Steamboat Springs The nine-day delay in kicking off the 2007-08 ski season at the Steamboat Ski Area did little to damper the enthusiasm today of those skiers and riders who hit the slopes on Scholarship Day.
Although everyone was there to cut some turns, the ski area's new six-passenger Christie Peak Express lift was the day's star attraction.
Ski Patroller Craig MacDonald described his first ride on the new lift as "quick and fast," while 3-year-old Caroline Rozelanders may have summed up the experience best as the Steamboat Springs resident gripped the safety bar and yelled, "I'm flying."
"It goes at a 1,000 feet per minute - you can almost get a speeding ticket it's so fast, and you probably need goggles going up," ski area Director of Skiing Billy Kidd said.
"This lift is unique because it services beginner, intermediate, expert and even Olympian training," he said. "The fact you can go up and race in the NASTAR finals, you can compete in the World Cup aerials and moguls, you can go up and get in the halfpipe - there is just a variety of skiing you can do on this lift and you may be riding with some Steamboat Olympians on the way up."
Saturday is the first day season passes will be accepted at the ski area, but those willing to pay $20 today for the first turns of the season to benefit the Steamboat Springs Winter Sport's Club's scholarships fund may have been treated with sharing a lift with an Olympian.
Six Olympians, including Kidd, Nelson Carmichael, Erin Simmons, Travis Mayer, Todd Lodwick and Deb Armstrong, helped usher in the grand opening of the Christie Peak Express lift.
The Scholarship Day benefit has raised more than $525,000 for the club since its inception in 1991, and it generated $47,000 during opening day 2006. Proceeds from this year's fundraiser won't be available until early next week, ski area spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said.
Area students and teachers who weren't able to hit the slopes today will be able to ski or ride for the Scholarship Day price of $20 on Saturday, if they do not have a season pass.
It was difficult to gauge exact attendance Friday, but if the lack of lift lines were any indication, Scholarship Day may not have been as well attended as it has been in past years.
Thomsen said ski area officials were thrilled with the participation.
"I think it went perfectly today, and I don't think it could have gone better," Thomsen said. "It's so nice to have the culmination of everything we've done since last spring - all the work on Headwall, the new lift and the new snowmaking pipe."
Kidd said there is always electricity in the air on opening day, but this year seemed extra special.
"It's surprising that some of us older, more mature skiers feel that same buzz the first day," he said. "You think you'd outgrow it, but it was fun getting out there today."
After a morning spent cutting turns with few skiers and boarders clogging the runs,
MacDonald said he couldn't believe the wide-open trails.
"Only in Steamboat are there no lift lines on opening day," he said.