Howelsen waiting for more snow as it prepares for 1st Ski Free Sunday | SteamboatToday.com

Howelsen waiting for more snow as it prepares for 1st Ski Free Sunday

This weekend skiers and riders are expected to flock to the slopes of Howelsen Hill Ski Area for the first Ski Free Sunday of the season. The Barrows Chairlift, which was repaired last summer, will not be open this weekend, but officials are waiting for Mother Nature to provide the snow needed to open the terrain the lift services. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Work to repair the Barrows Chairlift at Howelsen Hill Ski Area was completed last summer, and now all Brad Setter, ski area supervisor, needs to get the chairs moving is a little help from Mother Nature.

"The lift has not opened this year, and we will probably not have it this weekend,” Setter said. "We just don't have any beginner terrain to access from the lift, and we still need a fairly significant amount of snow before we can open beginner terrain in that area."

But even as the historic downtown ski area waits for more snow, it is preparing for its first Ski Free Sunday of the season. Crews are still busy making man-made snow for a couple of major events in December, and Setter was able to overcome an unexpected electrical problem this week.

Ski Free Sundays, which started a year ago, allow skiers and riders to access the slopes at Howelsen at no cost. Setter said participants are asked to sign a waiver and  pick up a lift ticket in the lodge before hitting the slopes.

The Steamboat Springs City Council approved free skiing on Sundays in October 2017 as a way to celebrate the 2018 Winter Olympics and recognize Howelsen Hill's long history and role in helping to produce more than 100 Olympians. The council also wanted to offer free skiing as a way to gauge public support for the downtown ski area.

On Tuesday, Setter said crews from Central Electric were hard at work repairing the magic carpet. But late in the afternoon, he was thrilled to report the problem had been resolved, and the carpet will be ready to service beginner terrain Sunday.

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He said last summer’s repairs to the Barrows Chairlift included leveling and aligning one of the towers that had shifted because of soil movement last spring. The problems created by the shift have been corrected, and the lift is now safe to operate.

Howelsen saw 25,708 skier and riders last year.

"That was up about 10,000 from the year before," Setter said. "That was entirely attributable to Ski Free Sunday."

Ski Free Sundays will be offered throughout the ski season with two exceptions — Dec. 9 when Howelsen hosts the Race to the Cup snowboard races and Dec. 16 when the ski area hosts a Continental Cup.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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