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An event worth the wait

Howelsen's year-round jump dedicated as 'The Senator'

— Kevin Bennett was one of the many smiling faces present on Saturday afternoon at Howelsen Hill for the dedication of the K-68 year-round ski jump. The jump’s dedication was an affirming realization of a journey that began six years ago for former Steamboat Springs city council president in the kitchen of his mother’s Minnesota home.

“They were announcing the grand opening of the Bush Lake Ski Jump and said that it was the Minnesota legislature that paid for it,” Bennett said. “I started looking into ski jump construction across North America and saw that it wasn’t the towns paying for them, but that it was an entire state enterprise.”

Bennett said the turning point of the jump’s implementation was the involvement of the state, giving credit to Colorado Ski Heritage Project chairman John Adams and state Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, as major catalysts of obtaining the necessary support.



Speaking before a crowd gathered below the jump, Sen. Taylor gave thanks to the generous efforts of both notable foundations and individual donors and put the jump’s completion in the context of the bigger picture — what he called the “real story” of Steamboat’s responsibility to maintain Carl Howelsen’s and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s legacy of establishing a history, heritage and culture around world-class skiing for both the state and the nation as a whole.

Taylor’s message also dealt with the jump’s completion as a key element in Colorado’s answer to the challenge posed by Utah’s recently built Olympic facilities.



“The kids want to come back; they’d rather be in this real town,” Taylor said.

Johnny Spillane, 2003 sprint World Champion and Steamboat native, proved Taylor’s point with the ribbon cutting honors. Traveling from his residence in Park City for a training camp using the plastic jump with the U.S. Nordic Combined Team, Spillane was the first jumper of the exhibition, breaking through a blue ribbon strung across the jump’s landing stripe.

“It’s great to have everyone out here showing the support we’ve had to get this built,” Spillane said, noting that his Friday jumps on the K-68 were his first in three months, since he recovered from a shoulder injury.

The exhibition and Nordic Combined team’s practice also served as a display of the jump’s potential as many of the SSWSC’s youngest members performed jumps for the crowd.

Gary Crawford, a former Olympian, member of the project committee and SSWSC coach, grew up in Steamboat and traveled to Madison, Wis., to train on a year-round jump. He felt the jump’s quality justified the long wait.

“If this would have happened ten years ago, the design would be obsolete today,” Crawford said. “It’s not the biggest jump, but it’s arguably one of the best in the world in terms of its design.”

With the year-round jump now fully operational and in use by the country’s most promising athletes, Colorado Ski Heritage Project and community members share a vision for the next step in Steamboat’s youth development facilities — more plastic jumps. With his tireless efforts now materialized in a jump named in his honor as “The Senator,” Sen. Taylor issued a long-term challenge to build more year-round jumps.

“This is just phase one,” he said.

— To reach Dave Shively, call 846-1129

or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com


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