Steamboat Springs For Hoosier Melissa zur Loye, the New Year's Eve celebration at Steamboat Ski Area is worth the travel from Indiana.
"It's something you're willing to wait for and willing to stand out in the cold for," said zur Loye, who visits Steamboat Springs annually with her family. "It's so special. It's just something that's distinctly Steamboat."
In past years, the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.'s torchlight parade and fireworks on New Year's Eve have lit up the mountain in ways zur Loye calls "amazing." Ski Corp. spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said tonight's event will be no exception.
"It's a very spectacular light display," Thomsen said. "I promise it will be a great show."
Ski Corp. sets off fireworks on two other occasions during the ski season: Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. But Thomsen said the New Year's show has a unique feeling.
"The New Year's Eve one is very special being the first one of the year," she said.
Thomsen said the amount of skier visits has been in line with expectations so far this season. She doesn't expect New Year's falling on a weekday to reduce business, as a middle-of-the-week Fourth of July hampered the summer tourism season.
"The holiday visitors will continue throughout the first week of January," Thomsen said.
Thomsen said tonight's events also will bridge the gap between the best two months for skiing, and will kick off a month full of the special events mostly absent in the early ski season.
"It's kind of the prelude to our big month of events and great snow," Thomsen said. "We've got a great lineup of events."
Following the light parade and fireworks, Ski. Corp. is hosting further celebrations at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel, Bear River Bar & Grill and the Stoker Bar & Restaurant at the top of the gondola.
The events have various forms of entertainment and prices.
Bars throughout Steamboat Springs also will hold celebrations with bands, DJs, dancing and other amusements. And whether your midnight champagne toast is made downtown or on the mountain, a sober ride will be available afterward on Steamboat Springs Transit's free buses.
The last bus from downtown to the mountain and area condominiums is scheduled for 1 a.m., the last bus from the Gondola Transit Center and Ski Time Square to area condominiums is scheduled for 1:16 a.m., and the last bus from the Gondola Transit Center and Ski Time Square to downtown and west Steamboat is scheduled for 1:40 a.m.
But Steamboat Springs' Director of Transportation George Krawzoff said those times aren't set in stone.
"We've traditionally continued running as long as we have people out there," said Krawzoff, who called the decision to continue or stop service a judgment call. "We don't leave crowds standing there."
Krawzoff said on a typical busy winter day, Steamboat Springs Transit carries about 6,000 passengers. The service has topped 10,000 passengers on New Year's Eve.
"It's typically our peak night of the season," Krawzoff said. "It's intense."
Krawzoff said visiting revelers can make things easier on the bus drivers by writing down the address of where they're staying, the complex name if there is one and a phone number.
He also asked that people not hassle the bus drivers too much.
"We love a party, but remember, we're working," Krawzoff said.
Krawzoff said getting home can be tough for people after a night of partying, particularly if they're unfamiliar with the area.
"Getting home is a challenge," Krawzoff said. "Things look different."
Krawzoff also stressed that people keep Steamboat's frigid environment in mind.
"We don't try to involve the (Steamboat Springs) Police Department unless it's a life-safety thing," Krawzoff said. "We can't leave them wandering and in a winter environment."
The expanded New Year's service is possible due to steady staff increases for Steamboat Springs Transit, which entered the ski season with a major driver shortage that resulted in limited service and the temporary removal of some bus routes.
Krawzoff said he could still use half a dozen more drivers, but said service has returned to past levels.
"We've gained on it steadily since November," Krawzoff said. "We've basically restored everything to the way it was last year."
That's music to the ears of Kathy Connell of Colorado Resort Services, who was involved earlier this year in discussions between city staff and resort executives to help restore cut routes, including those that serviced properties managed by CRS.
"Our guests are happy, our owners are happy, and we're happy," Connell said. "It was a great partnership between the city and the private sector."