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TR Howelsen Hill, Steamboat Springs, CO - Feb. 18, 2020


Angel Diva
My Pres. Day weekend trip to Steamboat Springs included an unexpected ski area. My last day of skiing was at Howelsen Hill (HH) . . . which is in town, not at the Steamboat Resort. Haven’t heard of Howelsen? Well, neither had I. Turns out it’s the longest continuously operating ski hill in the U.S., having opened in 1914. It’s currently owned and operated by the town. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club is based at HH. Steamboat Springs has produced many Winter Olympics athletes and quite a few got their start at HH because it has not only downhill slopes, but also nordic trails, and ski jumps.

I had a great time at Howelsen Hill. Got more fresh powder turns than at Steamboat during the snowstorm two days before. Town View (blue) was my favorite. Upper Face and Lower Face were untracked when we started skiing but that felt just a bit too steep to feel comfortable in slightly heavy snow. It was easy to get fresh tracks on the groomers. For any a traveler arriving in Steamboat midday Tue-Fri, a couple hours skiing at Howelsen to warm up is worth considering.

Howelsen Hill: beginner area with magic carpet, ski jumps, powder tracks on Lower Face (on other side of poma lift)
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Hut (center) is at top of poma lift, Town View (blue) fresh tracks (on left)
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Angel Diva
Towards the end of my mid-season trip (Taos, SLC, Steamboat), I was with my ski buddy Bill from Albuquerque and my midwest ski buddy, Jason. We spent the Pres. Day weekend skiing at Steamboat. For the last day, we decided to have a leisurely breakfast at Johnny B. Good’s in town, then check out HH for a couple hours before getting on the road to Denver. Jason and I flew out of Denver the next day while Bill drove home to NM.

Howelsen Hill is clearly “old school.” A mid-week ticket is $30 for adults, $20 for seniors. It has a different definition for First Tracks than destination resorts. For $15, people can get a lift ticket midweek good from opening at 11:00am thru 1:00pm. Sundays have been free for the last few years. HH opens at 11:00 Tue-Fri and at 10:00 on weekends. By 1:30 on Tuesday, there were kids that started coming for afternoon team practice.

We heard from locals while shopping in town after breakfast that an hour was enough to cover all the trails at HH. That’s about right if you don’t stop to take any pictures. During the week, only the poma surface lift is open. It’s pretty steep at the start and has a few Exit gates directly onto Lower or Upper Face (black). The backside trails includes a nice long green that has great views and winds around to end below the ski jumps and the beginner area. I rode the magic carpet and it’s one of the steepest I’ve ever seen. Adults were taking off one ski to avoid slipping back. Halfway up I could easily understand why, especially when the carpet stopped suddenly.

A few beginners weren’t too happy with the poma lift. The chairlift that also goes to the summit only runs on weekends.

Even though the total vertical at HH is 440 ft, there are some seriously steep trails. Some groomed, some completely natural. Some with trees, some without. Bill and Jason checked out the short named blacks that were clearly bump runs. One of the them is essentially a chute that’s one turn wide. I opted to just look from the top. Enjoyed the blues and greens. Mountain View and Town View are open blues next to each other. Town View had clearly been groomed before the storm, while Mountain View had deep untracked snow on top of pretty big bumps. Instead I went for the the fun of making fresh tracks on corduroy under a clear blue sky.

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View of Steamboat Resort from Howelsen Hill
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Steamboat Springs town center is just across the Yampa River from Howelsen Hill
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Angel Diva
The small lodge at Howelsen Hill has a lot of character. The ticket window inside is also where they sell snacks and drinks. There is an overflowing Lost & Found near the door. The ticket seller suggested to someone who forgot goggles to just look there for a pair to use for the day. Upstairs the main room has flags hanging from the ceiling (see article below for a photo) representing Winter Olympic athletes with ties to the Steamboat Springs.

Feb 2018, 5280 Denver's Mile High Magazine
Only in Colorado: Howelsen Hill Ski Area
“Steamboat Springs has produced more winter Olympians than any other town in North America. Its remarkable Olympic heritage, which began in 1932 when local John Steele placed 15th in Nordic jumping, extends to this year’s games in PyeongChang, South Korea, where 15 athletes with ties to Steamboat will be competing. This contingent, which is larger than many sent by entire nations, includes women’s halfpipe snowboarder Arielle Gold and Nordic combined skiers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher.

One of many reasons for Steamboat’s unparalleled success is Howelsen Hill. The historic ski area in downtown Steamboat has long been a training ground for winter athletes. With just two lifts and two magic carpets, 17 alpine and 9 Nordic trails, and a 440-foot drop, its statistics don’t sound particularly impressive compared to nearby Steamboat Resort and Colorado’s other mega-mountains. But Howelsen Hill has a tradition unlike any other. Colorado’s oldest, continuously operated ski area hosts the continent’s largest natural ski jumping complex and has been the proving grounds for dozens of Olympic athletes, including Johnny Spillane, the first American to medal in Nordic combined; Shannon Dunn, the first American woman to medal in snowboarding; and Nelson Carmichael, the first American to earn a men’s freestyle moguls medal.
. . .”

Like many small ski areas that mainly serve the local community, keeping the place open is not easy. Last summer the town was discussing how Steamboat Resort could become an active partner to run the operation. Nothing changed for 2019-20 though.


Angel Diva
Sounds like Howelsen Hill will have a new chairlift in a few years. The town and GM, Brad Setter, are discussing all sorts of options to move into the future.

Feb. 25, 2020, Steamboat Pilot
Steamboat city officials exploring ways to increase usage, revenue at Howelsen Hill
" . . .
One project that already has council’s full commitment is funding a new chairlift, Setter said. The tentative timeline is to sign a contract with the Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group later this year and start construction in the summer of 2021 with the lift fully operational for the 2021-22 ski season.
. . ."


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
yes, they've been talking about a new chairlift for some time now but I guess funding has been an issue. They've also had issues with the earth shifting under the towers and that has caused problems for them too.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
So cool that you gave this resort a visit. I was so very tempted to ski Snow king at Jackson Hole as it is another in-town resort. Love that community vibe and passion.


Angel Diva
So cool that you gave this resort a visit. I was so very tempted to ski Snow king at Jackson Hole as it is another in-town resort. Love that community vibe and passion.
Having had a chance to ski at a few small hills in New England in recent years, I'm open to any opportunity to experience "old school" ski areas in other regions. The timing and weather happened to work out perfectly for Howelsen.


Angel Diva
We didn't get to ride it since the chairlift only ran on weekends in 2019-20, but wanted to note that the double-chair in use since 1988 is being replaced. They are having an auction for the 49 chairs in early March 2021. Minimum bid is $150 and proceeds from the sale of the chairs will benefit the Howelsen Hill Ski Area Endowment Fund held at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.

The new lift will be a triple. It's going to cost $3 million. The money is coming from The VF Foundation, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and the City of Steamboat Springs.

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