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Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
Howelsen Hill Ski Area. The tiny Howelsen Hill Ski Area, in the heart of Steamboat Springs, is the oldest ski area still open in Colorado. Howelsen, with 4 lifts, 15 trails, 1 terrain park, and a 440-foot vertical drop, is home of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which has more than 800 members. The ski area not only has an awesome terrain park, but has night skiing as well. It's the largest ski-jumping complex in America and a major Olympic training ground. 845 Howelsen Pkwy., Steamboat Springs, CO, 80487. 970/879–8499. www.steamboatsprings.net/rec. Nov.–Mar. Tues. 1–6, Wed. 1–8, Thurs. 3:45–8, Fri. 10–6, and weekends 10–4.
Steamboat Springs Ski Area. The Steamboat Springs Ski Area is perhaps best known for its tree skiing and "cruising" terrain—the latter term referring to wide, groomed runs perfect for intermediate-level skiers. The abundance of cruising terrain has made Steamboat immensely popular with those who ski once or twice a year and who aren't looking to tax their abilities. On a predominantly western exposure—most ski areas sit on north-facing exposures—the resort benefits from intense sun, which contributes to the mellow atmosphere. In addition, one of the most extensive lift systems in the region allows skiers to get in lots of runs without having to spend much time waiting in line. The Storm Peak and Sundown high-speed quads, for example, each send you about 2,000 vertical feet in less than seven minutes. Do the math: a day of more than 60,000 vertical feet is entirely within the realm of possibility.
All this is not to suggest, however, that Steamboat is a piece of cake for more experienced skiers. Pioneer Ridge encompasses advanced and intermediate terrain. Steamboat is renowned as a breeding ground for top mogul skiers, and for good reason. There are numerous mogul runs, but most are not particularly steep. The few with a vertical challenge, such as Chute One, are not especially long. If you're looking for challenging skiing at Steamboat, take on the trees. The ski area has done an admirable job of clearing many gladed areas of such nuisances as saplings, underbrush, and fallen timber, making Steamboat tree skiing much less hazardous than at other areas. The trees are also where advanced skiers—as well as, in some places, confident intermediates—can find the best of Steamboat's much-ballyhooed powder. Statistically, Steamboat doesn't report significantly more snowfall than other Colorado resorts, but somehow snow piles up here better than at the others. Ask well-traveled Colorado skiers, and they'll confirm that when it comes to consistently good, deep snow, Steamboat is hard to beat. 2305 Mount Werner Circle, Steamboat Springs, CO, 80487. 970/879–6111. www.steamboat.com. Late Nov.–mid-Apr., daily 8:30–3:30.
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