Trail designers seek Howelsen input

— Four-season trail users have an opportunity to contribute to the vision for Howelsen Hill's future at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Olympian Hall Fireplace Room.

Cross-country skiing consultants John Frado and Jonathan Wiesel will host the meeting in hopes of gathering public perceptions and desires for future trail development on Howelsen. Their company, Nordic Group International, has been engaged by the Howelsen Emerald Mountain Partnership in cooperation with the City of Steamboat Springs Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Space, Frado and Wiesel said.

"We want to gather as much information as we can," Wiesel said.

Frado, based in Winchester, N.H., said the pair have consulted on Nordic centers across the United States and in Canada. He emphasized they most often approach trail design with the anticipation the trails will be used for a variety of forms of recreation.

"Really, it's a multi-season, multi-use approach," Frado said. "Right now, we're engaged in a feasibility study. We're conceptualizing (trails) and looking at terrain, community priorities, tourism and both environmental constraints and opportunities."

One of the acknowledged disadvantages of existing Nordic terrain at Howelsen is limited access to intermediate terrain. Frado, who spent the past weekend doing fieldwork on Howelsen with Wiesel, sees opportunities to correct that situation in meadows above Howelsen.

Wiesel said he and his partner have done extensive research into the role of Nordic skiing in winter destination resorts and the role real estate developments can play in driving cross-country skiing. He said that while he personally finds skate-skiing to be thrilling, his research tells him 70 percent of skiers from outside Nordic communities stick to the less aggressive classic style of cross-country skiing.

Wiesel has first-hand experience in operating touring centers. He was a founder and co-owner of Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe, Calif. It is the biggest privately-owned touring center in North America. It has 308 kilometers (about 185 miles) of groomed trails.

"We've learned a lot by trial and error," he said.

Among the practices they advocate is building rails to minimize visual impacts.

"A trail is not a road," Frado said. "It needs to be thought of as a linear sculpure."

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail

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