Alpine slide open on Howelsen

Twisting sled course dubbed 'The Howler'

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— After weeks of waiting, thrill-seekers in Steamboat Springs got a chance to "howl" Saturday afternoon, and they were still howling on Monday morning.

The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club quietly opened "The Howler," Colorado's newest alpine slide, at Howelsen Hill over the weekend. Stephanie Strotbeck, who is visiting relatives in Steamboat, couldn't get enough of the ride on Monday.

"It's a thrill. This was just my second time. I wish I had bought 125 passes," Strotbeck, said.

Sliders or howlers, depending upon how you view the activity, ride wheeled sleds on twin tracks that wind 2,400 feet down Howelsen. It was built on city park land, and the city and the nonprofit club are splitting the proceeds.

Rates to ride Ages 13-64; 7-12 and 65+ 1 ride: $8; $7 2 rides: $14; $12 3 rides: $19; $16 5 rides: $29; $24 25 rides: $125; $100 All day: $42; $42

Income that goes to the club will help it support its competitive skiing and snowboarding programs.

Winter Sports Club Executive Director Rick DeVos has ridden the slide several times himself and said it ranks even higher on the thrill meter than he anticipated.

"It is beyond our expectations," DeVos said. "Talking to guests coming off the tracks, you get a feeling of excitement."

Nori Hepler of San Diego, Calif., rode the slide with her son Ty, 6. It seems the Hepler family has a need for speed.

"The more speed, the more fun," Nori said.

Charlie Pappas, 13, who sped around the final turn and hit the brakes right before crashing into the protective cone, had a recommendation on how to go fast.

"Put the pedal to the metal and lean forward," Pappas said.

DeVos said the average person is making it down the track in about two minutes, with some slower riders taking three to four minutes to complete the trip down Howelsen. Some of the Winter Sports Club's own athletes are pushing the speed envelope, Devos said, but he emphasized that alpine sliders have to use good judgment and ride responsibly.

"This is like a roller coaster that you control," DeVos said. "Can you go fast? Yes. Do you have a brake? Yes."

DeVos said the first of the two slide tracks opened unannounced at 3 p.m. Saturday and continued entertaining riders until 7 p.m. The slide opened to bigger crowds by 11 a.m. Sunday and the second track opened for business at 2 p.m.

"Our goal for the weekend was to just get some practice," DeVos said. "The chairlift worked well and the ticketing operation worked as planned."

Devos expressed optimism that the alpine slide will generate significant revenues for the nonprofit Winter Sports Club for many years to come.

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