Steamboat Ski Area goes big for 50-year celebration |

Steamboat Ski Area goes big for 50-year celebration

The birthday cake is moved into Gondola Square on Saturday during Steamboat Ski Area's 50-year celebration.

— Calorie counters were best to stay away from the base of Steamboat Ski Area on Saturday afternoon as a forklift delivered a birthday cake weighing nearly 700 pounds.

The cake commemorating 50 years of skiing on Mount Werner was made using 252 pounds of cream and provided generous servings to an estimated 2,800 people. It measured 30 inches deep, 80 inches long, 36 inches tall and was covered in mousse frosting.

But the giant dessert hardly was the icing on the cake for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s daylong celebration in Gondola Square. The evening was punctuated with a live performance from Robert Randolph & the Family Band, a massive torchlight parade on the lower slopes of Mount Werner and an impressive fireworks display.

Saturday marked 50 years since the ski area opened Jan. 12, 1963. On that day, $13.75 in revenues were brought in, and the temperature held steady at -25 degrees.

Fifty years later on the Steamboat Stage in Gondola Square, Steamboat’s own Missed the Boat, which opened for Robert Randolph & the Family Band, sang "Happy Birthday" to the ski area. Resort officials opened a time capsule sealed in 1988 on the 25th anniversary of the ski area.

Louisville resident Gary Cooper sang his own version of “Happy Birthday” after battling 70 mph winds, a dust storm and a blizzard to get to Steamboat.

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"I'm getting into it," said Cooper, who has been coming to Steamboat for 17 years. "This is special. I can feel the electricity. It's almost like skiing down at 4 p.m. and getting hot chocolate — but 100 times better."

The cake certainly helped. Ski area baker Jean Wernig said she and executive sous chef Chris McKenzie spent four days making it. Just baking the cake took 14 hours. Wernig, who has worked at the ski area for 13 seasons, was all smiles as she stood next to Steamboat Olympians and served residents and visitors.

"A lot of enthusiasm," Wernig said.

Wernig was joined by former Winter Olympians Nelson Carmichael, Billy Kidd, Ann Battelle and Tarsha Ebbern.

"I'm so proud to be part of the Steamboat Ski Area," Ebbern said.

As the day's celebrations wrapped up, a torchlight parade came down the mountain and the ski area put on what it said was the biggest fireworks display in resort history.

Preceding Saturday’s public anniversary celebration was a party hosted Friday night at the top of the gondola. Invited guests included the 64 employees who have worked for the ski area for 30 or more years.

Rod Hanna, who had a 25-year career in the ski area's marketing department, emceed the event and took guests on a trip down a Champagne powder-filled memory lane. He was helped by Loris “Bugs” Werner, who has been skiing on the mountain that bears his family's name for 60 years.

There also were tributes to early Steamboat Ski Area pioneers, people like Jim Temple and John Fetcher whose vision and tireless work led to the creation of the resort. Hanna said it was attitudes like Fetcher's that helped make the ski area possible.

"That man did not know the word 'no,'" Hanna said. "He would look at you and say, 'Watch me.'"

Of course, no celebration would be complete without a toast, to which Hanna took the lead.

"To those that have come and gone, those that are here today and those that have yet to discover Steamboat," Hanna said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email

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