Snowboarder Spencer Tamblyn is hoping that the new rails, jumps and a variety of other features at the Howelsen Hill Terrain Park soon will replace memories of the halfpipe that had been a main feature of the ski area for more than a decade.
"There are a lot of people who are discouraged and frustrated that we will not have a halfpipe this winter," Tamblyn said. "I understand that, but this is a much better use of the space."
The problem with the halfpipe was that the sun hit the left wall of the pipe, making the shady side icy and the sunny side soft. The varying terrain made it difficult to ride and caused the sunny side of the pipe to crumble and melt regularly during the season.
As a result, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coaches and Howelsen Hill staff spent a tremendous amount of time trying to maintain the halfpipe from February to the end of the season.
This year, the space will be used for a terrain park that will include several good sized kickers and rollers, eight rails that skiers and boarders can slide down and eventually two quarterpipes that will help with training and allow riders to enjoy many of the same opportunities as a halfpipe.
There will be four tabletops and a number of fun boxes.
"This is an experiment in the making," said Jeff Nelson, Howelsen Hill Ski Area supervisor. "We understand that there are a lot of people who enjoyed the halfpipe, and we are going to work to make sure what we have now is just as enjoyable."
Nelson said the city took direction from the coaches and staff of the Winter Sports Club, and he thinks the coaches have a better idea of what the snowboarders and freeskiers in Steamboat are seeking.
"We don't know everything," Nelson said. "These guys are working with the kids, and they understand what those riders need."
He said the ski area would be looking for feedback from the suggestion box in the Howelsen Hill lodge. Ticket sales will be monitored to determine the park's popularity.
"The great thing is that everything over there is made out of snow," Nelson said. "If it doesn't work, we can always go back to the halfpipe next year."
The park opened last week, but Tamblyn said that doesn't mean the park will remain unchanged until the spring.
He said that during the season, rails will be moved, kickers and table tops will be changed, and it will be improved and modified on a weekly basis to keep things interesting.
Riders can access the park by purchasing a daily lift ticket for $10 for youths ages 7 to 18 and seniors older than 60; $15 for adults 19 and older; and $5 for children 6 and younger. The ski area also offers special rates for night skiing and a noon-time special.
For those who don't mind hiking, there is a $35 season pass to the park available, but it does not include rides on the lift or access to other parts of the ski area.
The park is not directly serviced by any lift, and some hiking is necessary.
The carrot lift accesses a service road that cuts down the amount of hiking to the top of the park or riders can take Mile Run and then ski to the park if they have a lift ticket.
Tamblyn said the area will be patrolled regularly, and he encourages all riders to purchase a pass to the park. He said some of the money will help support the park and also gives the city of Steamboat an indication of how important the amenity is to residents.