Historic Howelsen Hill

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Howelsen Hill is Steamboat Springs' most famous city park.

It features the oldest continuously running ski area complete with ski jumps, a half pipe and terrain for every level of skier.

There also is a world-class Nordic touring center, a terrain park and enclosed ice arena all within its limits.

"This is the gem of the city," ski area manager Jeff Nelson said. "It's a great source of pride and it should be."

The little ski area, which features just 15 trails and 440-vertical feet, has given birth to 54 winter Olympians and has built a reputation that is known around the world.

The ski area has hosted multiple world cup events and national championships. More importantly it is home of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club -- one of the strongest skiing organizations in the country.

Nelson said the ski area logs about 20,000 skier days each winter and most of those are members of the SSWSC. However, he was quick to add that the ski area is a popular lunchtime destination for residents who want to take a few runs down its steep-pitched slopes or spin around the cross country course.

"We've always been popular with the nooners," Nelson said. "The location of the ski area just makes it a natural stop."

The ski area opened in the early 1900s and quickly became a part of Steamboat Springs' rich skiing heritage.

Today the ski area features 15 downhill ski trails, 25-kilometers of cross country skiing and six ski jumps.

But Howelsen Hill is much more than just a ski area.

"It has always been a great place to hang out, and a great place to go and be safe," Chris Gilbertson said.

Gilbertson grew up on the slopes of Howelsen Hill where he participated in Alpine skiing, freestyle, cross country and ski jumping. Gilbertson is now the ability coach for the Winter Sports Club's jumping and Nordic combined programs.

"I love the intimacy of Howelsen," Gilbertson said. "It's one of those places where you can still see a family sitting at the bottom of the hill eating lunch from a brown paper bag. It's easy to get to the top and everyone is there."

Steamboat's love of Howelsen Hill is undeniable.

Currently, the ski area is preserving the old tow house that sits at the bottom of the hill and is updating the K-68 jump so that athletes will be able to compete year-round at the center.

Nelson said much of the funding for both of those projects has been raised through grants and private contributions.

The Colorado Ski Heritage Project has raised $2.5 million to improve the ski area's K-68 jump. That project is expected to bring summer ski jumping to the hill next year. n

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