SSWSC proposes upgrades for ski jumping facility
Worried of falling behind other major American Nordic jumping facilities, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club proposed an early plan for a ski jumping facility update at Howelsen Hill during the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
The city and SSWSC staff have been discussing the future of the jump complex for several years and though updates have been made to three individual hills since 2006, the goal is to modernize the full facility.
“We are the only major ski jumping facility in the United States that does not have plastic on all of their jumps,” said Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Program Director Todd Wilson.
Howelsen has seven jumps in total running from an HS8 (hill size 8) to an HS127. Four of those jumps are not available for year-round use, including both of the Olympic-size jumps: the HS100 and HS127.
As the program maintains its growth, the SSWSC’s main concern is falling behind other nationwide programs with development.
“Our program continues to grow and we are now the largest ski jumping and Nordic combined program in the world,” Wilson said. “Last winter, we had 170 kids going off ski jumps on a weekly basis. … We’re pretty proud of that, that we’ve been able to grow the club to that level. However, in doing so, our facility is not quite meeting the needs of our athletes.”
Over the past seven years, SSWSC has seen its winter enrollment grow 92% and summer enrollment grow 131%, Wilson said. To keep up with this expansion, the SSWSC proposed a two phased project.
Wilson stressed that the project was split into two phases to make the process easier to understand and not as a timeline of completing one phase before starting the other.
Phase one of the proposal consists of a rebuild and re-profile of the HS30 and HS20 hills and extending the HS8 to an HS10.
One of the biggest issues is the HS20, 30 and 45 all bottleneck at the base of the hill and therefore the athletes need to take turns when using any of those three jumps.
The proposal includes upgrading the HS20 and 30 hills to year-round jumps and making them parallel with the HS45 so each one can be used independently.
In order to achieve this, the lower part of the hill will need more space laterally. Wilson suggests upgrading the magic carpet lift with a hinge in the middle so it can spin 20 feet in each direction to open up the base of the hill.
Phase two of the proposal has the construction of one Olympic sized year-round ski jump in place of both the HS100 and HS127.
The new jump would be between an HS105 and HS115, large enough to host World Cup events and could receive an International Ski Federation certification.
The large hill would be complete with a refrigerated in-run and lights for nighttime practice.
“The decision to go from two jumps that are larger to one jump is a very hard decision and you will find people in the sport that disagree with that decision,” Wilson said. “I am simply looking at sustainability both on the city’s side and our side, and the standards for keeping ski jumps in shape… I want to make sure that this legacy continues and doesn’t stall out.”
Phase two also includes upgrades to the judge’s tower and announcers booth as well as constructing permanent seating on the lower part of the landing hill.
Two major factors for the upgrades are to make jump maintenance easier and to become FIS certificate eligible. Without an FIS certificate, Steamboat will be unable to host international competitions. The current hills’ certificates have been expired since 2011.
Because the proposal is still in a youthful stage, there is no estimated cost for the project and no specific timeline of when these upgrades can be achieved.
SSWSC Executive Director Sarah Floyd is happy to get a proposal off the ground and cannot wait to see how Howelsen expands.
“We just want to have the plan in place,” Floyd said. “We don’t know when, we hope sooner than later. It’s a definite need for our athletes and the kids in our community.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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