Steamboat Springs John Adams, chairman of the Colorado Ski Heritage Project Committee, has opened meetings for years with the simple question, "What have we got, and what do we need?"
What Steamboat Springs needed was $2.8 million. What the community got will be recognized at 4:30 p.m. Saturday during a ceremony for the opening of a new plastic-covered K-68 jumping hill at Howelsen Hill.
"I think that Kevin Bennett was the first person to recognize the need," Adams said. "There had been some previous attempts to put plastic on the jump, but I don't think anybody knew how much of an effort it was really going to take to get it done."
More than six years and two Winter Olympics later, the 24 people who set out to put plastic on Howelsen can look up the hill with a sense of accomplishment.
"I think it started to hit home before the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City," said Bennett, a former City Council president. "After talking to Tom Steitz, I realized that Steamboat was losing its dominance in the sport. They were building plastic jumps in Park City, and we were going to lose the U.S. Nordic combined team. We needed to do something."
The fear of losing ground and Olympic athletes sparked the creation of the Colorado Ski Heritage Project Committee.
The group of 24 people raised money to build the jump and secure Steamboat's place as the home of Olympians.
Despite the realization that it would only be able to cover one jump and that Steamboat still would not be able to lure back the U.S. Nordic team, the group continued to work.
For the members, it was important to keep what Steamboat had to offer and make sure that children in Steamboat and Colorado had a place to start and to dream.
"We felt like it was important for the younger jumpers," committee member Jayne Hill said. "We want them to be able to stay in Steamboat, to stay in their homes, as long as possible."
Although Steamboat's role as a feeder program might be less glamorous than it was a few years ago, coaches and committee members don't think that it is less important.
"We needed to figure out where we fit in the ski jumping food chain," said state Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs. "I think it's an important statement that ski jumpers want to come back to Steamboat Springs to use this jump, and that ski jumpers from Park City want to come back here to use this jump."
The jump, which has been used since last fall, has received rave reviews from young jumpers and Olympians, who have come back to give it a try. Coach Todd Wilson said many of the Olympians have said the jump seems much larger than its actual size and they think it is a valuable training venue for jumpers of all ages and abilities.
The city of Steamboat Springs approved $370,000 in supplemental funds to finish the project. Another $1.2 million came from the Energy Impact Assistance Fund, $270,000 from the Gates Family Foundation, $150,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado, $100,000 from the Boettcher Foundation, $50,000 from the Daniels Fund and several other smaller donors.
About $470,000 came from more than 200 private donors.
Wilson said the benefits of having the jump already have been felt in his programs. His summer program numbers are up, and the interest in using the jumps from outside programs has been much higher than expected.