Carl Howelsen journeyed to the northwest mountains of Colorado in 1913 and settled in the small town of Steamboat Springs. Just across the Yampa River from the main street was a steep, north-facing hill, perfect for ski jumping. Howelsen built a ski jump on the slopes for the 1915 Winter Carnival which he had helped establish just two years before. Off he went on his first test of the hill, jumping 127 feet. In comparison, Orville Wright’s first piloted airplane flight was in 1903 and lasted 12 seconds, covering 120 feet.
That hill was named Howelsen Hill, after Carl Howelsen, who launched a ski jumping and skiing legacy in Steamboat, which includes the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, the 99-year-old Winter Carnival, and a long tradition of sports for young local athletes and aspiring Olympians.
Young Leif (pronounced “Life”) Hovelsen, who died in September, knew of his father’s legacy and frequently visited the town now known as Ski Town U.S.A. His last visit was in 2009, where he was Grand Marshall of the Winter Carnival.
“Leif persevered through lots of situations but most importantly he treasured Steamboat Springs and what the town meant to his father and subsequently to him," SSWSC Director of Athletics Sarah Floyd said. "He made numerous trips back here and made many friends here and was an inspiration when he Nordic skied with our SSWSC kids when he was 86 years old, and returned for his last visit 2009. A bronze statue of his father was dedicated downtown on Lincoln Avenue. During the dedication he told the group, with tears streaming down his face, ‘I finally feel my father is home.’”
Hovelsen lived in Norway, where his father was a celebrity, as a champion ski jumper.
Howelsen Hill is open to the public every day and is where the local kids go after school to train for every discipline of skiing. The local mountain in the shadow of the world famous Steamboat Ski Area has hosted World Cup races and other events of national caliber. Steamboat is also home to nearly 80 Olympic athletes, the majority of whom have trained at Howelsen Hill at some point in their life.
Howelsen Hill opens in December and closes in March.
The new hot spot restaurant/bar in town is called Carl’s Tavern, at 7th and Yampa in downtown Steamboat. The restaurant is named after Carl Howelsen. The food is getting rave reviews. Try the homemade Chicken Pot Pie, which is the Tuesday night Blue Plate Special.