Steamboat Springs resident Jonathan Finnegan makes a turn at Steamboat Ski Area on Wednesday afternoon.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs resident Jonathan Finnegan makes a turn at Steamboat Ski Area on Wednesday afternoon.

Steamboat Ski Area tallies 74 inches of snowfall

Announcement about open trails, lifts and terrain expected this week

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Steamboat Ski Area top 5 snowiest seasons

2007-08 — 489 inches

1996-97 — 447.75 inches

1983-84 — 447.5 inches

1995-96 — 441.25 inches

2005-06 — 432 inches

Snowiest months

October — 27 inches in 2006

November — 83 inches in 2005

December — 165.5 inches in 1983

January — 216.5 inches in 1996

February — 110.5 inches in 1993

March — 83 inches in 1991

April — 60 inches in 1993

— Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

Keep up with the conditions

- For local weather conditions and recent coverage of Steamboat Springs weather, visit SteamboatToday.com/weather

- View webcams of Steamboat Springs at SteamboatToday.com/webcams

- For weather information from the National Weather Service, including storm warnings and advisories, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/

- The Colorado Department of Transportation provides road conditions, closures and traffic cameras at www.cotrip.org. For travel information by phone, call 511 from anywhere in Colorado or dial 303-639-1111.

- Find information about avalanche danger and conditions at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website: www.avalanche.state.co.us.

- For flight information, visit www.flightview.com/ TravelTools/. By phone, call Delta Airlines at (800) 241-4141; United Airlines at (800) 864-8331; and American Airlines at (800) 433-7300

— Craig Rench considers himself one of the “careful ones,” a skier who tries to avoid early season injuries by reining in his excitement for early season snow.

But as he skinned up to the Four Points Hut on Saturday for his first turns down Steamboat Ski Area, he wasn’t worried about hitting a rock or a log buried under the nearly 4-foot-deep snowpack.

“From as far back as I can remember, this is one of the better ones,” Rench said about early season conditions. “Up there is pretty impressive right now for before Thanksgiving.”

Steamboat Ski Area opens Wednesday with Scholar­ship Day, a fundraiser in which ticket sales benefit the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Passes will not be honored on Scholarship Day. The first regular day of the season is Thanks­giving Day. From there, the lifts will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily until April 10.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokeswoman Loryn Kas­ten said the ski area has not decided which trails, lifts and terrain it will open next week.

“Each year when we open the mountain, it’s different because it varies,” Kasten said. “We make every effort to open the best terrain possible.”

A Ski Corp. news release Wed­­nesday said announcements about trails, lifts and ticket prices for Scholarship Day would come this week.

Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations, said good news might be coming from Ski Corp. soon.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Allen said about opening day.

Near record

Rench wasn’t the only one who couldn’t wait to get a jump on the season.

When the sun peeked through the clouds Wednesday after nearly a week of snow, S-tracks were etched into several snow-covered runs on Mount Werner and Howelsen Hill.

Steamboat reported snowfall of 74 inches this season as of Wednesday afternoon, and with almost two weeks left in the month, the resort could see the snowiest November in 30 years. Eighty-three inches fell in November 2005, the snowiest November the ski area has on record dating to 1980.

If skiers and riders are wondering whether a snowy Nov­ember is a good predictor of the winter to follow, history offers good news. The two snowiest Novembers on record were followed by season snowfalls of 432 inches and 447 inches, in two winters that fell in Steamboat’s top five for snowfall.

“I think it makes everybody real optimistic about the season,” Rench said about the early snow. “I always prefer to be optimistic.”

Steamboat averages 308 inches of snow per ski season, with the snowiest winter still fresh in residents’ minds from 2007-08, when 489 inches fell. However, last year, the resort had only 261.75 inches.

Several other Colorado ski resorts already have opened terrain for the 2010-11 season.

Breckenridge Ski Resort, which opened Nov. 12, has seven of 31 lifts open, 22 percent of its acreage. Winter Park Resort opened Wednesday with top-to-bottom skiing. Vail plans to open Friday with nine lifts including the Northwoods lift and Game Creek Bowl, one of the best openings in Vail’s history, according to mountain officials.

Kasten said Steamboat has opened with top-to-bottom skiing when conditions allowed.

Safe early season

In the rush for early season powder, safety should remain a priority, resort officials noted.

According to the Ski Corp. news release, the resort warned skiers and riders to be cautious of snowmaking equipment, snowcats, winch and cable systems and avalanche control work that Steamboat Ski Patrol has planned for Monday and Tuesday.

In its preseason report, the Colorado Avalanche Infor­­mation Center said avalanche activity has been reported across the state. Natural and human-triggered slides were seen in Summit and Eagle counties, and an observer in Steamboat reported soft snow slides.

Rench had a simple solution to early season safety concerns.

“I think they should stay off the mountain at all costs,” he said with a laugh.

Sarcasm aside, there will be plenty of days for residents and visitors alike to share in what many hope will be plentiful snow.

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