Steamboat Springs The notion that the U.S. Forest Service requires the Steamboat Ski Area to close by April 15 is nothing more than urban legend, Forest Service officials said.
"It is my pet peeve and a myth that everyone perpetuates, (but) that is not true," said Ken Kowynia, winter sports program manager for the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. Forest Service. "We don't specify that they close on a certain date, and that is true for all ski areas in the state."
People think elk migration or calving is part of the reason why the ski area had to close by April 15.
"Whenever we authorize any type of operation or new project, it is analyzed for impact to natural resources which includes wildlife," said Janet Faller, ski area permit administrator for the U.S. Forest Service. "We have no specific requirement to close due to any natural resource concerns."
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has a "ski area special use permit" that allows it to operate a ski area on national forest land.
"The permit has specific requirements and one of those requirements is that they have a master plan and operating plan," Faller said. "The plan outlines how they maintain the lifts, operate the lifts, how they run their ski patrol ski school and snow making."
The partnership between Ski Corp. and the Forest Service began in the early 1940s.
"At that time, the ski equipment was just becoming available from after the war," Faller said. "People were interested in skiing and saw it as an economical opportunity for small towns, and the Forest Service had the best land."
Faller thinks the closing date for the ski area is chosen based on skier demand.
"It's a business decision from what I can tell," she said. "It's not economical to stay open later."
Typically, the ski area's final day has been the Sunday before April 15. This year, the ski area will close April 14, a Saturday. Some pass holders have complained that they will miss a day of skiing because the ski area is not open April 15.
But on Thursday, ski area spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said that "if we go back at least five seasons, this is the longest one we've had since the 2001-02 season."
Thomsen was not available for comment Friday.
Kowynia and Faller said the April 15 myth has been accepted as fact by many.
"We've been extremely frustrated with this for so long and are trying to set it straight," Faller said. "Let's kill that urban myth, and let's start with the year 2007."