Extending the Ski Season
● By Christina Freeman
Jacey Werner launches onto the airbag at the base of Howelsen Hill. Photo by Deborah Olsen.
Steamboat Springs, CO - When the mountain closed in April, ski season was over for most people, but not for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes.
For skiers and riders to enjoy Howelsen Hill throughout spring, it doesn’t take more than a strip of snow with enough left over to shape an aerial jump. A new airbag, courtesy of a generous donor, provides a safe landing for learning and refining new tricks.
“The big advantage is, you can land on your face, or do a full flip plus a half, land on your back and walk away. It’s the safest environment I’ve seen,” says Tony Lodico, head freeskiing coach.
The club hopes to build a dry slope facility for use with the airbag. Until that happens, the bag is put away once the snow melts and until snowmaking begins at Howelsen in the fall.
In the interim, the action moves to Bald Eagle Lake off of U.S. 40 during the summer. Skiers and riders soar off the aerial ramps and land in the water, or practice on nearby trampolines.
“Jumping is intrinsic to skiing,” Lodico says. “Even five-year-olds, once you teach them to ski, they start looking for bumps and jumps.”
Aerials appeal to one set of young skiers; Nordic jumps to another. This summer heralds a second year-round ski jump at the base of Howelsen, when a smaller plastic jump opens next to the larger one already in place.
“This opens up opportunities for our younger jumpers,” says the club’s director, Rick DeVos. “We now have facilities for everyone from Todd Lodwick (three-time World Champion) to the younger skiers.”
To jump at any of these facilities: airbag, water ramp or Nordic jumps, SSWSC membership is a prerequisite. Visiting athletes may participate after evaluation by the club coaches. For more information, visit www.sswsc.org.