Steamboat Springs The hills are alive with the sound of howling, at least they will be Memorial Day weekend May 26-28 when the Steamboat Springs Alpine Slide will open for its first full season.
The slide, commonly known as "The Howler," opened for its inaugural run at Howelsen Hill Aug. 12, 2000. But the operators didn't really get a true feel for how popular the thrill ride could become. Now, expectations are high at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and the city of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department.
"We haven't really seen what a busy July week will be like," Winter Sports Club Executive Director Rick DeVos said.
The price of single-ride tickets remains unchanged this year at $8 for adults (ages 13 and up) and $7 for youngsters (ages 7 through 12). New this year is an all-day pass priced at $20 for adults and $17 for youths. The all-day passes replaced two-, three- and four-ride tickets that were offered last year.
Season passes are also available this year. Youth passes are $150 until June 17, when they go up to $175. Adult season passes are $175 until June 17, then they go up to $200.
Children ages 3 through 6 may ride free with a parent or guardian. Children 2 and younger are not permitted on the slide.
The Winter Sports Club is the owner of Community Slide Inc., which is the entity formed to operate the slide. The slide was built in a city park Howelsen Hill and the city and Community Slide Inc. are working on a revenue-sharing agreement that will be beneficial to both parties.
Community Slide Inc. donates its portion of the proceeds to the club to support athlete training. The city allocates its portion of the proceeds toward improvements to the Howelsen Hill Park complex.
Following Memorial Day weekend, the slide will close during the week, reopening June 2 and 3, then running daily beginning June 9 and continuing until Aug. 26. The weekend schedule will resume through Sept. 30. The hours of operation for the slide will be from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., but the slide operators will frequently push the closing time back to 7 p.m. or even 8 p.m. when demand warrants during the height of the summer season, DeVos said.
The Winter Sports Club director said the long-term hope is that the revenue from the slide will ease the annual budget challenges faced by the nonprofit club. However, it isn't likely to have much impact on the club's operating budget in 2001 as Community Slide Inc. pays for some of the bills associated with building the slide.
Community Slide Inc. essentially borrowed the construction funds form the club's endowment and now must pay back the money with interest in order to restore the funds in the endowment.
DeVos predicts local youngsters and visitors alike will have a great time on the slide this summer.
"I think of how great it must be to be a kid and control your own speed and feel like you're navigating your own way down the track," DeVos said.
He cautioned that enthusiasm with a warning that alpine slide riders who attempt to go too fast run the risk of skinned elbows.
Although the sleds never spun out of the track last summer, there were occasions when one tipped over inside the track and the riders suffered abrasions.
Typically, younger riders with low centers of gravity were less prone to upsets than larger riders, DeVos said.
"You are in control. The brakes work great and will stop a cart in five feet. You're only going fast because you choose to," he admonished.