Saturday, November 8, 2003
The Steamboat Ski Touring Center figuratively stepped into its bindings Saturday, marking its second earliest opening in 25 years.
The Touring Center, on the Sheraton Steamboat Golf Course, opened with 5 kilometers of groomed skiing on the Fish Creek to Kajsa' loop. Operator Birgitta Lindgren said she was receiving phone calls and e-mails from cities such as Golden and Laramie, Wyo., inquiring about the availability of skiing.
Lindgren said she can recall one earlier opening in the past quarter of a century. The snow arrived suddenly on Halloween of 1997. Lindgren recalls that her late husband, Hakan, golfed in the morning of Allhallows eve, and when a storm swooped into the valley, he went up the mountain to check the Fish Creek Trail in case the snow had built up enough to be groomed.
"He called me and said he was buried in snow," Birgitta Lindgren recalled.
This year, Steamboat skiers have been driving up to Bruce's Trail on Rabbit Ears Pass for groomed skiing since Nov. 1. Bruce's Trail was designed specifically to provide early season ski training and has been groomed by volunteer snowmobile operators.
Lindgren, too, is grooming her trails by snowmobile until the snow base builds up sufficiently to support the weight of a cat.
The Touring Center will have a new, used Bombardier BR 400 MP this winter. It is in Grand Junction, waiting for winter to get serious, Lindgren said. For Steamboat skiers who look for glory anywhere they can find it, the new Bombardier affords an opportunity. The cat originally was used to groom the Olympic trails at Soldier Hollow, Utah, in 2002. Steamboat skiers now will be able to say they have skied in tracks prepared by the same machine that prepared tracks for Olympians such as Norway's Bente Skari and Sweden's Per Elofsson.
Nordic Skiing in Steamboat has entered a new era with the arrival of "valley passes" good for the entire season or for short-term visits. The passes are good at any of five touring centers across the valley.
Visitor passes are priced at $35 for a three-day pass or $50 for a five-day pass. They are good any day of the ski season and are fully transferable among Howelsen Hill, Lake Catamount, the Touring Center, Steamboat Lake and Vista Verde.
Season passes at three price points offer access to touring centers. They are priced at $225, $315 and $495.
The passes went on sale at the touring centers Nov. 1. Skiers purchasing a "green star" pass for $225 will enjoy access to the trails at Vista Verde Guest Ranch, Steamboat Ski Touring Center, Steamboat Lake State Park and Howelsen Hill.
The "red star" pass, offered for $315, adds the trails at Lake Catamount to the list.
The Nordic Ambassador Pass, at $495 will provide $190 to help fund the Nordic council's efforts to develop trails, maintain a Web site and market Nordic skiing in the region.
Skiers who already have purchased a season pass at the Steamboat Touring Center will receive a credit toward the purchase of a Valley Pass. In addition, purchasers of Valley Passes will receive an annual Colorado State Parks Pass valued at $55.