The word on the slopes

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— The four most overused words in the Steamboat ski bum dictionary, according to employees of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., are: "Gondy," "Freshies," "Pressing Glass," and "Stoked."

Well, starting today, they're going to have to get used to them.

Ski corp. employees got ready for the season physically and, perhaps more importantly, psychologically, at a free dinner Thursday night provided by the ski company at the Bear River Bar and Grill.

After two to three weeks of unemployment for many new workers, ski corp. employees were excited for the start of the season.

Jason Slater, who will be managing the kitchen at the Stoker Bar today, said he has struggled a lot over the past few weeks after moving here from upstate New York.

"It's been tough," he said. "I've been off my last job for a month. It just kills me."

He and 20-year-old newly-arrived Minnesotan Nat Kugher lamented the lack of money in their pockets and females in the bars, but said the chance to ski and snowboard on the slopes of Mount Werner all winter will be worth it.

Kim Hutchison of Texas jokingly said her friends and relatives will have to make do with cards in their stockings this Christmas if they want her to be able to eat.

Others talked about the difficulties they've faced dealing with Steamboat's high cost of living and the delayed opening of the ski area.

"American Express isn't going to get their payment this month," said Sean Winters, a three-year veteran of the ski corp.

Winters said he has experienced one of his toughest early winters yet this year and has had to rely on Steamboat's social safety net to get through the month.

According to local human service officials, he is not alone.

The Routt County Department of Human Services is out of $6,000 in rent assistance funding that was supposed to last until next summer, said Director Bob White. White said he usually gives out rent assistance funds, which are supposed to last the year, about every six weeks to a different household.

"This time we ran out in five months," he said.

LIFT-UP is on the brink of a similar fate with its rent assistance money and is running out of food at its food bank, said LIFT-UP Director David Freseman.

And while the ski corp. is a major contributor to LIFT-UP, its employees are also some of the organization's biggest clients before they receive their first paychecks, Freseman said.

Overall, though, the employees were exuberant about the opening of the mountain and the beginning of work. They even made reference to Steamboat's famed "champagne powder" another one for that ski bum dictionary.

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