Tree skiing OK'd

Opening day set for Wednesday

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The 14 inches of fresh snow that blasted Mount Werner over the weekend will allow the Steamboat Ski Area to open up some of its gladed tree skiing in Priest Creek on the day before Thanksgiving.

Steamboat kicks off the season Wednesday with a $15 lift ticket for "scholarship day," the traditional opening day benefit for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

There have been many winters when the tree skiing in Priest Creek wasn't ready until the December holidays. Steamboat President Chris Diamond said this year's opening marks the fourth in a row that the resort has opened with skiing from the top of the mountain all the way to the bottom. More than 1,000 acres of terrain will be open.

"Steamboat is proud to lead the pack in mid-mountain snow depths among the major destination resorts," Diamond said. Steamboat has received more than five feet of snow since Oct. 31 and is reporting a 31-inch base at mid-mountain with a 32-inch base at the summit. Reported mid-mountain snow depths Monday at ski areas that already have opened include 21 inches at both Copper Mountain and Snowmass and 15 inches at Vail.

The ski area expects to have seven lifts open Wednesday, including the Gondola, Storm Peak Express, Burgess Creek, Southface, Thunderhead Express, Christie II and Preview. Four Points chairlift will operate Thursday and Friday.

Sixty-one trails covering 1,115 acres will be open, including the upper portions of Shadows, Closets and Twilight in Priest Creek, as well as Flying Z on the north side of the mountain.

Beginning Thursday, Diamond said, the mountain would trim $5 from its published price for single-day adult lift tickets, offering them for $59 until further notice.

The ski area has donated the ticket proceeds from its opening day to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's Scholarship Fund for more than 13 years. Last year, scholarship day raised a record $49,800.

"You will not find another resort in Colorado or the country that donates an entire day's lift ticket revenue to anything," Diamond said. "The money raised will go a long way in helping as many families in Routt County as possible participate in the Winter Sports Club's ski and snowboard programs."

Steamboat Ski Patrol Director John Kohnke reminded skiers and riders that even though the snow is abundant, and season passes are not in effect for scholarship day, they have all the responsibilities that come with recreating on the mountain.

"Even with all the snow, everyone needs to ski and ride with care, within their ability levels," Kohnke said. He said unmarked obstacles and other natural terrain features can be hidden by the early season snow.

Kohnke said season passes are also on the line for skiers and riders who ignore closure signs.

"Even though Wednesday is scholarship day, if they are caught on a closed trail, exhibiting fast, reckless behavior or violating other aspects of the responsibility code, their season pass privileges will be revoked," Kohnke added. "We want everyone to have a great time with the resort's opening. This season is shaping up to be one you don't want to miss."

The U.S. Forest Service and the Routt County Sheriff's Office support the ski area's enforcement of trail closures under the Skier Safety Act.

Kohnke said the Steamboat Ski Patrol would establish a corridor at the top of Buddy's Run to allow access to terrain outside the resort's boundary as soon as possible. Skiers and riders should use only designated access points for terrain outside the resort's permitted boundary.

On-mountain dining options on opening day include BK Corral and the Stoker Bar and Restaurant. Free shuttles from the Meadows Parking Lot will run from 7:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. Scholarship day tickets are available for advance purchase from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. today. The daily ticket windows in Gondola Square will open at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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