens, Colorado blue spruce and chokecherry were added, allowing for holiday lighting throughout the winter months. An array of shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses were tucked into pocket planters to soften all the stone and provide a variety of colors from spring through fall.

Awards & Recognition
The detail and forward-thinking nature of the project began earning awards before the installation was even complete, beginning with a 2011 award for Excellence in Engineering-Construction Management from the Colorado chapter of the American Public Works Association. After construction concluded and the promenade was opened with a dedication on July 4th weekend in 2012, the project earned a Merit Award for Design and a People's Choice Award from the Colorado chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and a Best Project 2012 award in the Landscape/Hardscape/Urban Development category from the Engineering News Record-Mountain States.

The momentum and excitement for the project spurred adjacent property owners to invest in their own private improvements. At a time of economic downturn, the property owners saw the value in upgrading their properties to make the area a premier international ski destination once again. This project has increased activity at the resort in both summer and winter seasons, and transformed an outdated base area into one of the primary leisure destinations in western Colorado.

Lead Consultant/Landscape Architects:
Wenk Associates; Nicole Horst, Project Manager
J.C. Culwell, Landscape Designer

Drexel, Barrell & Co.; Mike Mordi

Construction Logistics/Facilitation:
Kracum Resources, LLC; Joe Kracum

Geotechnical Engineer:
Yeh and Associates, Inc.; Roger Pihl

Hydrosystems KDI Inc.; Ken DiPaolo

MEP Engineering, Inc.; Andy McMeeking

Owner's Representative/Construction Oversight:
JBCM LLC; Joe Bair

Structural Engineer:
Oddo Engineering, Inc.; Robert Oddo, P.E.

General Contractor:
Duckels Construction; Derick Duckels

Midwest Electric; Fred Gippa

Fire Feature:
Warming Trends; Ray Stone

Neils Lunceford, Inc.; Rob Milstead; Neils Lunceford

Light Poles/Signs:
ADCON; Dave Hartsock

Gallegos Corp; Jake Jacobsen

Eastern States Paving; Andy Heiney
Pioneer Pavers; Mike Contois

Public Relations/Environmental Management:
Environmental Solutions; Lyn Halliday

Snowmelt System:
R&H Mechanical; Dave Young

Steel Fabrication:
Axis Steel; Dave Robinson

Landmark Consultants; Erik Gripentrog

Siloam Stone; Matt Mueller

Borgert Products, Inc.; Glenn Van Horn

Trench Grates:
Urban Accessories; Brett Schnorenberg

Lighted Bollards:
Louis Poulsen; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

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October 23, 2019, 9:58 pm PDT

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