“We’ve brought in the best and the brightest in the [ski industry] to help design and engineer everything on the hill.”-Tyler Lind of the Water Valley Company.
The Fort Collins metropolitan area will finally be getting a local ski hill. This summer, crews have working over at the RainDance National Golf Course on a new human-made ski and tubing hill. Scheduled to potentially open in late November, Hoedown Hill in Windsor, Colorado is located less than a thirty-minute drive away from downtown Fort Collins.
Last week, I had the chance to speak with Jason Sawin, who is the Owner of CHS Snowmakers, and Tyler Lind of The Water Valley Company, to discuss the project, and what it will mean for the local community and Colorado’s ski industry.
Fort Collins used to have a local mountain. The Sharktooth ski area existed in the nearby town of Greeley from 1971-86. Its closure left a void in the local skiing community, especially with Martin Land, who is the owner of The Water Valley Company. Martin along with a huge team, including his sons Tyler and Austin, have worked for the past five years to bring skiing back to this area. The Water Valley Company is a large residential community, as it has a lake, a marina, two golf courses, an arena that hosts a minor league hockey team, restaurants, and a health & fitness center.
Here’s a breakdown of the upside-down ski area: the 12-acre, 130-foot vertical drop ski area will be serviced by four magic carpet lifts: one for the beginner area, two separate conveyors that access all of the terrain, and one for the tubing park. To reach the summit, you will take one conveyor lift, get off, and then ski over to the second one.
There will be a variety of terrain, with beginner, intermediate, and advanced runs. Tyler Lind told Ski Area Management that there will be one 2000-foot-long green run, a few intermediate pistes, and four to five black diamonds (400-500 feet in length). There is even potential to expand the terrain with another couple of surface lifts. Future additions could include other winter activities (cross-country skiing and moon biking), summer activities (hiking, biking, zip lines, and amphitheater for concerts), a hotel, and ski-in/out cabins.
A terrain park is being designed by Effective Edge, who has done work for clients like Aspen Snowmass. For the park, Hoedown Hill will have both small to medium-sized boxes, rails, and jumps. Snow Operating is sculpting terrain-based learning for the beginner area, which has become significantly popular over the past couple of years.
The tubing hill sounds like a pure adrenaline rush. The large 1000-foot tubing hill is pretty steep and fast, so it won’t be for the faint of heart. A smaller tubing hill will also be available. As you can see in the video below, the tubing hill, which was tested out last winter, looks like a lot of fun.
The snowmaking system will be state-of-the-art thanks to their collaboration with CHS Snowmakers. CHS Snowmakers is an industry leader in providing equipment to ski resorts across the continent, and are working as a consultant for the project. For Hoedown Hill, fifteen new DemacLenko tower snow guns and 18 hydrant locations mean that they can make a lot of snow in a short amount of time. With only a couple of feet of snowfall each winter, snowmaking is an essential element of success for the ski area. Two groomers were purchased by the ski area to churn out that fresh corduroy.
Jason Sawin has been working on the project since last year and has provided numerous updates this summer.
In their latest update, CHS explained the construction timeline, which is expected to be completed well before the 2023-24 season. Grading for the hill was just been completed last week. The conclusion of the snowmaking portion of the project is expected to be completed at the end of this month. The lifts will be installed in October, with a possible opening during Thanksgiving weekend or early December.
The hours of the ski area will vary between 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday-Monday. The ski area will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Lift ticket prices will be announced in the coming weeks, with Tyler Lind telling us that they’re going to be very affordable. Season passes will not be for sale this winter as they want to figure out their skier and guest flow before offering passes.
As you’ve probably realized by this point, Hoedown Hill is much smaller than other Colorado ski areas. Its 130-foot vertical drop is even smaller than other Colorado ski hills like Kendall or Echo Mountain. This means that it will be a feeder hill, allowing beginners situated around Fort Collins to learn without facing the astronomical prices that first-time guests face at the bigger mountains in Colorado. It will also provide opportunities for those who want to get some night skiing in after work, and park riders a chance to refine their craft.
The Northern Colorado city, which is home to Colorado State University, isn’t exactly close to any skiing. Currently, the closest ski resort is Eldora, which is fifty-one miles away and has struggled with traffic and parking issues over the years. Having a local hill to visit gives ski bums situated in the Fort Collins-Loveland metropolitan a home mountain without the need to deal with driving through endless traffic.