Steamboat becomes Powder U. this week

College students coming to town to ride

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— Make way for thousands of college students hitting the slopes this week, as bus-loads of snow-hungry teens and twentysomethings pour into Steamboat Springs.

"There'll be a lot of kids, so we're bringing in extra rental equipment from our stores in Summit County," said Monty Holder, assistant manager at the SportStalker at Gondola Square.

Located near the slopes and near the condominiums where most of the students stay, SportStalker enjoys one of its busiest times of year during college week, Holder said. For the base-area shop, only spring break is busier.

January is a prime time to bring in college groups, said Kent Kirkpatrick, public relations coordinator for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., and bookings are up this year.

"Families come at Christmas and in the spring around President's weekend, but group rates and college rates are the best way to fill in January," Kirkpatrick said.

While some people might expect trouble from young college students ready to party, most resort businesses say there are few problems.

"It's not like Daytona at spring break, or we'd have MTV here filming it," Kirkpatrick said.

Representatives of resort companies said there are a few things they make clear to the students when they come.

"We do not discriminate against college students, but we do take credit cards for security," Candace Dean Jones, director of marketing at Big Country Resorts, said with a smile before adding: "I actually think in some instances, the college groups are better than the families.

"Families generally bring little kids who tend to break things a lot. The college kids are usually messy but nothing gets broke."

Eric Heffley, group sales manager for Mountain Resorts said all 316 of his units will be booked starting Tuesday and many guests will be college students. Also, almost all the rooms are filled with the maximum number of people allowed because of the nature of the college student's budget.

"We give them incredibly low rates, and they get incredible deals, but they know they will get bills for stuff they break or damage," Heffley said. "There's not a big negative to having young crowds.

"Housekeepers might argue different, though."

Heffley and other property managers say they do make a point of putting college groups away from other guests because of the noise factor.

Hank Edwards, co-owner of the Tugboat bar and grill located near the slopes said he packs students in during college week.

"You figure a burger and beer is in their budget," Edwards said. It also doesn't hurt that the Tugboat is one of the few places in town that offers live bands.

"They're a good group but we always have problems with the fake I.D.s, so we put an extra doorman on," Edwards said.

And just because they are college students with tight budgets, don't think they aren't treated as well as high-income families who spend lots of money.

"We're trying to perpetuate them coming here," said Heffley of Mountain Resorts. "They'll remember the champagne powder and hopefully when they get married, they'll bring back their families."

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