City plans to modify Nordic steeps at Howelsen | SteamboatToday.com

City plans to modify Nordic steeps at Howelsen

Lars Hannah of Steamboat Springs and Denver University prepares to pass a competitor in the 2016 NCAA skiing championships just before entering a steep downhill at Howelsen Hill in March. The city of Steamboat has plans this fall to undertake trail work that will provide intermediate skiers with a less technical descent.

— If the autumn snow doesn't pile up too quickly on Howelsen Hill this season, intermediate Nordic skiers could enjoy easier access all winter long to the rolling terrain on the Bluffs Loop with its grand views of Mount Werner.

City of Steamboat Parks, Open Space and Trails manager Craig Robinson said Oct. 3 that plans are in place to address steep pitches both on the climb to, and descent from, the Bluffs Loop this fall, weather permitting. The city, with Nordic Excavating as its contractor, has pulled a $75,000 building permit to conduct the work.

"We plan to reduce the need for grooming and make the trails more user friendly," Robinson said. "We'll also realign the trails to keep them from intersecting with Alpine skiers coming off Long John (trail) during large Nordic events."

The latter will also ensure that Alpine skiers can access the bottom of the Barrows chairlift when large Nordic competitions are underway, he said. The Bluffs Loop was part of the course for the national collegiate championships in March, 2016 and typically hosts a combined college and junior ski meet every January. Howelsen Hill hosted international Nordic combined competitions in the past and continues to host regional Nordic combined meets.

Those skiers have no difficulty negotiating the steep sections encountered soon after skiers begin the climb just behind the concrete bleachers at the Romick Rodeo Arena. But the hills, including one steep corkscrew on the way up, and a pitch called "the elevator shaft" on the way down, can be more than intermediate skiers are able to tackle comfortably.

By eliminating locations where the trails criss-cross, Robinson said he expects to be able to alter the uphill and downhill routes to afford skiers more manageable terrain.

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In addition, the beginning of the climb will be widened to better accommodate large race fields when a mass start is required.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1