If Carl Howelsen were alive today, I know exactly where he would be.
The flying Norwegian --ho brought ski jumping to our part of the world in the early 1900s -- would be standing at the base of Howelsen Hill, enjoying the show.
The bright green layer of plastic at Howelsen has given Steamboat's jumping legacy a twist. Jumpers taking flight off plastic-covered jumps isn't unheard of in the skiing world. But in Steamboat Springs, it's a strange new summer attraction.
On Friday, the sight of ski jumpers training on Howelsen was enough to stop mountain bikers mid-trail. It's a strange new sight that rekindles the spirit that Howelsen brought to our valley nearly 100 years ago.
I've watched the ski jump at Howelsen Hill take shape during the past few years, and I've said that building the jumps is about a lot more than providing a year-round training opportunity.
The ski jumps at Howelsen are a part of the fiber of our community, but more importantly, they're an invitation for ski jumpers to return to Northwest Colorado. The jump currently is being used for training, but it's expected to be the sight of summer competitions -- a chance to expose a whole new group of tourists to a sport that most Americans see only once every four years.
The jump will help Steamboat continue to produce Olympic ski jumpers and Nordic combined athletes. But it also will help keep the sport alive in our country.
Steamboat is a very different place today than when Howelsen first arrived.
A deck of cards and a few friends were all people needed back then to keep themselves entertained.
Photographs from that era prove that watching a man ski jump was worth a trip across the river and a few hours in the snow and cold.
Sadly, those days are gone.
Today we've got video games, computers and the Internet to amaze us. It seems people would rather watch some guy pick a wife from a dozen girls on TV than head to the jumps.
But to be fair, today's children play more sports, take part in more activities and have more to do than ever before.
Luckily, ski jumping is still a popular activity in Steamboat, but it must compete against a huge variety of other sports and activities.
Thanks to a bright green sheet of plastic, Carl Howelsen's pioneering spirit has a chance to shine through the summer and entertain a whole new group of eyes.
-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org