Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. officials won't announce the official roster of trails and lifts that will be available to skiers and riders on Scholarship Day, Wednesday, until Monday. But the pictures tell the story.
Ski area photographer Larry Pierce tagged along with ski patrol veterans John Kohnke and Audrey Williams on Nov. 19 when they forced themselves to take a snowcat up to the weather station and assess the product. What they found was "creamy" boot-top powder. And that was before this weekend's storm.
Pierce's photo, which accompanies this article, seems to indicate a nice settled base underneath all the fresh powder.
The skiing that Kohnke and Williams did this week was one of many chores that must be completed before the mountain can open. On Friday, Ski Corp. spokesman Mike Lane was imploring skiers and riders to be patient and to use extreme caution if they choose to hike up the mountain to sneak in some early turns Monday and Tuesday.
"We'll have a number of snowcats, a haul cat and snowmobiles going in all directions to get the mountain ready to open on Wednesday," Lane said. Haul cats operate with the use of a steel cable stretched over the snow, and skiers need to avoid them at all costs.
Johanna Hall, manager of the Steamboat Ski and Snowboard School, has some advice for eager riders and skiers just beginning to get their chops back up for the long winter ahead. Hall said snowboarders and skiers need to get in touch with their feelings to really get back on top of their boards.
"First run of the season should be on an easy, groomed green or blue run," Hall suggested. "It's the perfect place to get back into the rhythm and flow of your turns. Whether on skis or a snowboard, there are some broad, simple things to focus on as you get your feet back under you. First and foremost, focus on feelings and sensations rather than specifics."
Three areas of focus are important for skiers during the first days of the season, Hall said. Stance and balance come first.
"Balance on a moving platform (whether one platform on a snowboard or two platforms on skis) is the first most basic focus," Hall said. "Skiers should feel their entire foot on the skis, not just their heels or toes. Snowboarders are all about feeling toes and heels, as that's how they make turns."
Hall said that to avoid fatigue, flexing and extending movements for skiers and snowboarders should use a full range of motion so that muscles don't get too tired. Standing too low will make those thighs burn and you'll be done by 11:30 a.m., she advised.
"Be sure to relax and extend your legs between each turn."
In order to look smooth, skiers and riders should think smooth, Hall said.
"Skiers and snowboarders should soft focus on their turn shape. It should be round and smooth, not sharp and angular. If you think your turns feel a bit ragged, pay more attention on the timing and duration of your movements," Hall said. "Quick jerky movements make for quick, jerky turns. Smooth, adequately timed movements drawn out over the whole duration of the turn will keep you smooth and lookin' good."
It takes edge awareness to carve a turn.
"Snowboarders should feel for their toes and heels engaging the snow from turn-to-turn," Hall said. "Skiers can focus on a smooth edge change from turn-to-turn, in which both skis change edges simultaneously. This is best accomplished by simply tipping the feet, ankles and legs to create edge angle on the snow."
Steamboat Vice President of Skier Services Jim Schneider said the ski school is offering a special package for skiers and snowboarders who are new to the sport. During the first two weekends of the season, Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 6-7, beginning skiers of all ages may sign up for a half-day lesson which comes with a lower mountain lift ticket and rentals for $24. Beginners who already have their own equipment can get the lesson and lift ticket for $21.