An unidentified man died Tuesday at the Steamboat Ski Area. The cause of death is under investigation.

File photo

An unidentified man died Tuesday at the Steamboat Ski Area. The cause of death is under investigation.

Stay tuned for 'wild snow'

Steamboat Ski Area opens many Priest Creek trails today

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— Skiers and riders at Steamboat Ski Area can now enjoy the Sundown Express and Elkhead chairlifts, along with the trails they serve in the Priest Creek basin, which open today.

And there's the promise of more to come, with the South Peak chairlift opening Saturday and possibly even a little "wild snow" due to fall. The opening of South Peak provides access to the trails in Sunshine Bowl. The addition of Sunshine Bowl will bring the resort to 1,444 acres of available terrain, 80 trails and nine lifts.

Skiers and snowboarders will be able to ride Sundown Express to the top of runs including Tomahawk, then catch South Peak to climb to Rendezvous Saddle and return to the lower terminal of Sundown Express.

Sundown Express will open trails including One O'Clock, Two O'Clock, Three O'Clock, High Noon, Rolex, Daybreak and Westside today.

Ski Patrol reports that backcountry access gates have not yet opened.

Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said the Sunshine Express, which serves Sunshine Bowl directly, will not open until the ski area receives a little more snow and is able to build up the loading maze and ramps at the bottom of the lift.

Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations, said Morningside Park could open by the middle of next week. He is optimistic that current snow patterns will allow the opening of Pioneer Ridge on Dec. 22. That would mean the entire mountain would be open three days before Christmas.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was predicting 1 to 3 inches of snow overnight Thursday, with another 1 to 3 inches possible today.

With any luck, it will be the kind of super-dry snow that Steamboat skiers woke up to Wednesday morning. Veteran weather observer Art Judson said the 3.3-inch snowfall was so dry it qualified as "wild snow," as defined by the American Meteorological Society.

Wednesday's snow was just 2.4 percent water, which is the equivalent of a density of .024 grams per centimeter. Any time the snow density is less than .04 grams per centimeter, it's "wild snow," according to the AMS.

The ski area is reporting that it enjoyed fresh snow 10 out of the first 13 days of December. But daily totals have been modest. Judson said that is largely due to the fact that all of those storms have come out of the south and southwest. When that happens, the Flat Tops Range casts a snow shadow over the upper Yampa Valley, Judson said. Steamboat's best chance for heavy snowfall comes when the winds pushing the snowstorm come from due west.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is reporting that it expects the storm track in Northwest Colorado to flow from the northwest the next several days.

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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