SSWSC adding third year-round ski jump at Howelsen Hill, improving development of the sport

Todd Wilson, Matt Newman and Christian Keller construct the HS8 ski jump at Howelsen Hill on Wednesday, July 6.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club is building a plastic ski jump that will be used by beginners and youth jumpers who will have more availability to learn the sport in warmer months. The club has been planning and working on the HS8 (hill size eight) ski jump for about four years, and has elected to complete the project in-house without the help of any contractors.

The first step toward the completion of the project was getting the approval from the city, which took over two years. 

Next, the SSWSC created a profile of the jump with help from an engineer. That profile was tested in the winter with snow and adjusted accordingly. 

Then, they shaped the earth how they wanted it, covered it with a road base, and anchored mats on top. From there, the plastic is laid and drilled into the mats to complete the landing hill.

For this specific project, astroturf will be placed at the bottom to help slow the athletes as they complete their jump. 

The final step is to create the inrun, where jumpers gather speed before launching. Volunteers and staff start with a wooden base that is almost like an angled ladder, then will place a porcelain track on top and the ski jump is complete. 

The majority of the main components for the construction of the ski jump have been donated, including timbers that were collected by Ski Jumping/Nordic Combined Program Director Todd Wilson, the plastic surface from the recently renovated Lake Placid jumps, the inrun track from Chicago and the rubber mats from Twentymile Mine. 

Volunteer Matt Newman, drills the plastic surface of the HS8 landing hill into the anchored mats at Howelsen Hill on Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“It’s a real collaboration between the City of Steamboat Springs, the Winter Sports Club and all these people that have contributed or donated to this project,” Wilson said. “If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Another major contributor to the project has been Nordic Excavating, Inc. and its owner, Rick Mewborn, who donated equipment and did all the excavation on the project last summer. 

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Wilson hopes to realistically have the ski jump completed by the end of August, but notes that timelines can change when working on big projects like this in-house. 

This project is part of a larger goal of turning each of the seven jumps at Howelsen Hill into all-weather jumps that can be used year round. 

The HS75 jump was the first to be converted in 2006, followed by the HS45 jump in 2012. The HS8 came next because Wilson and the SSWSC found it necessary to offer a year-round option for beginners to practice on.

Todd Wilson, Matt Newman and Christian Keller construct the landing hill of the new year-round HS8 ski jump at Howelsen Hill on Wednesday, July 6.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“The importance is that you want to have a progression of ski jumps. What do you do with somebody who has never done this before? They’ve never been on plastic, they’ve never been on skis and you’re trying to get them used to it at the same time,” Wilson said. 

The SSWSC has seen a massive boom over the last five-plus years and has grown to become the largest Ski Jumping/Nordic Combined program in the world, with around 170 athletes this past winter.

Their athletes saw major improvements after the all-weather HS75 ski jump was completed due to the accessibility of it year round. That is what contributed to a master plan of converting all of their jumps to the contemporary style.

The addition of this newer jump will develop the younger kids at a faster rate and get them prepared for the larger jumps quicker than ever before. 

“Jumping in the summertime completely changed the sport,” Wilson said. “Imagine somebody like Tiger Woods only playing golf six months of the year. To be able to do it on a year-round basis has kind of become critical and your ability to improve is greatly increased when you can do it on a year-round basis.”

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