Lane: 'We're very encouraged by the turnout'

Skiers, snowboarders come out for Scholarship Day

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Riding in the gondola Wednesday morning, surrounded by gray wintry skies, Peta Krajewski said he couldn't pass up his first chance to ski at the Steamboat Ski Area. Never mind that the slopes were not covered in powder and that only a fraction of the trails were open to skiers.

"I didn't want to not go on opening day," Krajewski said. "I felt that it'd be bad karma on the mountain."

Besides, Krajewski said, he's from Pennsylvania, so he's used to small resorts and ice. "This is like a good day at home," he said.

Technically, Wednesday was Scholarship Day, a day when season passes were not valid and the proceeds from every $15 ticket sold benefits the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's scholarship fund. Today is the official Opening Day of the Steamboat Ski Area and the first day that season passes will be honored.

As the slopes filled with skiers and riders Wednesday, ski school instructor Janessa Devereux said that when it comes to Scholarship Day, the first day of the ski season, "you can't not go."

"It's so much fun," Devereux said. "There's so much hype about it for such a long time. All of your friends come, and everyone you know comes."

On Scholarship Day, the mountain seems alive with a sense of energy and excitement. For Devereux, that means she can't help singing as she makes her turns down the mountain.

A number of skiers and riders came out Wednesday to welcome the 2005 ski season, with an official count expected next week.

"We're very encouraged by the turnout," said Mike Lane, director of public relations for the Steamboat Ski Area. "We think it will mean good things for the Winter Sports Club."

Six trails were open, with the gondola and Thunderhead Express taking skiers and riders up the mountain. Snowmaking will continue on the mountain as long as temperatures stay low, and additional terrain will open depending on the conditions, Lane said.

Although the amount of terrain open pales in comparison to last year's opening, which had more snow and more open runs, Lane said this year was a "typical or traditional opening."

Ski patroller Gary Baggenstoss agreed.

"We've been spoiled the last two seasons with all of the snow we've had, and this is probably a little more typical," he said.

With packed snow and icy spots on the slopes, Baggenstoss recommended that people ski or ride slowly, stay in control, and try to look left and right before making a turn. He also said that crossing ropes is not allowed, and that anyone who does so will lose his or her pass.

One 19-year-old man was transported to the hospital because of pain in his upper body after a fall, Lane said.

Baggenstoss' overall advice: "Come on and have fun. Ski or ride safely -- the snow will come," he said.

Jesse Bopp and Brandon Munk drove down from Laramie, Wyo., to ski the opening day on what Bopp called a "great mountain."

"It's the day before Thanksgiving, and it's $15, and it's a day off work," Bopp said.

Plus, Munk said, the conditions give experienced skiers a chance to work on their edge control.

Koleman Williams, 12, said he was glad to take advantage of the cheap day pass, though a little more terrain would have been nice.

"I think we were hoping for a little more snow," Williams said.

Peta Krajewski's friend Megan O'Guin wanted to ski on Scholarship Day just to "see what it's about," she said.

"I think it'll be a great winter -- it's just slow coming," O'Guin said.

Krajewski shushed her.

"No jinxing," he said.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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