Howelsen Hill Ski Area planning to be open in the winter, waiting for approval from the state |

Howelsen Hill Ski Area planning to be open in the winter, waiting for approval from the state

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Residents and visitors wanting to use the Howelsen Hill Ski Area this winter will still be able to do so — with several modifications and approval from the state.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, Colorado is requiring all ski resorts in the state to submit a safety and mitigation plan to local officials, and Howelsen is still waiting to have theirs approved. The submitted plan currently includes two separate maze lines, required face coverings, both inside and out, and required reservations for Ski Free Sundays.

“We expect to shift and change as COVID-19 and the local restrictions do,” said Brad Setter, Howelsen Hill and Rodeo manager for Steamboat Springs.

Each Sunday, staff will allow reservations for 75 people at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.

“We’re trying to keep our capacities manageable because we have limited terrain,” Setter said.

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In previous seasons, Howelsen Hill has partnered with local restaurants to provide food trucks around the ski areas, but food trucks will not be available this season, though patrons will still be able to purchase food from the concession stand.

Skiers are also asked not to arrive 30 minutes prior to their ski time, and season pass holders will not have to make reservations for Ski Free Sundays.

“We don’t really have that much terrain available, so we want to keep it to numbers that we feel like we can handle and can be distanced and safe,” Setter said.

Access to indoor facilities will be limited or closed altogether, Setter said, so skiers should come with gear on and prepare to use their vehicles as a “base camp” for their parties. Howelsen Hill staff also added 10 warming huts to the slopes for people to rent.

The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which holds events at Howelsen, has also made several modifications to its normal routine due to COVID-19.

While they normally use the indoor lodge and locker rooms, the program will now be 100% outdoors, with face coverings required at all times.

Similarly, athletes will also be responsible for their own travel to events, rather than traveling in groups by van, which is what the club usually does.

“A lot of our programs travel, and that’s another big change,” said David Stewart, athletic director for the Winter Sports Club. “It’s much more limited than it normally is.”

The group also normally uses the lodge as a gathering point, but the club now has multiple drop-off points outside for people to meet up.

“It’s a huge change,” Stewart said. “There’s no way around it.”

Athletes will also be spread out in groups of 10 or fewer, and the club will not provide lodging for events that require travel.

“Our guiding principle is to make sure that our programming is not a source of transmission, and we’re doing the right thing,” Stewart said.

Both Stewart and Setter said they felt outdoor recreation is more necessary now than ever, with people largely confined to their houses and COVID-19 cases expected to rise in the winter.

“I just think that exercise and being outside and being with their peers is such an important part of development, and we want to continue to provide that,” Stewart said.

Setter agreed, adding “We’re here to serve the community, and that’s really important to us.”

Howelsen Hill Ski Area and the Nordic Center plan to open Saturday, Nov. 28, and more details can be found on their website.

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