Blazing a new trail

— The newest addition to the Howelsen Hill Nordic trail system has become one of the most widely used routes on the mountain.

The trail likely will soon be named Hakan Spar, after the well-known Nordic ski lover Hakan Lindgren, who recently passed away. Hakan Spar (the name will have to be approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council) is a four-kilometer loop that was constructed last summer thanks to the work of the Nordic Council and grants and donations from local residents and businesses.

"Feedback on it has been great," said Dan Smilkstein, president of the Nordic Council. "People are cross-country skiing on it and people are snowshoeing on it."

In the summertime, the trail was highly used for hiking and biking, too, he added.

"It's really been a model for a multiuse trail," Smilkstein said.

Now that winter is in full swing, locals can expect the new trail to be groomed every other day, along with the Rodeo Grounds and Howelsen Meadows two other newer trails.

On the opposite days, the older trails at Howelsen are groomed, such as Orton Meadows and the area known as The Fingers. However, during a time with lots of snow, the newer trails get first priority with the groomer, mainly because more people use them, Smilkstein said.

"The older (trails) are much more difficult," he said.

Though many people enjoy the challenge, the newer trails are more popular because they are easier to get to and provide a mellower ride, Smilkstein said.

"It's awesome," local Heidi Hannah said. "It's great terrain because it's quite a distance before you start to climb."

She said you do have to watch out for a peculiar fall line, but it's a good ride especially before going up to Howelsen Meadows.

"Once you get up on the meadows, that's as good as it gets," Hannah said.

A large amount of credit for constructing new Nordic trails at Howelsen goes to the Nordic Council, which was put together three years ago.

The council is addressing the problem of some of the longtime Nordic trails being closed because of development, Smilkstein said. The most logical place to build more trails is on Howelsen Hill, being that most of the land will never be developed and the trails will always remain. Ideally, the council would like to develop trails all around Emerald Mountain.

Recently, the council submitted plans to build a two- to three-kilometer loop, connecting Hakan Spar with Howelsen Meadows. If completed, there could be 10 kilometers of the trail to ski on, possibly next year.

Hannah added that with each new trail, Howelsen Hill becomes a better and better Nordic center for local and out-of-town athletes.

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