Ski area to open with six lifts, at least seven trails

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Officials at Steamboat Ski Area announced Monday that they would have six lifts operating, with at least seven trails and possibly more for the opening Scholarship Day on Wednesday.

"We're definitely giving our mountain crews another day to work the mountain," before announcing the final list of trails on opening day, ski area spokesman Mike Lane said.

The list of lifts and confirmed trails for opening day includes the gondola, Tenderfoot carpet and Burgess Creek, Preview, Southface and Christie III lifts. Trails on the list include Rudi's Run, upper Vagabond, Eagles Nest, upper Why Not, So What and BC Skiway. Lane advised skiers and riders to watch for updates today and Wednesday.

Scholarship Day means skiers and riders can pick up a $15 lift ticket with the proceeds going to support the youth skiing programs of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Other passes will not be honored Wednesday. The ski area reports that since the 1991-92 ski season, Scholarship Day has generated more than $430,000 for youngsters enrolled in the winter sports club.

Eager skiers and snowboarders can pre-purchase their scholarship day passes at the ticket office today.

"Our mountain crews have been working exceptionally hard to groom the natural snow that fell in the last week along with manmade snow," Lane said. "I think people will be pleasantly surprised with the conditions. If you see a mountain crew guy or gal on the mountain Wednesday, thank them."

Steamboat enjoyed a good blast of natural snow last week, but mountain crews don't have Buddy's Run ready for top to bottom skiing yet, Lane said. Steamboat was reporting a mid-mountain base of 20 inches and 28 inches at the summit. Steamboat has received 42 inches of snow on Mount Werner since Nov. 4, but that base has settled under the November sun the past few days. Relatively little of the natural snow fell at the base, and ideal snowmaking temperatures didn't arrive until late last week, putting snowmaking, grooming and ski patrol crews in hustle mode.

"We've had an incredible run of snowmaking conditions for several days straight," Lane said. "It's amazing how fast things can change around here this time of year."

Historically, Steamboat has not had top-to-bottom skiing on opening day. However, the resort enjoyed a string of four years, beginning in 2000, when abundant snow allowed unprecedented opening days.

Steamboat moved its opening day up by five days to Nov. 22 in 2002 after receiving three feet of snow in the preceding two weeks. As a result, the ski area opened with seven lifts and 64 trails that year.

The powder came early again in 2003 with five 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 in 2004 was more modest, with the gondola and Thunderhead Express running to serve skiing down upper Vagabond through Eagle's Nest to the base. The ski area opened with a 14-inch base thanks to 6 inches that had fallen the preceding weekend. Things turned around dramatically last year, and before November was over, skiers hit a weekend powder day with thigh-deep snow in the Priest Creek glades.

John Kohnke, Steamboat's ski patrol director, reminded skiers and riders that it isn't uncommon in early season to encounter unmarked obstacles hidden beneath the snow. Accordingly, trails closures must be observed.

"Everyone needs to ski and ride with care, within their ability levels and remember, that unmarked obstacles and other natural terrain features may be encountered at any time," Kohnke said.

Ski area staff will man a tent near the gondola base early this season to answer questions about the new SlopeWise program.

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