Steamboat Springs Dan Smilkstein of the Steamboat Nordic Council previewed a tentative plan Thursday to add almost four additional kilometers of groomed cross county skiing on Howelsen Hill.
Smilkstein told an audience of about 35 people at Howelsen's Olympian Hall the new trails in Emerald Meadows could be added in time for next winter.
And he said access to Emerald Meadows for intermediate skiers should someday be easier than the steep pitches that have to be negotiated to get to the current loop in Howelsen Meadows.
The city of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department grooms beginner and intermediate skate skiing tracks around the Howelsen Hill ball diamonds and in Hobo Park.
Last winter the Nordic Council, a nonprofit organization, used money from its contributions committee to pay for brush removal on a loop in Howelsen Meadows.
It also compensated the city for using its snowcat to groom the trails when possible.
All of the trails are offered at no charge, but the Howelsen Meadows loop requires a strenuous climb that is beyond the ability of beginners.
Smilkstein said the new cross country loop in Emerald Meadows would be easier to access and built on a bluff that wraps around the southeast side of Howelsen, overlooking River Road and the Yampa River.
Unlike the Howelsen Meadows loop, the new trails would require more than brush removal. Some cuts and fills typical of road building would be required, Smilkstein said. He added that the Nordic Council, also represented Thursday by Bill Philip, Ed Hill and Jim Ascher, wants to hear any concerns the public might have about the view impacts the new trail might have on Howelsen.
"There's a tremendous amount of flat, rolling terrain that's very easy to ski," Smilkstein said. "There are some issues there, that's why it's important to get public input."
Unlike a dedicated Nordic center, Smilkstein said the new trails would have to accommodate mixed use, including snowshoeing and people who want to walk their dogs on leashes.
However, he said, signage along the trails would guide the various users to their own portion of the trail.
Hakan Lindgren, who owns the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, expressed concern that if there isn't enough money in the city budget to groom the new trails after every snowfall, the situation at Howelsen could erode Steamboat's reputation for excellent Nordic skiing.
Sven Wiik, a former Olympic cross country skiing official, said he feels strongly the new trails shouldn't go forward without a feasibility study.
"If it's the desire of the citizens of Steamboat Springs to get involved in a touring center, let us do it right," Wiik said.
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