Steamboat Springs Snowboarder Sean Berdan, 18, of Steamboat Springs knows where he will be on Nov. 18. Look for Berdan and a couple of thousand other powder hounds heading to the top of Storm Peak for one of the earliest opening days on record at the Steamboat Ski Area.
"I've been waiting since the summer," Berdan said. "I bought all new equipment and I'm ready to test it."
Steamboat Ski Area President Chris Diamond made it official Thursday afternoon the ski area will open Saturday, Nov. 18, instead of its scheduled opening day on Nov. 22.
Steamboat is reporting four feet of snow in November, allowing it to open six lifts and 19 trails with top-to-bottom skiing and riding covering 3,600 vertical feet. The resort is currently reporting a 25-inch settled base at mid-mountain and a 30-inch settled base at the summit.
"The snow just keeps on falling," Diamond said.
Director of Mountain Operations Doug Allen and his crews have spent the entire week on the mountain to get things ready. Allen predicts skiers and riders will like what they see in another week.
"It's going to be a fabulous opening," Allen said.
Ski Area Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth amplified that prediction: "Current conditions on the mountain are more like what we typically see in January than early November."
Wirth said the ski area marketing department has already begun building on the opportunity offered by the early opening. The staff is sending out a blizzard of e-mails touting Steamboat's ski conditions to media outlets, and Wirth estimated the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. would spend an additional $15,000 to $25,000 on advertising over the $500,000 advertising campaign it already has in place.
Ski lifts tentatively set to run on opening day include: the Silver Bullet Gondola, Storm Peak Express, Burgess Creek, Thunderhead Express, Christie II and Preview. Intermediate terrain will be open from the top of Storm Peak to the base. Trails expected to be open Nov. 18 include: Buddy's Run, Tornado Lane, Upper Vagabond, a portion of Park Lane, Upper Why Not, Rudi's Run, Lightning, Tower, Flat Out, So What, Ego, Boulevard, Betwixt, Between, Eagles Nest, Right-O-Way, Yoo Hoo, Preview and a portion of Headwall.
Trista Hofschulte, 16, said she is extra anxious to get reacquainted with Vagabond; she tore a ligament in her hand toward the end of February while snowboarding. The injury required surgery and she missed the final six or seven weeks of last season.
"I want it to open, I'm so excited," Hofschulte said. "Probably I'm going to start on Vagabond, then I'll go up top."
Allen is making a plea for anxious skiers not to hike up the mountain during the next week to jump the gun before the ski area opens. Allen says the ski area hasn't played the "bad guy" and attempted to keep skiers and riders off the trails, which are on the National Forest. But there are hidden obstructions on many slopes, and on others, snowmaking guns and hoses can be obscured by the natural snow, Allen cautioned.
"We really want to emphasize safety," Allen said.
David Gardner, 17, said he thinks the early opening day will score points for the ski area in the local community.
"With all the upcoming tourists, it's a bonus to all the locals to have the whole mountain to themselves," Gardner said.
Rachel Starr said she isn't out for high school athletics this winter, and she's counting on additional skiing time.
"I'm excited," Starr said. "Last year I could only ski on Sunday because of basketball. This year I'm not playing, so I can go any day I want."
To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org