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Howelsen Hill has always been a place for locals to ski. Photo: Steamboat magazine

The Inertia

Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs has always been considered the cool, little guy in the Colorado mountain town. It’s where the youth freeride teams gather for after-school sessions in the terrain park that is literally minutes from downtown. Howelsen is the community’s mountain as opposed to the big resort nearby that caters to out-of-towners.

And the town-owned mountain is considering a radical move in the ski industry: offering $1 lift tickets. “I just want more skiers out there,” City Council President Walter Magill said after a day-long council budget meeting. “More people using the park.”

City officials in charge of the facility are looking to make a splash in the ski industry, bring more people into town to learn to ski cheaply and maximize the area. Howelsen is essentially a training facility with one lift, ski jumps for nordic combined training, cross-country ski tracks and other options for riding snow from snowboarding to skiing and freestyle. Many mountain towns in the West have secondary ski areas like Jackson Hole (Snow King), Mammoth Lakes (June), Sun Valley (Dollar) and McCall, Idaho (Little Ski Hill) to name a few. The smaller mountains take pressure off the main resorts and are often utilized by locals as they’re traditionally more affordable.

Howelson Hill still faces significant upkeep costs: they have to replace a waterline this year and a landslide may have damaged the lift this spring. Plus a reduction in lift cost may mean the area has to increase staffing to accommodate more skiers and riders. The city council is still examining the plan. “I just want to make sure that we agree about what the goal is,” Councilwoman Kathi Meyer said.


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