Tactics for holiday skiers

Ski area opens gondola early to ease mid-morning rush

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The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. is offering strategic advice for skiers and snowboarders, along with early lift opening times to help ease the crunch of the busy holiday season.

From Monday to Dec. 31, the Steamboat Ski Area will open as much as 30 minutes ahead of the typical schedule to help eager skiers and riders make their way up the mountain.

"Over the past two years, we've seen the dramatic difference early opening times can make on starting the holiday experience off right," Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond said. The ski area is anticipating that the heavy snows that fell earlier this month will boost holiday business volumes significantly. Ski Corp. officials say because their parent, American Skiing Co., is publicly owned, they are prevented from discussing exactly how many people will hit the slopes this holiday period. However, an unscientific poll conducted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association predicts 14,600 visitors will spend the night here Wednesday.

The peak time at the Steamboat gondola is between 9 and 10:30 a.m. Savvy skiers have learned to avoid arriving in Gondola Square during that time. To help them avoid the peak, Steamboat will open the gondola a half-hour early Monday to Dec. 31, at 8 a.m. Also opening at 8 a.m. will be the Christie III, Southface and Preview chairlifts. Farther up the mountain, Thunderhead Express, Burgess Creek and Four Points chairlifts will open at 8:15 a.m. Elkhead, Storm Peak Express and Sundown Express lifts will open at 8:30 a.m.

Vice President of Mountain Operations Doug Allen suggested that once people make their way to the upper mountain, they should avoid returning to the base until after the peak has passed at 10:30 a.m.

"I would strongly encourage skiers and riders to take advantage of the accelerated opening and get up the gondola early," Allen said. "By opening the mountain 30 minutes early, we will be able to reduce the congestion in the base area."

The chamber survey suggests that visitors and resident skiers will find only moderate crowds on the mountain Saturday and Sunday, in advance of the main influx of vacationers.

The ski area also suggests that people arriving for their ski vacations use their arrival day to pick up trail passes, arrange for rentals and make other arrangements before their first ski day. That will eliminate some of the frustration of waiting in extra lines while the lifts are running, they predict.

To that end, the main ticket office and ski school ticket office will remain open until 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. It will close at 5 p.m. Wednesday to Dec. 30 and at 4 p.m. Dec. 31. Ticket windows will open at 7:30 a.m. throughout the week.

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