Tales from the Tread: Celebrate Howelsen Hill’s centennial

Candice Bannister/For the Steamboat Today

Howelsen Hill Ski Area is turning 100 years old this year — what a remarkable heritage to celebrate.

Howelsen is the home of the century-old Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and the training ground for 90 (and counting) Olympians. The oldest continuously operating ski area in Colorado is also the largest and most complete natural ski jumping complex in North America.

Norwegian ski jumper, Carl Howelsen, started the first Winter Carnival in 1914 on Woodchuck Hill (site of the present Colorado Mountain College). Convinced that ski jumping records could be broken if he had a steeper slope, Howelsen led the effort to build a ski jump on the hill near Elk Park, later named Howelsen Hill, for the second Winter Carnival of 1915.

Though Howelsen reportedly wrenched his ankle testing out the new jump, after a few adjustments of the sloped landing, the jump was ready to go for competition, and the ski jumping legacy that is alive today took root.

It is no coincidence that the town, which the famed skiing Norwegian called home and where the Winter Sports Club was founded in 1914, would become home to more Olympic athletes than any other town in the nation. It is also no coincidence that several of these elite athletes, particularly our hometown heroes on the 2010 U.S. Nordic Combined Olympic team, would train at the century-old ski jumping complex founded by a world record-holding, ski-jumping pioneer.

Last night, the Steamboat Springs City Council declared Howelsen Hill a “Centennial Ski Area” with an official proclamation acknowledging the hill’s distinction as a historic property and a unique publicly owned amenity that is a cornerstone of the recreational life in Steamboat Springs.

In addition to the city proclamation, several organizations will host events and activities to recognize Howelsen Hill’s 100th year milestone:

• Jan. 7 to Feb. 28: Howelsen Hill Centennial Community Collage Wall in the community room of the Tread of Pioneers Museum

• Jan. 7: Opening of the Howelsen Hill Centennial display in the Ski Town USA exhibit at the Tread of Pioneers Museum

• Jan. 14: Hot chocolate and cookies at Howelsen Hill during the Hitchens Brothers’ Jump Night with lighting of the “100” sign

• Jan. 20: Film showing of the “Hill of Champions – The Story of Howelsen Hill” at the Chief Theater, presented by the Tread of Pioneers Museum

• Feb. 1: Opening of the Howelsen Hill Centennial display at the Bud Werner Memorial Library, presented by the library and Tread of Pioneers Museum

• April 6 to 12: Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame annual induction and ski history week will be held in Steamboat Springs in honor of Howelsen Hill’s 100th anniversary. This event includes a welcome reception, “A Salute to Howelsen Hill – 100 Years,” on April 8 at the Howelsen Hill Lodge

Though few can remember the days from 1948 to 1954 when skiers boarded the “World’s Longest Single-Span Ski Lift” to the summit of Emerald Mountain, many remember Howelsen Hill as an epicenter for after-school fun while learning to ski — “a magic kingdom for kids growing up,” said 1952 Olympic ski jumper Paul Wegeman.

The Tread of Pioneers Museum invites you to share your memories and photos on the Howelsen Hill Centennial “Community Collage” at the museum. Take your place in history by bringing in a picture of yourself or your family enjoying Howelsen Hill to post on the collage. Photos can be posted anytime Jan. 7 to Feb. 28, and the collage will be on display at the museum through Feb. 28.

A photo of the completed collage will appear in the Steamboat Today, and on the museum’s website and Facebook page.

Sources: “The History of Skiing at Steamboat Springs” by Sureva Towler; “Howelsen Hill Ski History” by Bill Fetcher via; and “PROCLAMATION ACKNOWLEDGING THE 100TH YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF HOWELSEN HILL SKI AREA” by Winnie DelliQuadri, assistant to the dity of Steamboat Springs city manager.

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