Tuesday, December 26, 2000
Steamboat Springs The nordic combined World Cup is still a month away, but the jumps at Howelsen Hill are set to go thanks to a small group of dedicated volunteers who helped build a safety corral that is required by new rules.
"We are about 95 percent done," Winter Sports Club Nordic Director Todd Wilson said. "We have a few loose ends to tie up, but for the most part, we are all done."
The FIS (International Skiing Federation) required that all World Cup jumps have a protective wall between where the athletes land on the hill and where the markers who measure where the athletes land stand. Steamboat received a variance last winter but was required to come up with a solution before this year's World Cup, scheduled for Jan. 22 through 28, could be held.
Wilson said the Winter Sports Club is reluctant to spend the estimated $300,000 it would take to permanently fix the jumps. That fix would result in a permanent wall and stairs running up both the normal and large hills.
"We haven't decided to spend the money on the jumps yet," Wilson said. "There have been some other rule changes about the profile of the hill and we don't want to add stairs and a wall and then have to change the profile."
Wilson said the club will also have to decide if building a safety corral is the best way to spend the money or if it would be better spent on other projects such as covering the jumps in plastic.
"That money would go a long way toward putting plastic on those jumps, so if we did get the money, we would have to make some tough decisions."
For now, the Winter Sports Club has met the FIS guidelines with 80 sheets of plywood that stretch an estimated 400 feet along the profile of the hill. The plywood is four feet high, twice the height required by the new rules, and is bolted into metal fence posts.
"It was dirt cheap when you compare it to what we would have spent on a permanent fix," Wilson said.
The materials and labor will cost the club just less than $5,000. Wilson isn't sure how long the wall will remain up during the season. It may come down after the World Cup or may stay up until the end of the season.
"It just depends on how much of a hassle it is to keep it up," Wilson said.
The wall has already created a few problems with drifting and may cause some future problems if it reflects heat onto the surface of the jump.
Wilson said the new safety corral had to be approved by the U.S. Ski Team and the FIS before the project was started. Wilson said the club also proposed stacking hay bales along the jumps, but that plan did not meet with he approval of the USSA.
"This is a temporary fix," Wilson said. "We still are not sure what we will do long term.
The FIS World Cup, which has been held in Steamboat Springs the past six years, is the only event that requires the safety corral. Wilson said there has never been an incident at Howelsen where a skier has run into the markers.