Skiers, boarders gather to celebrate opening day

Conditions favorable for first runs of ski season

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— Those who got up early to wait in line at the gondola for the 8:30 a.m. opening of the Steamboat Ski Area were treated to more than untracked snow.

A group of local residents made and handed out 70 breakfast burritos to the early birds, some of whom were there well before 7 a.m. to kick off the 2002-03 season with a little charity.

"We did it to just have fun," burrito-maker Michael Moss said. "To try to start a tradition and to start the season in a good way."

Burrito or no burrito, the first day on the mountain did incite some interesting behavior.

For example, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokesman Mike Lane said four guys camped out in sleeping bags at the bottom of Storm Peak Express to guarantee their status as first to ride down from the top Friday.

They were rewarded, too. Despite the fact that it hadn't snowed in a while, many runs had untracked, deep snow, though it was a little too heavy to be called Champagne Powder. The groomed runs were soft and there was even pretty good cover in the trees.

"It's real nice, especially for the 22nd of November," said Jeff Droz while riding a lift to the top of Storm Peak.

It was Droz's first time riding on opening day, though he has lived in the valley on and off for four years. He said it was a little crusty in spots, but for the most part, it was a good day.

Most people who got off the gondola for the first time of the season headed straight for Storm Peak Express to take them to the top of Storm Peak.

There were a lot of choices from there, such as a nice groomed trail on Buddy's Run, or decent snow in the trees in and around Cyclone.

Meanwhile, snow under Burgess Creek lift was deep and rode well.

The lower mountain also had good cover, though there were a few bare spots.

Though the skiing and riding was good, opening day also was a chance to celebrate and see old friends.

Many people gathered at the bottom of Storm Peak to talk and celebrate.

"It's wonderful," said Chris Banks while riding the gondola to his first run in Steamboat.

Banks, who said he rode more than 100 days last year, has already made trips to Breckenridge and Keystone to snowboard and was happy about the snowfall in Colorado so far.

"It's been sick," he said.

As expected, the weather was clear and warm for the opening, with the temperature rising into the 50s.

The National Weather Service forecast said it would cool off tomorrow and snow may come into the valley by the evening.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4204

or e-mail dcrowl@steamboatpilot.com

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