Steamboat Springs Steamboat Ski Area is off to a flying start and now it’s time for the longest continuously operating ski area in the west to join the party.
Howelsen Hill, Steamboat Springs’ municipal ski area just across the river from downtown, opens Saturday with expert skiing off the Poma lift on Upper and Lower Face, and beginner skiing next to the child-friendly Boardwalk lift from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Howelsen has been operating first as a ski jumping facility since January 1915. Today, ski jumping takes place in summer and winter, but most members of the public zip down the steep slalom hill in front of the lodge, while many youngsters enjoy their first day of skiing on one of the gentle Magic Carpet lifts. It’s also a place where children can experiment with snowboarding on their own.
Howelsen is a training ground for future and current Olympians and also the community ski hill where many local youngsters slip and slide for the first time in their lives. And businessmen can sneak in a handful of blazing runs down the face of the hill thanks to the First Tracks Special: a $10 lift ticket good from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.
Howelsen Hill, with its main lodge and quaint lift shack is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Daily lift ticket prices are $8 for children 6 and younger, $15 for youths 7 to 18, $20 for adults 19 to 59 and $15 for seniors. Access to Howelsen’s extensive network of groomed Nordic trails is $13 for a day pass.
Only a portion of the Rodeo Loop will be available for cross-country skiers Saturday, with classic track set.
Tickets may be purchased at the concession stand in the Howelsen Hill Lodge.
Holders of the Nordic Valley Pass have seasonlong privileges at Howelsen, Steamboat Ski Touring Center and Lake Catamount for one price.
Complete details on daily passes and season passes can be found at the city of Steamboat’s Web page. The price for season passes, as low as $35 for children 6 and younger, and $80 for youngsters ages 7 to 18, goes up by $30 after Sunday.
Howelsen also is a place where spectators can gather in the late afternoon, when school is out to watch ski jumpers training. And weekend competitions often bring some of the top developing skiers in Colorado to town.
On Dec. 20 to 22, Howelsen will host two internationally sanctioned slalom races, with a third planned for Mount Werner. Ski racing fans can expect a few very competitive collegiate racers to show up and boost the points value of the race for top teenage racers from all across the state.
Then, on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, the top junior Nordic cross-country ski racers in the state will mix it up with collegians at Howelsen Hill as the University of Colorado hosts the CU Invitational, with Denver University, the University of Utah and Montana State among the teams expected to take part.
Local ski historian Bill Fetcher said Howelsen Hill, with a modest vertical rise of 44 feet, was strictly a jumping hill through the 1920s until interest in Alpine skiing took hold. A slalom course was cleared on the east face of the hill in 1931, allowing races to take place, he wrote in an article for www.coloradoskihistory.com.
The first ski lift at Howlesen was built in 1934 and bore no resemblance to today’s modern chairlifts or even modern Poma lifts. It originally was a sled winched up the hill to haul limber needed to maintain the ski jumps. The “boat tow” was built in 1934. In 1937, it was relocated and fitted with an electric winch plus two, 10-passenger sleds. It remained in service until 1970.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1