Skiers flock to opening day

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Jayme Miller had a choice: Be a good college student and go to class or hit the trails on opening day at Steamboat Ski Area.

"Actually it wasn't much of an option," she said.

Miller, a 19-year-old Breck--enridge native who attends the University of Colorado, was in Steamboat visiting "crazy friends" Wednesday. She said opening day influenced her decision to leave Boulder for a day of snowboarding.

Miller's "crazy friends" -- Mark Simmons, 19; Pete McDowell, 20; and Jordan Jackson, 19, all of Steamboat Springs -- said the only things they were missing while on the slopes were sleeping and watching TV.

"It's always a good time to come up here," Jackson said. "It's good just to get back into it, for sure."

Since 1991, the ski area has opened with Scholarship Day, when riders and skiers purchase $15 lift tickets with the proceeds supporting the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Season passes are not honored on Scholarship Day.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. public relations director Mike Lane said despite the occasional complaint, the fundraiser has been a success.

"It's a good turnout for today -- Scholarship Day is always popular," he said.

He said attendance had been steady all day.

Several die-hard skiers waited in the gondola line beginning at 2:30 a.m. to claim the season's first tracks, Lane said.

"That just shows the enthusiasm people have for opening day," he said.

Scholarship Day has raised more than $430,000 since its inception. Lane said crowd and revenue estimates for Wednesday's opening day would not be available for two or three days.

Several skiers and riders said opening day seemed less crowded than years before and that the snow conditions weren't ideal.

"I wish it was powder, but it was OK," said Lauren Berrien, 17, of Hayden. "There were definitely some parts coming down that sucked. But hey, it's a nice day."

Skiers and riders enjoyed blue skies and sunshine throughout the day. Some skiers and riders wore T-shirts and tank tops instead of coats.

"Warm weather skiing is great, but this is almost too warm," Minnesota resident Jeff Morris said. "The only bummer is that it was dumping like mad a week ago."

Steamboat Springs resident Peter Cullinan, 65, said he has lived in town for only three years but that he has been skiing here for two decades.

"It's better than last year but not as good as the year before," he said. "It was pretty tough and icy in parts."

Steamboat Springs High School students, who had the day off for the Thanksgiving holiday, shared Cullinan's sentiment.

"It was really icy in some spots," Adam Parke, 15, said.

Parke and his friend Dusty Reed, 14, had been skiing since 8:30 a.m.

"There aren't as many people here today as there usually are," Parke said. "It feels like there were a ton more people here last year."

The ski area had 26 open runs Wednesday and planned to open from the top of Storm Peak to the ski area's base by Friday.

Regardless of the lack of fresh powder, many skiers and riders agreed that opening day was a success.

"It was good, man. End of story," Jackson said.

-- Reporter Mike Lawrence

contributed to this story.

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