Steamboat resident Billy Gimes floats through the trees at the Steamboat Ski Area on Thursday.  2009 went out with a bang at the ski area, which reported more than a foot of snow overnight Wednesday.

Larry Pierce/courtesy

Steamboat resident Billy Gimes floats through the trees at the Steamboat Ski Area on Thursday. 2009 went out with a bang at the ski area, which reported more than a foot of snow overnight Wednesday.

Snowy sendoff to 2009

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— The snow continued to fall Thursday morning as elated skiers reported deep powder at Steamboat Ski Area during the last day of 2009.

As of 5 a.m. Thursday, the ski area reported 11 inches at mid-mountain and 15 inches at the top. The lines for tickets were several people deep, and the briskly moving line for the gondola snaked through several switchbacks as skiers turned out for the powder day.

Steamboat Springs resident John Harrington said the snow was deep on the top of the mountain and in the trees. Riding a few runs before he headed off to work, Harrington said it was one of the best days of snowboarding this season after he made a run in the Pony Express area.

“It’s nice to have another powder day,” he said.

Steamboat started the 2009-10 season with relatively low snowfall and low base levels reported up until the end of December. That trend reversed with the latest several batches of snow, and Steamboat now boasts more skiable acres open than any other mountain in Colorado.

The 2,692 open acres in Steamboat, of a possible 2,965, barely edges out the 2,689 at Snowmass and easily surpasses the 2,305 at Vail. Breckenridge reported 1,689 acres, Keystone had 749 and Loveland reported 206 acres open.

According to Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., snow fell 17 days in December, and 96.25 inches of it has fallen this season. By the end of December 2008, the mountain had 140 inches total at mid-mountain, and 166 had fallen by this time in the record-setting 2007-08 season.

Sara Simpson, of Connec­ticut, was taking her 3 1/2-year-old son, Liam, skiing for the first time Thursday. She said the lift lines were moving quickly, though she stayed on Preview while Liam practiced.

“We love it; it’s great,” she said.

The additional terrain provided plenty of options for people of different ability levels, Simpson said.

Local Julie Brusky said she had been up on the mountain only a few days this season but that the deep powder was too tempting to pass up Thursday.

“This is why I live here,” she said as she finished her morning runs with her daughter, Madeline Brusky.

Asked how the snow was, 11-year-old Madeline said it was “cold.”

By 1 p.m., the temperature at the top of the mountain was reported at 6 degrees, and mid-mountain was listed at 18 degrees by Ski Corp. weather spotters.

According to the National Weather Service’s Grand Junc­tion office, New Year’s Day is expected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 30. Snow is expected to settle in tonight, continuing with a 50 percent chance or better until Sunday with accumulation of 3 to 6 inches in town.

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