New terrain park at Howelsen a hit with local skiers, snowboarders | SteamboatToday.com

New terrain park at Howelsen a hit with local skiers, snowboarders

Freeskier Riley Jacobs clears a rail at the new terrain park at the base of Howelsen Hill on Wednesday. The park is featured as part of our new Wish You Were Here Steamboat 360 video projectm which offers a first-person view of the action. Visit www.steamboattoday.com/wishyouwerehere to view the Howelsen Hill Terrain Park 360 video.

— Skiers and snowboarders have found a new playground at the base of one of the oldest ski areas in the United States.

Dozens of free skiers and snowboarders completed laps around the course Wednesday, hitting a variety of rails and jumps en route to the bottom on the hill. Once there, they simply jumped onto the magic carpet for a return trip to the top of the hill, where they got instructions from coaches before making another lap.

The new terrain part at the base of Howelsen Hill is a popular stop and offers intermediate terrain on the far side of the ski jumps. The park was created this winter to provide more training opportunities for members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and replaces long-running tubing operation that used to fill the space.

Jim Boyne, executive director of SSWSC, said during the fall that the club felt the space could be better utilized to address the needs of club members. He felt the club needed the space to create more training opportunities, and the crowds Wednesday night seemed to back his decision.

Boyne said it was a tough decision to suspend the revenue-generating tubing operations, which the club had operated in cooperation with the city of Steamboat Springs since the 2007-08 season. He added that the short, steep-pitched hill was not ideal for tubing operations, and SSWSC and city are currently looking for venues at Howelsen Hill that would be better suited for tubing. He acknowledged, however, that it’s not a priority now.

"I think it has gone tremendously well," Boyne said of the transition. "We felt like if we improved the park and features and added more beginner terrain, it would better reflect our mission statement."

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He said the tubing was a revenue generator and helped offset some of the programming cost that coaches fees don’t cover, but at the end of the day, opening more beginner and intermediate terrain for the club’s free skiers and snowboarders was well worth the trade in dollars.

“It's been terrific," he said.

Boyne said the club will continue to look for ways to bring tubing back to downtown and to Howeslen. But he added there are many items at Howelsen that might rank higher on the list of priorities at this point.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966