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A Little Colorado Ski Area History – Howelsen Hill: North America’s Oldest Operating Ski Area

12.16.19 Howelson Hill - Shannon Lukens4
Howelsen Hill

Although many of us are disappointed we’re not able to enjoy our home’s beautiful ski destinations, what better time to brush up on our history about these resorts we’ve grown to love so much. Skiing has been in the DNA of Coloradans for over a century now and the first North American ski area, by many measures, happens to be located right in the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs.

Howelsen Hill was founded in 1914 by Norwegian immigrant Carl Howelsen and is now known as Colorado’s and North America’s oldest operating ski area. Not only was it the first, but the ski area has produced more Olympians (nearly 90) since its opening than any other ski area in America. It also boasts an impressive 22 members in the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame and has 13 members in the National Ski Hall of Fame. Obviously, these skiers don’t only ski here, but this ski area has been their home for training purposes. This ski area is also considered a Pioneer Ski Resort by the International Skiing History Association.

Nowadays, Howelsen Hill often gets overshadowed by Steamboat Ski Resort because it’s much smaller and they’re so close to each other. However, it is still highly regarded by many competitive skiers for its training grounds. It has the largest and most complete natural ski jumping complex in North America.

This ski area isn’t just for training Olympians, though, it’s also for people of all skill levels who are looking to have a good time on the mountain. It’s a cool way to get a glimpse at some of the training grounds and equipment they have even if you’re just a leisure downhill skier. Also, as of five years ago now, the Steamboat City Council approved free skiing on Sundays here. So, all you have to do is come by on a Sunday and pick up your free lift ticket and get out there. Keep in mind, they did announce their closure for the 2019-2020 season already, but this is a great thing to know for the upcoming 2020-2021 season!

If you’re a local or a tourist and you’re not sure where to take your next ski adventure, Steamboat Springs is always a fantastic option. The city is vibrant and historic with some incredible views, restaurants, shops, etc. Steamboat Springs Ski Area is incredible with vast terrain, but if you’re looking for something a little more subtle, Howelsen Hill could be a great option for you and your friends or family.

Even if you come on a day outside of Sunday, Howelsen Hill offers some of the most affordable lift ticket prices around. With daily specials of $15 per lift ticket and standard adult rates of only $30 per lift ticket, it’s made to get you on the mountain at a reasonable price. There are four lifts (including the magic carpet) which host 26 trails – 17 Alpine and 9 Nordic.

If you want to feel like you’re apart of Colorado and North American history, put this incredible ski area on your bucket list for next season so you can brag to your friends and family that you skied on the continent’s oldest operating ski area.

~ Alec Stowell

Alec Stowell is a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is majoring in Journalism and minoring in Business with a focus in entrepreneurship. He was born in Glenwood Springs and grew up skiing in the roaring fork valley. Being active and exploring the outdoors has always been a huge priority to him – everything from skiing, basketball, mountain biking, hiking, and more have all been hobbies of his for as long as he can remember. Early in his education, he discovered a passion for writing and so when the opportunity came along to both ski and write, he was ecstatic. After graduation, he hopes to still be able to pursue a career in which he can combine his passion for writing and the outdoors, but is still figuring out what the future holds. For now, he is looking forward to making the most out of his ski season with Colorado Ski Country.