Saturday, November 16, 2002
Steamboat Springs The slopes of Howelsen Hill aren't scheduled to open to the public until Dec. 1, weather permitting, but already, ski jumpers are training on the big hill, and when jumping isn't in progress, cross country skiers are tracing figure eights across the landing hill.
Howelsen, a city park, is the oldest continually operating ski area in Colorado. Carl Howelsen guided the construction of a ski jump on the hill in 1915 and proclaimed that the world record would soon be broken there. The little ski area has enjoyed a current turn-of-the-century renaissance, with snowboarders, Nordic skiers, Alpine skiers and telemarkers packing the parking lots on the weekends. Howelsen is where Steamboat working folk stay in shape on weekday noon hours.
Ironically, the community's original focus at the hill in 1914 was not on skiing, but a wildlife park featuring a small herd of captive elk.
Steamboat historian Sureva Towler noted in her book, "The History of Skiing at Steamboat Springs," that amenities at the hill in the 1920s included a toboggan slide and a skating rink, which was lighted at night.
Ladd Nichols built a hair-raising 2.25-mile toboggan slide in the 1930s. The track began far up Emerald Mountain at the stone quarry. An early 110-yard "downhill course" was marked on the west face of the hill, allowing slalom and down-mountain races to be run when Winter Park's Arlberg Club visited for the 1933 Winter Carnival.
The first lift was a "boat tow," which opened in January 1938. The "boat" was made from a sled originally used to haul rock. The lift seated eight people on benches and hauled them and their skis 500 feet up the hill. It was powered by the engine and transmission from a Model T Ford.
Howelsen became one of the first ski areas to introduce night skiing in 1937, Towler wrote, when a spotlight mounted on the roof of a building at Eighth and Lincoln shown across the river to splash light onto the ski hill.
Today, skiers at Howelsen ride a well-maintained poma lift on weekdays and evenings and enjoy the use of a double chairlift on weekends. The chairlift was moved to Howelsen in the 1980s from a defunct ski area near Pearl Lake in North Routt County.
Howelsen will operate this winter from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays, noon to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. The chairlift cranks up on Saturdays and Sundays beginning Dec. 21, when the ski area is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Early season pass rates are in effect through Dec. 31. Seniors 60 and older may purchase a pass for $50. The rates for adults 19 and older are $100; a youth pass (7-18) is available for $50 and children 6 and younger may ski all winter for $30. Family passes are also available for $200.
Daily tickets are $8 for seniors, $15 for adults, $8 for youths. Cross country skiers and spectators can buy a single-use lift ticket for $2 to reach the upper meadows on Howelsen.