Lift tickets $15 on Wednesday

Upper Vagabond primary playground on opening day 2004

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Steamboat skiers and snowboarders will have one eye on the weather forecast Wednesday as they queue up at the gondola for opening-day turns on Upper Vagabond. Some will say their prayers for more snow and lower temperatures in the near future.

The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. announced late Monday afternoon that it will make its appointment for Scholarship Day on Wednesday, when lift tickets are $15. All proceeds will go to support the youngsters who take part in the competitive skiing programs of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

"Steamboat will celebrate its opening day with skiing and riding on the traditional early season route from Thunderhead down Upper Vagabond and through Eagle's Nest to the base area," said Chris Diamond, president of Ski Corp. "I encourage everyone to come out and make a few runs to support a very worthwhile organization."

The ski area is reporting a 14-inch base at mid-mountain after 6 inches fell during the weekend. Skiing will be on packed powder and man-made conditions. As of late Monday, the area anticipated having two lifts on line for Scholarship Day: the Gondola and Thunderhead Express. Additional terrain and lift openings will be announced as conditions permit.

"The resort mountain crews have done a tremendous job working with a variety of weather conditions -- skiing and riding on Upper Vagabond down to the base of Thunderhead Express will be great," said Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations. "As forecasts are calling for snow showers beginning late tonight and cold and unsettled weather through Thanksgiving, our crews will be standing by to take full advantage of what Mother Nature provides."

Skiing at all on Wednesday is something to give thanks for, but Steamboat skiers and riders have been spoiled by two consecutive years of remarkable opening days. Steamboat moved its opening day up by five days to Nov. 22 in 2002 after receiving 3 feet of snow in the preceding two weeks. As a result, the ski area opened with seven lifts and 64 trails that year.

The snow came early again in 2003 with 5 feet falling after Oct. 31 and 14 inches during the weekend preceding opening day. With a mid-mountain base of 31 inches, the ski area opened in 2003 with seven lifts and 61 trails including the tree skiing in the upper portions of Priest Creek.

Opening day always generates excited skiers and riders, and some are tempted to duck under control ropes in hopes of poaching a little forbidden powder. But natural obstructions such as rocks and logs lurk beneath the early season snow cover, and Steamboat Ski Patrol Director John Kohnke reminded people that the "Responsibility Code" and the Skier Safety Act are in play Wednesday.

"Skiers and riders should keep in mind that even though Wednesday is Scholarship Day, if they are caught on a closed trail, or exhibiting fast, reckless behavior, or violating other aspects of the Responsibility Code, their season pass, and/or super value pass privileges will be revoked," Kohnke said. "We want everyone to have a great time with the resort's opening, but always be aware and ski and ride with care. You don't want to miss out on a great season."

Steamboat plans to have a number of mountain services and programs available Wednesday. On-mountain dining options include Gondola Joe's, BK Corral and the Stoker Bar & Restaurant.

Free parking is available in the Knoll and Meadows lots. Free shuttle service from the Meadows lot is offered from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. In addition, the parking structure will be free through Dec. 5.

Steamboat's Ski and Snowboard School and the Kids' Vacation Center will offer half-day and all-day programs.

Beginning Wednesday, the ticket office will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of Thanksgiving, when it will close at 4 p.m. Scholarship Day tickets are available for advance purchase at the main ticket office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this week for $15. Skiers and riders are encouraged to pre-purchase Scholarship Day tickets. The daily lift ticket windows in Gondola Square will open at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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