New year-round Howelsen ski jump to serve multiple purposes

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— Gary Crawford can remember sitting with teammates at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., wondering what in the Austrian ski jumper Toni Innauer was doing.

“We saw him jumping on a 40-meter jump,” said Crawford, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s head Nordic combined ability coach. “Everybody is sitting there going, ‘What is he doing on the 40-meter?’ Two weeks later, he went out and won the 70-meter gold medal.”

Maybe not on the same plane, but certainly in the same vein, construction of a year-round HS 45 jump has begun at Howelsen Hill. The ski jump will get a plastic surface that will be sprayed with water, allowing skiers to use it any time of year. 

When done, the HS 45 jump will look similar to Howelsen’s year-round HS 75 jump. 

“This gives them 12 months a year of training,” Winter Sports Club Executive Director Rick DeVos said. “That’s important. It goes for everything. That’s just the nature and current state of affairs with all sports. This is a community that has had jumping going on here for 100 years. This jump is just a piece of that.”

The benefits of the year-round jump are plentiful, coaches said. 

Crawford said the smaller jump’s biggest boost will be for younger jumpers ages 10 to 13. He said it’s the right size for young athletes to start getting a feel for flying and the flying position. 

It also will help limit the amount of travel for Winter Sports Club athletes. Crawford said his program’s younger jumpers typically have to go to Park City, Utah, three times each year to train on a jump there and then return to Steamboat and be limited to dryland training. 

Soon, he said, those trips could be a thing of the past. 

He said the jump also will be of value to the top-end athletes on the U.S. Ski Team. Those skiers can use the smaller jump to work on their takeoffs and other techniques, similar to what Innauer did some 30 years ago. 

“It’s the kind of thing that is great for those in the program that just want to have fun,” he said. “It’s really beneficial for the kids that are really taking the sport more seriously and may want to pursue the Olympics or U.S. Ski Team.”

The HS 45 project was funded by grants from Great Outdoors Colorado, the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs, the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Recreation Fund, the Colorado Group Realty Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation and the Kettering Family Foundation as well as matching funds from the city of Steamboat Springs and many private donations.  

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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