Steamboat Springs How can you put a price on a park? Have you ever stopped and asked how much that ball field means to you and your family? Or how about those scenic ski jumps at the base of Howelsen?
For the past year or so, that's exactly what John Adams and the people at the Colorado Ski Heritage Project have been asked to do -- put a price on the historic ski jumps.
Ski jumping isn't one of the fastest growing sports in America. The young men who practice the sport will never grow up to cash in the way LeBron James, Darko Milicic of Carmelo Anthony did in the NBA draft. If that were the case, we would have ski jumps everywhere.
But how do you put a price on a sport like ski jumping that is woven into the fabric of a community like Steamboat Springs?
That's like putting a firm price on the Mickey Mantle baseball card in my son's closet or figuring out how much my high school education was worth.
In terms of wood, cement and maintenance, you can come up with a figure for the jumps. The latest for a top-of-the-line K-68 hill coated in plastic is a cool $2 million -- $2.4 million if you purchase the optional snowmaking upgrade.
But what about the things you can't put a dollar figure on? Like watching Todd Lodwick win a Nordic combined world cup or a young jumper like Clint Jones develop the skills it takes to become an Olympian. Or how about this -- watching Jones win a national ski jumping event in the summer, as he did Friday in Lake Placid, N.Y.
As long as I've lived here, the ski jumps have been a source of pride in this community and have brought more world attention to this area than a town of 9,815 might expect.
At the Utah Winter Sports Park, the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee spent in excess of $10 million to build the most impressive jumps in the United States.
The venue hosted the Olympics but I have to stop and wonder if those jumps in Park City are really more valuable then the ones in Steamboat.
In Park City, the jumps are a nice amenity.
In Steamboat, the jumps are a part of our culture.
The importance of ski jumping to this small mountain are obvious. Look at where the jumps are placed -- smack dab in the middle of downtown where everyone can watch when an event is under way and wonder what it must be like to fly off the end of one of those ramps.
Skiers such as Johnny Spillane, Lodwick and Jones can't go to the supermarket in town without being recognized by fans. I'm sure that the people in Utah appreciate the Utah Winter Sports Park for what it is -- a ski jump. But in a town built on skiing, Howelsen and the jumping hills are part of this community's identity.
In a few weeks the people who lead the Colorado Ski Heritage Project will be able to tell us just how many dollars it will take to keep the ski jumps updates.
But no one needs to tell us how much they are worth.
We already know.