Steamboat Springs The backhoes, front-end loaders and bulldozers that have been commonplace at the base of Howelsen Hill this summer will be disappearing this week, but the building process has just begun.
"We are all very excited about this year," said Rick DeVos, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. "I believe the improvements at Howelsen Hill are only going to make us stronger, and we are thrilled about the opportunity to train and compete here."
When the season opens at Howelsen Hill on Dec. 1, skiers from the Winter Sports Club will be greeted by brighter lights, better snowmaking and plenty of chances to excel on their home hill.
Jeff Nelson, ski area supervisor, said the improvements will allow the ski area to produce snow more efficiently and meet future snowmaking demands.
He said the ski area took down 24 old lights and added 37 lights that should allow more nighttime events and better late-afternoon training through the dark winter months.
Nelson said the new lights should make the slopes brighter, while cutting down on the amount of trespass light.
DeVos views the lights as an advantage skiers can use to improve. His work will begin in the next few weeks, as the coaches and staff at the Winter Sports Club start building the foundation that will produce future Olympians.
Turning on the night
Part of the Winter Sports Club's strategy will be to take advantage of the new lights by hosting more evening events this season.
Despite the loss of the World Cup B event and a general drop in the total number of events this winter, DeVos expects 2007-08 is scheduled to keep the hometown skiers busy.
"Our goal is to make sure that every athlete in our program has the opportunity to compete at home," he said.
That lofty goal means the club will host a total of 75 competition days this winter, starting in December and ending in late March.
December's schedule will include the Holiday Classic, Dec. 15 to 16 and Dec. 22 to 23; the Nordic combined and ski jumping program's Winter Start Dec. 15 to 16; and a USASA Snowboarding event. There also will be lower level cross-country competitions, freestyle camps and the Town Challenge race series.
January will bring snowboarding's Race to Cup, college Alpine ski racing and the return of the four-event Hitchens Brothers Wednesday Night Jump Series. The series includes competitions Jan. 23, Feb. 13 and March 5.
The high school state skiing championships highlight the calendar in February, along with SmartWool series and a major Nordic Junior Olympic qualifier.
Winter Carnival also will bring a host of athletic events, including the national Gelende jumping championships.
The season will wind down in March, but not before Steamboat plays host to the Junior Olympic Freestyle Championships and the Nordic combined and special jumping Western Regional Championships.
Steamboat will also host the Buddy Werner State skiing championships.
DeVos said having a consistently strong schedule of events in Steamboat Springs is a key element of the club's success. The competition schedule is designed to bring top-level events to Steamboat Springs and improve the level of skiing in the community.
DeVos said the club would not be able to host the 75 events planned for this year without the many volunteers who give their time to the programs and have helped to build the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club into one of the best skiing experiences anywhere in the country.
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