Steamboat’s Howelsen Hill one of the oldest operating ski areas in the country | VailDaily.com

Steamboat’s Howelsen Hill one of the oldest operating ski areas in the country

Scott Franz
Steamboat Today

Steamboat Today file photo Howelsen Hill shines under the lights beside downtown Steamboat Springs.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club might be underselling the historic value of the city's oldest ski hill.

The two entities have for years used some qualifiers to describe Howelsen's place in ski area history.

The Sports Club, for example, lists on its website that Howelsen, which started with ski jumps in 1915, is the oldest continuously operating ski area in America west of the Mississippi River.

The city itself only boasts on its website that Howelsen is the oldest ski area in the state of Colorado.

But a list compiled by the National Ski Areas Association suggests the city and the Sports Club can make a bolder claim.

Howelsen Hill is the oldest operating ski area in America.

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The list of 354 American ski areas doesn't include a ski hill east of the Mississippi River that can claim to have been in operation longer than Howelsen.

Howelsen's 1915 founding date is a whole seven years ahead of the second oldest ski area on the list: the Eaglebrook School in Massachusetts.

After he recently discovered the list putting Howelsen Hill at the top, Steamboat City Councilman Scott Ford started thinking the city should put up a banner at the ski hill to celebrate having the oldest ski area in the country.

"To a certain degree there's some bragging rights to that," Ford said. "It is the oldest ski area in America. It would be like owning the oldest car. It's pretty cool."

Ford pitched the idea of creating the banner earlier this month to his fellow council members.

He said having the oldest ski area in America is a great mental souvenir for visitors.

Ford also said the distinction elevates the council's responsibility of serving as the caretaker of a legacy at Howelsen.

The city's elected officials have in recent months been talking about how to make the ski hill more sustainable.

A series of free skiing days on Sundays has also brought thousands of visitors to the hill so far this ski season.

"We've always recognized we're the caretaker of the legacy, but this distinction heightens the awareness," Ford said.

Leaders of the Sports Club have gone online to try to find any other ski area in the country on the east coast that might be older than Howelsen, but their searches haven't found one.

The city is in the midst of coming up with a 20-year vision for the ski area.

America’s oldest operating ski areas

1915 — Howelsen Hill Ski Area in Colorado

1922 — Eaglebrook School in Massachusetts

1927 — Granlibakken Ski Area in California

1927 — Cooper Spur Mountain Resort in Oregon

1928 — Mount Hood Skibowl in Oregon

1932 — Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania

1932 — Bousquet Ski Area in Massachusetts

1933 — Wildcat Mountain Ski Area & Summer Gondola in New Hampshire

1934 — Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont

1934 — Gore Mountain in New York