Howelsen ski jumps face pricey upgrades

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The cost of bringing the ski jumps at Howelsen Hill up to international standards in time for next winter could be at least $120,000, and a task force working on the problem isn't sure where the money will come from.

Steamboat Springs City Council will hear a report from the task force at its regular meeting Tuesday night.

Almost two years ago, the International Ski Federation informed national ski associations all over the world that it would begin requiring safety guardrails and "grade boards" at the sides of ski jump landing hills beginning in 2000. Failure to provide the upgrades would eliminate a facility from consideration for international events like the Nordic Combined World Cup that Steamboat has hosted each winter, or national championships like the event held at Howelsen last month.

"Events on hills which have not got the requested security guardrails will not be approved after the year 2000," Walter Hofer of the FIS wrote in an April 21, 1998 letter. Hofer is the race director for ski jumping.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Executive Director Rick DeVos said Monday there is no way he is going to let the challenge of the necessary improvements interfere with Steamboat's next Nordic Combined World Cup in January 2001.

"In my mind, there's nothing that's going to stop us from holding that World Cup," DeVos said, whether a permanent solution can be reached in time, or the FIS agrees to a temporary solution.

The Steamboat jumps had previously been certified by the FIS through 2003. Subsequently, the city and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club received a second letter informing them the new requirements would apply even in cases when ski jumps were already certified into the future, city Director of Parks, Open Space and Recreation Chris Wilson said. That letter arrived after the city budget process for 2000 had been completed. The ski jumps are located on the city park at Howelsen Hill.

"We didn't sit on it," Wilson said. "We thought that with our recertification, we'd be in there."

The guardrails are intended to protect the ski jumpers from colliding with obstructions in the case of a fall. They're also meant to protect judges who stand at the side of the hill. Grade boards provide a rigid template to help maintenance crews ensure the profile of the landing hill remains as close to the international standard as possible, throughout the winter.

City Council was appraised of the need to upgrade the ski jumps in January. Wilson estimated at that time the cost of the improvements might range between $60,000 and $100,000. But a check with officials in Lake Placid, N.Y., where the work has already been completed, put the cost at $140,000. Now, Wilson is estimating that getting the job done in Steamboat will cost at least $120,000.

Recently, local task force member John Fetcher wrote another FIS official, Wolfgang Happle, introducing the possibility of installing temporary guardrails in order for Howelsen to host the next Nordic Combined World Cup.

"We now know that we should install (grade) boards on our two big hills to be eligible to host FIS events from now on," Fetcher wrote. "This will cost a lot of money, perhaps $200,000 that we simply do not have at this time. To host the Nordic Combined World Cup scheduled for January 2001, we may have to install temporary barriers on the assumption that this would be OK."

Fetcher closed his Feb. 22 letter by saying the task force will assume that with the temporary improvements the ski jumps will meet FIS specifications. However, the city and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which operate the facilities, have not heard back.

Fetcher's mention of a $200,000 price tag goes beyond the guardrails, grade boards and some dirt work necessitated by the new FIS requirements. He is pushing for the installation of permanent metal steps up both hills. The guardrail would be attached to the steps, which would provide a place for distance judges to stand during competitions. Fetcher said Howelsen is the only major ski jump complex in the world that does not have permanent steps up the side of the jumps.

City Council President Kevin Bennett said recently he learned that virtually all of the major ski jumps in the United States are funded by their respective state legislatures. Nowhere else is a small city like Steamboat, together with a nonprofit ski club, trying to maintain international jumping facilities, he said.

The task force is currently investigating funding opportunities with Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Historical Fund. It has also sent letters seeking funding from local Nordic supporters, the United States Ski Association and the U.S. Olympic Committee/Salt Lake Olympic Committee.

Wilson said the task force will continue developing construction drawings for the improvements at the same time it contacts other World Cup sites to find out how many facilities might be in the same situation that Howelsen is in.

Steamboat's Nordic Combined World Cup is usually held in December. Next winter's event has been pushed back to January in order to allow it to coincide with the opening of the new Olympic ski jumps in Park City, Utah. That will allow the athletes to compete in a tournament with competitions in both Steamboat and Park City.


Where they'll be
Steamboat Springs City Council meets beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Public Safety Building, 840 Yampa St. The first two hours of the meeting will be devoted to interviewing candidates for the Howelsen Hill Committee, Trails and River Committee and Parks and Recreation Commission. The regular agenda will begin at 6 p.m.

Along with discussing improvements to the Howelsen Hill jumping complex, City Council will:

  • Consider a resolution to provide $15,000 in matching funds to secure a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The combined $30,000 would be used to hire a consultant to reexamine the timing of traffic lights on U.S. 40/Lincoln Avenue to streamline traffic flow.
  • Consider the first reading of an ordinance requiring commercial waste collection businesses operating in the city to include curbside recycling in their basic service fee.


-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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