Season’s first Ski Free Sunday provides mental health light from COVID-19 |

Season’s first Ski Free Sunday provides mental health light from COVID-19

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Snowboarding at Howelsen Hill Ski Area Sunday was Izabela Golaszewski’s mental saving grace.

After enduring months of COVID-19 lockdowns, Golaszewski felt her loneliness and boredom pile up.

“Just the thought of not being able to enjoy your normal life and the feeling of being stuck inside is the hardest,” she said.

Getting to strap on her snowboard and enjoy the first round of snow in 2020 provided a sense of relief Golaszewski hadn’t felt in a long time.

“The mental part of this is really tough right now, so for people to have an opportunity to get out and ski for free is amazing,” she said.

Howelsen Hill allowed two-hour slots to enjoy their weekly Ski Free Sunday, a tradition many said provided a glimpse of happiness during what has been a dark year for most.

For Peter Sims, enjoying Howelsen felt like a return to normalcy, even with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“Just that sense of normalcy and figuring out how it’s all going to work this winter, I think, is important for us as a community,” he said.

Sims and his wife have lived in Steamboat Springs for 16 years, but his wife had never skied at Howelsen and saw Sunday as the perfect opportunity to get out before Steamboat Resort opens.

Bill Best shared those feelings and has looked forward to skiing since he moved to Colorado from California.

“It feels great, it’s a perfect day,” he said while looking up at the clear sky and sun beating down. “It’s good to get out and get some exercise.”

Best also felt skiing was one of the few activities still safe to do during the pandemic, which he believed would help his mental well-being and provide a fun outlet.

“Skiing, with all the precautions being taken, is actually one of the safest things people can do,” he said. “I’m not sure how anything could be any safer.”

Howelsen Hill, owned and operated by the city, has taken several precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, such as requiring reservations for Ski Free Sundays, requiring masks and social distancing on the property, closing the lodge and providing warming huts.

“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,” said Brad Setter, Howelsen Hill and Rodeo manager.

While the changes were noticeable to frequent Howelsen skiers, most said they didn’t mind the changes and appreciated the safety precautions.

“It’s fine, but it’s just different. … I don’t feel like it’s that big of a deal really,” said William Hall, a member of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports club who has been skiing at Howelsen Hill for several years.

Steamboat Resort is set to open Dec. 1. Howelsen Hill will continue to provide free skiing and snowboarding on Sundays, but guests are required to make an online reservation.

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