Hang at Howelsen Hill
By Alesha Damerville
Image by Noah Wetzel
The focal point of downtown Steamboat Springs is Howelsen Hill, a local playground for winter entertainment. The city-run facility is named after Carl Howelsen, the founding father of Steamboat’s skiing heritage. Home to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, the oldest continuously operated ski area west of the Mississippi is open to the public.
SKI AND SNOWBOARD
Despite its small size, Howelsen Hill offers terrain for skiers of all abilities. Two magic carpets serve the beginner area, which is a favorite learning spot for locals. Seventeen alpine runs wind around the hill, ranging from gentle Mile Run to the steep face. A newly built terrain park with a halfpipe gives snowboarders plenty of space to try new tricks. Pick up tips from past, present and future Olympians, who are often seen on the hill. www.steamboatsprings.net
Cruise along 13 miles of cross-country trails that weave across Howelsen Hill. Terrain ranges from gentle laps by the base area to steep climbs that lead skiers high up on Emerald Mountain. Panoramic views of the Yampa Valley reward those who opt for a good workout. Skip the incline and ride the chairlift instead, then meander back down to the base through aspen glades and snow-packed meadows. www.steamboatsprings.net
One of the latest additions to the range of activities at Howelsen Hill is fat biking. There are strict rules, and riders are expected to stick to the local code.
•Purchase a trail ticket to use groomed trails.
•Bike tires need to be wider than 3.7 inches.
•Tire pressure cannot be greater than 10 psi.
•Ride on the firmest part of the trail.
•Riders must stay to the right side of the trail and ride to the inside of classic-ski tracks.
•Do not ride on the groomed trail if your tire leaves a rut deeper than 1 inch.
•Bikes must yield to skiers.
•Trails are closed to riders Monday-Friday, 2- 6 p.m.
There are very few places you can try ski jumping, and Howelsen Hill is one of them. Everyone has an opportunity to try the sport under the guidance of past Olympians and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coaches. Once a month, children can sign up for the Hitchens Brothers Wednesday Night Jump Series. Free to participants, training and warm up starts at 4 p.m. and finishes with pizza and cookies in Olympian Hall after the competition. No experience necessary. Wednesday jump nights are open to ages 16 and over and start at 6 p.m. Lift ticket and fee apply. www.sswsc.org
The rustic ski lodge at the base area is a buzz of activity on any given day of the week. Centrally located, it is the perfect meeting spot and place to warm up with a hot chocolate. Non-skiers can watch the action on the hill out the window and read up on local Olympian history. www.steamboatsprings.net
CHEER ON RACERS
Watch athletes compete in a variety of races and competitions at Howelsen Hill, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships. Alpine races are on Wednesday-Friday, March 7-9 and Nordic are on Thursday-Saturday, March 8-10. www.sswsc.org