Hitting the trail | SteamboatToday.com

Hitting the trail

Skiers, hikers, bikers urged to help on new path

— Nordic skiers here will have a new trail to glide along this winter all they are being asked to do is invest some labor this Saturday.

Dan Smilkstein of the Steamboat Springs Nordic Council said his group will host a volunteer day from 9 a.m. until noon at Howelsen Hill to work on the new intermediate trail into Howelsen Meadows.

Volunteers will be asked to remove brush from a short section of the 2.5 kilometer trail and prepare it for seeding.

The 18-foot-wide trail was cut through a 177-acre open space parcel on the northeast flank of Howelsen. The land was acquired in January 1998 by the city of Steamboat Springs with the help of a series of grants from Great Outdoors Colorado. The trail will be available for use by mountain bikers and hikers during the summer and fall.

Smilkstein hopes cyclists and hikers will also turn out for the volunteer day.

The trail provides an easier way to access existing gentle cross country ski terrain that winds along a bench overlooking U.S. 40 and the Steamboat Ski Area. The existing trail access is too challenging for many novice skiers.

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Designed in consultation with former Olympic nordic combined Olympian and Steamboat Winter Sports Club Coach Todd Wilson, the new trail winds through stands of aspen before gaining Howelsen Meadows.

From there, skiers have access to three kilometers of meadow trail, another 2k in Orton Meadows, 3-4k in the area known as The Fingers and more advanced trails that lead to the quarry on Emerald Mountain. A distance of five kilometers is the equivalent of 3.1 miles.

The city of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department currently grooms beginner and intermediate skate skiing tracks around the Howelsen Hill ball diamonds and in Hobo Park. In autumn of 1999 the Nordic Council, a nonprofit organization, used money from its contributions committee to pay for brush removal on the existing loop in Howelsen Meadows. It also compensated the city that winter for using its snowcat to groom the trails when possible. All of the trails are offered at no charge.

Unlike a dedicated Nordic center, Smilkstein said the new trails would have to accommodate mixed use, including snowshoeing and people walking dogs on leashes.

However, he said, signage along the trails would guide the various users to their own portion of the trail.

Other members of the Nordic Council include Bob Dapper, Bill Philip, Ed Hill and Jim Ascher.

Rakes and shovels will be provided on Saturday, Smilkstein said, but anyone who owns brush cutters is asked to bring them. Volunteers should wear heavy gloves. Refreshments will be provided.

Smilkstein predicted that the volunteer work will help disguise the road cuts and grading that was a necessary part of construction.