Opening weekend a success

Skiers, riders blessed with three powder days thanks to recent snowfall

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— Four feet of snow has fallen at the Steamboat Ski Area since Nov. 24, leading to the first weekend of skiing and setting a hopeful tone for the rest of the winter.

"You couldn't ask for better conditions," Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokesman Mike Lane said just minutes before hitting the slopes.

The Nov. 21 opening of the ski area was postponed for about a week because no significant amounts of snow had fallen at the ski area and warm temperatures made snowmaking difficult. But since Nov. 24, some snow has fallen nearly every day, allowing the resort to open nearly half of its runs Friday.

With rumors of a bad year for tourism and winter waiting until the last minute, Lane said there was some concern at ski corp., but now everyone is smiling.

"It's Steamboat; the snow is going to come here," he said.

But Lane added the good snowfall in the past week allowed the resort to get the word out around the state that Steamboat has a good base and powder conditions. He estimated crowds were strong over the weekend and the conditions were part of the reason for that.

"This definitely helps," he said.

The resort measured a 41-inch base at the summit and 35 inches at mid-mountain on Sunday and has nearly half of the runs open.

Furthermore, five new inches of snow fell on Saturday night and Sunday morning, making three powder days for the first three days of business.

Kelly Failler of Denver planned a trip to Steamboat three weeks in advance.

"I had no idea if it would snow or not," she said after hitting the slopes Saturday and Sunday.

"It's been great skiing," Failler said. "Fantastic."

Longtime local Fred Robinson got his skis out for the second time of the year on Sunday, too.

"As far as the rest of the state goes, I'd say we are blessed," said Robinson, referring to Steamboat as being as good or better than other resorts in Colorado.

Robinson has been in the valley for 30 years and said the 2001-2002 season opening weekend was above average. He said the best one he remembers was only a couple of years ago when the entire mountain was open for skiing on opening day.

Jake Eagerton, 11, and Seth Schurman, 12, were sitting at the bottom of Headwall Sunday taking in their day of snowboarding. Eagerton said with wide eyes and a smile that the snow was deep.

"We were hitting rail that were like eight feet tall," he said while gripping his snowboard.

Conditions should stay decent with the National Weather Service reporting snow should continue in the Yampa Valley through Wednesday, but not in heavy amounts. A strong storm moved off the coast of Oregon into Colorado Sunday night but weakened as it moved inland. A second storm will develop Tuesday night over California, which will hit western Colorado Tuesday evening, but it also will be weakened by the time it gets here. A third will develop after that and move into the area Wednesday.

None of the storms will be significant, but they should maintain a few inches of snow each day, according to the NWS.

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