Ski area plans big opening day


— Officials of the Steamboat Ski Area promised one week ago they would open four days early on Nov. 18, with skiing on 18 trails.
Don't believe it.
Instead, Steamboat will open Saturday with 54 trails and 964 acres of skiing.
Ski area spokesman Mike Lane said 15 inches of fresh powder allowed Senior Vice President of Mountain Operations Bob Kuusinen to revise the trail count upward. Now, some of the bump runs and gladed tree runs that Steamboat is known for will open up on Saturday.
As of 5 a.m. on Thursday, Steamboat had received 15 inches of snow in the previous 48 hours and an even 12 inches at mid-mountain overnight. The latest natural snowfall brought the settled base to 33 inches at mid-mountain and 44 inches at the summit. Lane said frigid overnight temperatures have been nearly ideal for snowmaking.
"It's going to be good skiing," Lane said. "People around our office are researching records."
For the record, Saturday's opening marks one of the three earliest in Steamboat history. The earliest was Nov. 16, 1996. Steamboat also opened Nov. 18, 1998.
When Steamboat announced its early opening Nov. 9, it was able to boast that it would debut with 3,400 vertical feet of skiing from the top of Storm Peak to the bottom of the mountain. But the fact was, most of that skiing would have been on intermediate trails such as Buddy's Run, Tornado Lane and Vagabond. That's still a rarity before Thanksgiving.
The revised list of trails for opening day has changed all that to include some of the best-loved black diamonds on the mountain, including Tornado, Nelson's Run and White Out.
Two other runs accessed via the Four Points Chairlift, Hurricane and Cyclone, will also be available for shredding on opening day.
Terrain opening from the top of the mountain will include Storm Peak Face and Triangle 3.
The biggest change to the roster on Saturday will come in the Priest Creek Area, where November skiing is almost unheard of. Steamboat will allow skiers to sample upper Shadows, upper Sundown and Priest Creek lift lines, upper Three O'Clock and upper Twilight. Skiers can also let their boards run on upper High Noon.
Sundown Express, the main lift servicing Priest Creek, will not be open. That means skiers will want to interrupt their runs halfway down so they can return to the other side of the mountain via Duster and hook up with Rainbow.
Seven of 20 total lifts will be operating on Saturday, including Preview, Southface, Christie III, Thunderhead Express, Silver Bullet Gondola, Burgess Creek and Storm Peak Express.
The 964 acres of terrain available represent just lass than a third of the total at Steamboat.
Terrain in Morningside Park and Pioneer Ridge will not open on Saturday. Lane said the actual number of trails available for opening day could change slightly in either direction, depending upon prevailing conditions.
Ski Patrol Director John Kohnke reminds skiers not to be tempted by the powder that beckons on the other side of the ropes keeping some trails closed. The ski patrol has zero tolerance again this year for skiing closed trails, an offense that will result in automatic suspension of lift privileges, Kohnke said.
In many cases, trails that are closed, remain so because there are hidden obstructions such as boulders and logs, just beneath the surface of the snow.
The Silver Bullet Gondola opens at 8:30 a.m. for skiing.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail


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