Friday, November 28, 2003
Jeff Nelson, Howelsen Hill Ski Area supervisor, watched the grass patches on the slopes of the hill grow last Friday.
Warm temperatures caused what little natural snow there was on the downtown ski area to melt away. And those same warm temperatures prevented any hope of getting a serious jump on making snow.
One week has sure made a difference for Colorado's oldest continually operating ski area. Howelsen Hill opens today as scheduled at 9 a.m. with three runs and 450 vertical feet ready to ski or ride.
The Poma lift, pony lift and magic carpet will be running today until 4 p.m.
Discount lift tickets are available for $8 until the entire Howelsen Ski Area is open for use, which Nelson said, weather permitting, should be mid-December.
Night skiing is tentatively set to begin Dec. 9, while the chairlift is scheduled to open Dec. 13. All is weather dependent.
Nelson said the half-pipe should be ready by Christmas.
"We normally open this weekend, but it's always weather dependent," Nelson said.
Ideal snowmaking conditions are between 10 degrees and 15 degrees, though it is possible to make snow when the mercury rises as high as 25 degrees. Until recently, conditions were not favorable for making snow.
Limited snowmaking operations began last week, but an all-out effort to cover the lower portions of the mountain with enough snow to open didn't begin until earlier in the week.
Phase One of the Ski Heritage Project under way at Howelsen Hill was an improvement in its snowmaking abilities. The new equipment was up and running early Friday morning pumping volumes of snow in the downtown city park.
The tow house also has been refurbished, restoring the building to its original look.
Howelsen is one of the few ski areas in the country operating in the middle of town. Residents and tourists enjoy the use of the easily accessible slopes.
"It's one more thing for people to do," Nelson said. "A lot of times, people show up because they can't wait until the next day to get their skis on. It's actually a pretty good setup to go and rent skis and go and try them to see if that's what they want."
This season, Howelsen will operate night skiing until 8 p.m Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Once the full mountain opens, Howelsen will be open at noon Monday through Friday. On Monday and Friday it will close at 6 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, Howelsen will be open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Monday through Friday, $5 lift tickets are available to ski from noon until 2 p.m. Night skiing tickets are available for $5 from 5 to 8 p.m. once night skiing begins.
Season adult passes are on sale for a discounted $100 fee through Dec. 31. Those 18 and younger can get a season pass for $50 until Dec. 31.
Nelson said he has fielded a number of questions regarding the cross country trails and how Howelsen will be maintaining them this season. Friday, Nelson said grooming will be less frequent than in the past because of budget constraints. In recent years, private funding paid for most of the trails' grooming, but this season there is no commitment from a private source.
At this point, Howelsen employees will do snowmobile grooming only until the area receives another foot of snow, Nelson said.
Howelsen needs snowmakers and lift operators. Anyone interested can pick up an application from City Hall and the Parks and Recreation office or call Parks and Rec at 879-4300.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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