Plastic power

K-68 jump valuable as local jumpers begin competition

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— With several major ski jumping competitions scheduled for early December, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic program director Todd Wilson says it's getting harder for athletes to ease into the season.

"There's no time to ramp up for the season anymore," Wilson said. "The plastic on the jump at Howelsen has been huge for us."

Wilson said the new jump at Howelsen, which had its one-year anniversary Oct. 15, has been a key part of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's program during the summer and will improve the transition from summer to winter.

The new jump is expected to close Nov. 2. By that time, the Winter Sports Club will have gained 21 weeks on the hill this season. It has given competitors an option to keep jumping at a time when most jumps in the country are closed.

Park City shut its doors for the summer Oct. 8 and will not reopen until the snow arrives in mid-to-late November.

In the past, American jumpers had to wait up to six weeks between summer and winter. Wilson plans to cut the time to about three weeks. Given the chance, he might allow athletes to jump on plastic while making snow on the bigger hills.

"We feel that it's important to limit the amount of down time athletes have during seasons," Wilson said. "If they are not jumping for six weeks, then it's going to take them two or three weeks to get back up to speed."

Steamboat's aggressive approach to keeping the jumps open should favor local jumpers, but it also has gained attention outside of the Yampa Valley.

The members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Team rolled into town early this week and are expected to make Steamboat a home base.

"We are the only jump open west of the Mississippi," Wilson said.

U.S. coaches are hoping to spend their time jumping in Steamboat until the World Cup B competition. That event is Dec. 8 to 10 at Howelsen. Several teams are expected to come to Steamboat for a mini camp Oct. 27 to 29.

Wilson said the plan is to close the plastic-covered jump Nov. 1 to allow work crews to install the cargo netting that holds the snow on the face of the jump. That task will take about 24 man-hours to finish. It might take longer if the jumps are wet, but Wilson said it will take less than a day to compete the task.

Once the nets are in place, the ski area can begin making snow on the hill, and Wilson said with the right temperatures, the new jump should be open before Thanksgiving.

During that time, he hopes that snowmaking will allow Steamboat's normal and large hill jumps to open.

As always, Wilson encouraged people visiting Howelsen Hill to stay off the jumps.

The surface is very slippery, especially when it's wet, and the possibility of injury is high.

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