Howelsen Hill is opening for the season on Saturday, Dec. 3, and it’s free to the public on opening day. The City of Steamboat Springs operates the historic ski hill and is offering free alpine and Nordic skiing all day.

The local mountain is in the midst of a Centennial Campaign to raise money for improvements. The free day is a way of saying "thank you" to the community for raising nearly $1.8 million of the $2.3 million needed. Improvements include snowmaking, lighting in the finish area and on the freestyle course, and upgrades to the large K38 ski jump.

Cold temperatures and great snowmaking, plenty of natural snow, and a bevy of volunteers have allowed the City of Steamboat Springs and the local Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to get the hill open so early. The local athletes will benefit greatly from early-season training on their home hill.

While the skiing and riding is free on Saturday, passes and tickets will be needed for the rest of the season. Passes can be purchased at the base lodge snack bar from 3 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays. Or they can be purchased online.

Howelsen Hill Ski Area is the oldest ski area in continuous use in Colorado. It has the largest and most complete natural ski jumping complex in North America. The base lodge sits at an elevation of 6,696 feet, with the peak of the mountain at 7,136 feet in elevation. There are 15 trails and four lifts, with 21km of Cross Country trails.

Learn more about Howelsen Hill here. For more information about the Centennial Campaign, click here.