Tommy Leitner skis down Howelsen Hill with his 3-year-old son Stephen on Saturday during opening day at the historic downtown ski hill. Skiing was free during the community appreciation day.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Tommy Leitner skis down Howelsen Hill with his 3-year-old son Stephen on Saturday during opening day at the historic downtown ski hill. Skiing was free during the community appreciation day.

Hundreds turn out for free skiing at Howelsen in Steamboat

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Opening day at Howelsen HIll

The historic ski hill offered a community appreciation day as a thank you for supporting the Howelsen Hill Centennial Campaign,

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Steamboat Springs resident Ryan Overstake rides up the first chair Saturday morning at Howelsen Hill.

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Skiers come down Howelsen Hill on Saturday morning on opening day.

— On a crisp Saturday morning, Gary Smalley was heading up for his sixth lap on Howelsen Hill’s Face, the steep, rolling ski trail that seemingly cascades right into downtown Steamboat Springs.

“I’m not tired of it yet,” he said with his Telemark skis dangling from the two-person chairlift, even though the Face was the only run open.

Smalley doesn’t have a season pass to Howelsen, nor does he have a pass to Steamboat Ski Area, but the avid backcountry skier heard that Howelsen was offering free lift tickets Saturday for its public opening day and couldn’t help himself.

“The view of town from the top is really exciting,” he said. “The Face run is as challenging as it needs to be, and they do such a good job of grooming here.

“It’s great. This is a nice opportunity to come up and check it out.”

Smalley wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the community appreciation free skiing event going on all day Saturday.

Ski area workers behind the concession stand, where lift tickets are sold, said they had given away more than 200 tickets by 11 a.m.

Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department Supervisor Craig Robinson called Saturday a “great day” that hopefully showcased the small ski area to its local community.

“Howelsen is what makes Ski Town USA, Ski Town USA,” Robinson said, gesturing around at the bustling lodge of ski boot-clad toddlers and international Nordic teams.

“Whether it’s the teams training in every discipline or the little kids who have never skied before.”

The city of Steamboat Springs operates the historic ski hill and offered the community appreciation day as a thank you for supporting the Howelsen Hill Centennial Campaign, which has raised $1.8 million of its $2.3 million goal to support operations and improvements.

On Saturday, there was abundant entertainment for the public as skiers and riders rode the chairlift. At the softball fields below, countless Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club youngsters played in the snow, crawling through tires and pulling one another on toboggans. The freestyle team was going inverted off a jump near the base, a snowboard race team whizzed through gates and young Nordic combined skiers competed on the ski jumps.

Thirty-year Routt County resident Jane Howell rode the lift again and again Saturday, taking it all in. Every time she passed ski area workers, she thanked them for the job they did.

“My kids grew up on this hill,” Howell said. “I always worked it and never skied it, so it was on my bucket list to come ski here.”

Several years ago, she bought a season pass and crossed that off her list. She also purchases a pass to Steamboat Ski Area, and they each serve their own purpose, she said.

Howelsen has become to Howell more than a training ground for her children and grandchildren: It’s a close-to-home recreational escape.

“It’s a hometown hill,” Howell said. “I can walk over here, throw on my cross-country skis or Teles, and in a couple of hours, I get fresh air, sunshine and a good time.”

“And just look at the view.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

John St Pierre 2 years, 8 months ago

It was a great day!!! It brings to mind why the Howelsen is not better marketed.... with all the discussion last few weeks about financial issues with the Hill

What an incredible value for families visiting... Reliable hours of operation so it can be marketed..... How about Night skiing ... the city has a Gem... but is doing nothing with it to generate more income.....

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BeCoolHoneyBunny 2 years, 8 months ago

who should "the howelsen" be marketed to? visiting families? that's like going to Orlando and then going to a parking lot carnival instead of Disney World. get real!

howelsen has it's niche, local families, people learning to ski and ride, people who can't afford Mt. Werner and Winter Sports club athletes. I do agree they need to have consistent hours of operation, instead of opening at different times everyday.

what do you suggest to generate more income? how about tubing? oh, already given away to SSWSC. how about concession sales? oh, already given away to a private vendor. it's only $20 a day and cheaper for kids. how does anyone expect to generate $$ at those prices?

howelsen has been open free of charge to SSWSC for the past month.

again, get real!

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