Howelsen Hill features rich history

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— Steamboat Springs' Howelsen Hill has built a reputation around the world.

This year the small ski area in the heart of downtown will host a Nordic Combined World Cup B, an Olympic Qualifier and the NCAA National Championships. That's in addition to the hundreds of local races and events that take place at Steamboat's most famous city park.

"It's a community facility," ski area manager Jeff Nelson said. "It's not a corporate operation, but it's an extension of the Steamboat community and what's important to the people who live here."

Over the years, the ski area's six ski jumps, 15 trails and 440 vertical feet have given birth to 54 Winter Olympic athletes.

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 does 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. Nelson said on most afternoons in the winter, skiers, snowboarders and jumpers are on the hill. Howelsen is a hub of activity.

"It's so kid friendly, and local friendly" Nelson said. "If you stop by from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on any week day, you can see every skiing and snowboarding discipline taking place at the same time. This area gets great support from the community and it's a place most people are, and should be, proud of."

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

Nelson said it's the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs and a place where people from the community come to meet and play. In both summer and winter, the ski area is the host of concerts and sporting events. It acts as a home for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and offers an affordable skiing experience for locals.

Recently, the ski area put the finishing touches on a new plastic-covered ski jump that will make the sport a year-round activity and continue Steamboat's long tradition of training the top special jumping and Nordic combined athletes in the world.

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