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Howelsen Hill adds 10 warming huts to slopes

Howelsen Hill is adding 10 warming huts to its slopes this season to make up for lack of public space in the lodge at the base.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Half the fun of skiing is finding a cozy spot to sip some cocoa, even if your fingers are still mostly frozen.

With health protocols keeping most people out of the lodge at Howelsen Hill Ski Area, Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department had to think of a way to offer guests shelter from the elements.

New this year are 10 A-frame warming huts, which will be scattered around the base and slopes of the ski hill, slated to open Saturday, Nov. 28. One will be situated on the Nordic trails, and three will be placed along Alpine trails.

“We realized we wanted somewhere for folks to go when they ski with us this winter,” said Brad Setter, Howelsen Hill manager. “Just like the restaurants, we’re capacity limited, especially indoors. We hit upon this. We’re pretty excited about them.”

Four huts will be spaced around the Nordic and Alpine trails and will be available to the public at no charge. The remaining huts will sit on Vanatta Field behind the base lodge and can be rented by the day through the concession stand. All huts will be locked during non-operating hours.

The huts at the base will have electricity to power heaters and lights, providing a warm space for families or groups to warm up or fuel up between runs. A small step will lead to the door, and on the wall opposite the door is a small window. Additionally, the ceilings will be clear, offering unobstructed views of ski races or the falling snow.

“We’re excited about these things,” Setter said. “We think they’re going to be a hit.”

Howelsen Hill is adding 10 warming huts to its slopes this season to make up for lack of public space in the lodge at the base.

The buildings are being painted a dark brown to match the color of the existing structures at Howelsen Hill. The A-frame shape also mirrors the architecture of the lodge at Howelsen Hill. A-frames exude warmth, probably due to their prevalence on ski slopes or the backwoods as cabins.

The style rose to prominence in North America in the 1950s as a popular style for middle-class vacation homes, but was in Japanese and European culture before that, according to Field Mag. By the 1970s, A-frames were being mass produced in easy-to-build kits. While the trend died off by the end of the decade, the design has persisted in resort towns.

Howelsen Hill is adding 10 warming huts to its slopes this season to make up for lack of public space in the lodge at the base. The A-frame huts will have clear ceilings, offering views of historic Howelsen Hill.

The small buildings are practical too, as sturdier and less expensive alternatives to tents or yurts. Parks and Recreation is also saving money by building them in-house rather than hiring a contractor to construct them.

Four of the huts were funded by the federal CARES Act. Parks and Recreation scoured through its budget to find money for the rest.

The incomplete huts are being stored in the parking lot at the Parks and Recreation offices in Steamboat Springs, each at different stages of construction. Ideally, they will be complete and in place for opening weekend at Howelsen Hill.

The early 2019 opening day warranted a bit of a celebration, but the 2020 opening will be far more casual.

Howelsen Hill is adding 10 warming huts to its slopes this season to make up for lack of public space in the lodge at the base.

“We’re sticking with our normal opening, making sure we’re ready to go,” Setter said. “We’re expecting good terrain by then. We’ll have some beginner terrain, we’ll have The Face open, and we should have a little bit of Nordic terrain to start.”


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