For over 130 years, Colorado has been making skiing history. From the early trappers and miners of the late 1800's, to the competitive high tech racers of today, Colorado has constantly made its mark on the skiing world.
The State has contributed competitors, world class racers and team coaches. It has been home to some of the best skiing in the world. It all started when Gold was discovered in the mountains west of Colorado in 1859. The early pioneers soon learned that webbed snowshoes, so popular with the Native Americans of the west, and so useful in relatively flat parklands, were useless in the deep powdery snow of the high mountains. They preferred Norwegian snowshoes or skis. Skis were handmade from pine or spruce trees and ranged in length from 8-14 feet in length. They were usually 1/2 inch thick and about 4 inches wide. They weighed about 25 lbs. One long pole 8-10 feet long was used to steer and to brake (sometimes by straddling it.) Turning was practically impossible on the long boards and one usually had to slow down and step around the pole to change direction.
In the Yampa Valley skiing was part of the early settlers' lives because it was one of the only means to get around in the winter. Then in 1913 Carl Howelsen came to town and showed the townspeople that skiing could also be fun. The Flying Norseman, as he was called, built a jump and hurled himself, skis and all, more than 100 feet off the jump. Howelsen Hill in downtown Steamboat Springs maintains the 30, 50-, 70-, and 90-meter jumps used by Steamboat's future Olympians as a training site. Howelsen also organized the first Winter Carnival in 1914 as a way of introducing competitive skiing and a celebration of winter. Eighty-two years later the event features ski races, ski jumping, chariot racing, street events, the shovel race, dog sled pull and the unique High School Marching Band on skis! Ending the week-long celebration is the ever popular night show with fireworks, synchronized skiing demonstrations and the famous Lighted Man. Howelsen Hill Ski Area is the oldest ski area in continuous use in Colorado, and has the largest and most complete natural ski jumping complex in North America.
In 1955, Jim Temple, son of a local ranching family, spearheaded the development of the ski area. Engineered and largely constructed by local rancher John Fetcher, the new hill was ready in 1961 with only a poma lift. Storm Mountain was officially opened in 1963 with a double chair lift and an A-frame cabin as a warming hut. The mountain's name was changed to Mt. Werner in 1964 when hometown Olympic skier Buddy Werner was killed in an avalanche. Today the ski area boasts 21 lifts, 128 trails and more than 2,935 acres of ski terrain.