Mardis Gras brings 'phat powder'

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The abundant snow that fell all over the slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area on Fat Tuesday was -- dare we say it -- "phat."

The ski area reported 5 inches of new snow on its 5 a.m. snow report, but another 12 inches fell at mid-mountain before noon. Skiers and snowboarders were gorging themselves on the last day before Lent.

"It was so light. ... It was really like Steamboat powder compared to what we've been having," Kristin Kotkas said. "It was a treat for sure."

Kotkas tried a pair of extra wide Rossignol T4 Telemark skis that were perfect for the occasion.

The 17 inches that dumped on Steamboat marked the first big powder day since Jan. 12, when 10 inches of snow fell overnight.

Snowboarder Anthony Niglio missed all of last winter with a torn ACL, so he was especially eager for a legitimate powder day and made the most of it.

"It was the best day I've had this year," Niglio said. "It was waist deep at times in Pioneer Ridge -- at least it felt like it. It was face shots all day."

Niglio estimated that at times Tuesday morning it was snowing at the rate of an inch an hour -- based on the 12 inches that fell between 5 a.m. and noon, he may have underestimated the rate at which the powder accumulated. Niglio and Kotkas, both of whom tracked up the snow in Pioneer Ridge, agreed that the ski report of 17 inches of snow was consistent with what they experienced.

"You'd ride up Pony Express (chairlift), and there would be a quarter-inch on your pants," Niglio said.

February 2004 brought 58 inches of snow to the ski area. That compares to the 25-year average of 68.4 inches during the month. February 2003 was a notable month with 93 inches of powder. That month ranked second on the all-time list for February. The benchmark was set in 1993, when 110.5 inches fell at mid-mountain.

The skies over Steamboat had cleared by sunset Tuesday. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was predicting that a chance of precipitation would return to the area Friday. The forecast is for a 30 percent chance of rain mixed with snow Friday with a high temperature of 38 degrees. The precipitation could turn to snow Friday night, when the temperature is expected to drop to 17 degrees.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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