Howelsen Hill’s historic base lodge is closed due to COVID-19, but its new miniature A-Frame warming huts offer up a cozy escape this spring.
With base lodges closed throughout ski country, skiers and riders find themselves hunkering down in their cars to warm up or just heading home once their toes freeze. One creative solution is the handful of new warming huts at Howelsen Hill Ski Area. The City of Steamboat Springs, with the help of grant funding under the CARES Act, built five rentable A-frame structures at the base of the historic ski hill. Two more huts, one located at the nearby community ice rink and the other along the cross-country ski trail, are open for general public use.
The simple wooden huts mimic the high peak style of the ski area’s historic lodge and Tow House and were constructed entirely in-house by the city’s Parks & Recreation staff. The huts have clear plexiglass roofs that let the sun in and are furnished with an eclectic mix and wooden tables and chairs donated by Annie’s Home Consignment. Each hut has a small space heater and is accented with Colorado memorabilia, from a Western horse saddle to mounted antlers to antique snowshoes. Strings of lights at the peak of each A-frame adds a little whimsy.
“Adapting how we do business and serve the community has become a daily mindset for us,” said Howelsen Ski Area & Rodeo Manager Brad Setter.
The huts were designed to mirror the resorts’ existing A-frame style architecture. Opening in 1914, Howelsen Hill is the country’s oldest continuously operating ski area and is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Places. The base lodge, a rustic chinked log structure, was built in 1945 and the iconic log Tow House, with its steeply pitched cross-gabled roofs, was built the same year to house the machinery that powered the original T-bar (which has since been replaced with a Poma lift).
The new warming huts each have an eight-person capacity (all from the same household) and are available for online reservations. Pricing is $40 for midweek and $80 for Friday through Sunday and on special events like ski races. You can score a weekday walk-up $20 rental for any huts not spoken for by 4 p.m. on weekdays.
The huts fall within the liquor boundary of the base lodge concession stand, meaning you can’t bring your own booze or picnic baskets. But the walkup window serves wine and beer on tap as well as standard grab-and-go fare from $6 burgers to gooey cinnamon rolls.
The huts currently sit on the baseball field adjacent to the lodge and will be moved to storage for the summer. They’re expected to be back for the 2021-22 season, pandemic or no. “We know the new base area features will continue to ensure the ski area as a community gathering place and the base area amenities will become a mainstay in future years,” Setter said.
Howelsen’s warming huts are one bright spot to come out of the pandemic, one that will outlive these dark days.