Steamboat Springs Todd Wilson was thrilled to see young ski jumpers take flight off the plastic-covered slope of the new K-68 jump at Howelsen Hill last weekend.
But he isn't as excited about some things that have happened at the jumps after the sun sets.
Wilson, the Nordic program director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, said vandalism was one of his biggest concerns when the jumps were being built. And shortly after the completion of the jumps, Wilson now is having to deal with that concern.
Wilson said people have been going to the ski jumps and sliding down the plastic surface of the landing hill. Doing so is not only dangerous to the individuals doing the sliding, but it's also causing damage to the expensive facility, Wilson said. Because it's against the law, anyone caught on the jumps without permission can be changed with trespassing.
"These jumps were designed for a specific purpose," Wilson said. "They are designed to handle the impact of a jumper falling, but they were not designed for this."
"It's a little disheartening that people will not respect our wishes."
To keep people from sliding down the surface after the jumps are closed, Wilson and his staff left a section of cargo netting set up across the bottom of the hill. The netting was enough to deter people from walking up the plastic surface, and coaches could remove it when the jumps were open to athletes.
But Wilson said his staff has noticed that the netting was being moved during the night so people could slide down the surface. In response, staff members locked the netting to the anchors that hold it in place.
Late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, vandals cut the netting to remove it from the anchors.
"We need the community's help to stop this," Wilson said. "These jumps were built by this community, and it's something we should all take pride in. We want to keep them new and in good working order."
Wilson thinks the damage to the netting can be repaired, but if he has to replace it, new netting will cost $750.
Also, Wilson said sliding down the jump's surface causes damage. Wilson has repaired sections of the jump with plastic shingles left over from when the surface was installed. But if vandals continue to slide down the surface, he fears he will run out of spare pieces, and repairs will become a cost.
Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said police have been investigating multiple cases of vandalism around Howelsen Hill during the past month. He said officers are following several leads and plan to increase police presence at the hill.
"It's kind of a hot area with us right now," Rae said. "We are going to be doing extra patrols to help deal with some of this."
Wilson urges anyone who sees someone sliding down the surface of the jumps to call the Steamboat Springs Police Department at 879-1144.