By Dan Greeson
“Oh no, Daddy’s going to beat us,” giggles four-year-old Luke Beauregard as he leans back against his mom riding up the steep Poma lift at Howelsen Hill. At the top, he points his skis down Mile Run and he’s off, Dad following behind, capturing his youngest’s every move on camera.
To Luke, he’s just making turns on the hill in his Steamboat Springs backyard. He doesn’t realize the significance of being a fourth generation skier at the oldest operating ski area west of the Mississippi.
“I’m reliving my childhood,” says Cedar Beauregard, who is teaching his three boys, Caman, Adrian and Luke, to ski at Howelsen Hill, just as his mom before him. “My brother Cactus and I practically grew up in the lift shack,” he says.
Their father, John, made his first run down Howelsen in 1968, before taking on the role as ski area manager in the ‘70s. “I did everything,” John says. “I was ski patrol, lift maintenance, sold tickets, worked the stereo system, made hot chocolate, you name it. There was no budget then – when something needed fixing the community stepped in.”
His wife, Sue, was part of that community and grew up as one of the many volunteers in town who were only too willing to help. Sue’s father, Bill Bowes, was president of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club when the Poma lift was installed in 1970. “I remember Jim McNeil and I dug the hole for the fourth pole,” Sue says, laughing.
Her own father moved to Steamboat Springs after hearing about the “strangely named” town from Gordy Wren while serving together in the 10th Mountain Division. Bowes, an alternate on the U.S. Ski Team, fell in love with the valley, buying a home with a “ski hill” in Strawberry Park. All of his seven children skied at Howelsen. His daughter, Heidi, spent ten years on the U.S. Ski Team.
“I basically grew up skiing surrounded by family,” Cedar says. Like his mom, aunts and uncles before him, he would head for Howelsen after school for race training. He now waits for the next generation, including his twin boys, to finish school and join his U-10-plus group with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
“Without Howelsen Hill, Steamboat Springs wouldn’t have the Olympic heritage it has,” John says. “The Steamboat Ski Area doesn’t have what Howelsen has and vice versa. We need both to produce top athletes.”
There aren’t many places in the world where you can look down from the top of a ski area and see slalom racing, ski jumping and tiny tots riding the magic carpet all at the same time. Perhaps it’s the compact size of Howelsen Hill, the views or just the smiles on skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities that make the sense of magic tangible. Keeping the legacy of the hill alive for future generations doesn’t come with a price tag.
“It’s who we are. It’s why people move to this town. It is where skiing in Steamboat began,” Sue says. “Imagine telling Parisians to give up on the Eiffel Tower. That’s how I feel about Howelsen Hill – it’s our monument and our burden to bear.”