Steamboat Springs Crews at the Steamboat Ski Area were simultaneously load testing the new Christie Peak Express Chairlift and working on installation of a new gondola haul rope Tuesday afternoon as they prepared for the belated opening of the ski season Friday.
Steamboat announced Nov. 15 that it would not make its scheduled Nov. 21 opening because of insufficient snowfall and mild temperatures that didn't support snowmaking efforts. Since that time, more than 13 inches of natural snow have fallen at mid-mountain. Overnight temperatures in the valley have dropped into the teens and low single digits.
Ski area spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen confirmed Tuesday that the gondola will not be ready to open Friday and stopped short of saying what lifts and trails would be in operation. The ski area expects to announce those details late this afternoon.
"They are doing the second day of load testing on the Christie Peak Express this afternoon," Thomsen said. "It's good to look out the window and see the snow and the chairs installed."
The Steamboat Pilot & Today will post opening day information at www.steamboatpilot.com as soon as it is available.
Overnight temperatures Monday night into Tuesday morning were not as cold (12 degrees) as they had been during the extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Steamboat Snowmaking Manager Steve West said the slight moderation in temperatures shifted snowmaking operations toward the bottom of the mountain.
His crews were making snow on the Preview trail Tuesday morning, where the pocket of coldest air had settled, West said.
The forecast for Tuesday night and tonight suggested more of the same. West said his crews would take the opportunity to fill in more of the base area and make more snow on the Vagabond trail, which begins at Thunderhead Peak.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was predicting an 80 percent chance of snow Tuesday night with a low temperature of 11 degrees at 6,700 feet elevation. Today is expected to be cold - daytime highs of 26, with the chance of snow tapering off to 30 percent. It will be cold again tonight with an anticipated low of 10 below. The extended forecast calls for a chance of snow again Thursday and Thursday night, followed by clearing Friday and snow returning Friday night into Saturday.
The ski area was reporting a 9-inch base Tuesday afternoon with a seasonal snowfall total of 32 inches.