A man skis below the Burgess Creek lift on Thursday at Steamboat Ski Area.

Photo by Matt Stensland

A man skis below the Burgess Creek lift on Thursday at Steamboat Ski Area.

Skiers and riders feast on terrain at Opening Day of Steamboat Ski Area

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Skies and snowboarders head down Burgess Creek on Thursday at Steamboat Ski Area.

— Thanksgiving Day 2010 will go down as one when Steamboat carved a lot more than turkey.

Yes, Thursday was a day made for Thanksgiving puns and asides as eager skiers and riders gobbled up and gave thanks for what were the best season-opening conditions anyone can seem to remember.

“This is the best snow I’ve ever seen for this time of year,” 30-year Steamboat skier Ben Goldner said. “Couldn’t ask for anything better for turkey day.”

Skiers and riders relished 76 open trails, accessed by six lifts, all on top of a 36-inch base.

There were no mashed potatoes or corn here. It was all gravy for skiers and riders thanks to the big dumps of the past two weeks.

The mountain was covered in soft, powdery conditions, on a day that proved good not just for Opening Day or Thanksgiving, but for any day.

“This is some of the best skiing we’ve ever had,” skier Karen Dingee said. “We’re from Florida, though.”

Plenty of Steamboat residents agreed that this one was special.

The ski area officially turned on its lifts Wednesday for the annual Scholarship Day fundraiser for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Thursday marked the first day for season pass holders, and many took advantage.

All realized the blessing that was skiing and snowboarding on so much terrain this early in the season. Steamboat opened a fraction as many trails to start each of the previous two seasons. Three years ago, the ski area pushed back its Opening Day into December because of a lack of snow.

“We booked this a year ago, and we weren’t expecting much”, said Dingee, who along with a condo full of friends and family took advantage of a deal at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort.

“We just said, ‘If they have snow, great. If they don’t, OK.’ It worked our perfect. It was a great investment.”

For everyone, it was a day of getting acquainted or reacquainted with the mountain and the sports.

Emma Elliott, 6, visiting with her family from the Denver area, took to the groomed slopes of Buddy’s Run tenuously, working her skis into the pie — pumpkin pie, surely — formation as she began her third year skiing.

“We hope to have her skiing parallel by tomorrow,” her mother, Jennifer Elliott, said.

Big brother Ian, 8, was quicker to regain form, feasting on gentle grades with pointers from his father, Michael Elliott.

Still, things took a little getting used to.

“Rust? Oh yeah, we all had to shake the rust off,” Jennifer Elliott said with a laugh. “We had to shake the rust and the age and the wax off the bottom of the skis.”

The sun hung low in the middle of the afternoon Thursday and the day’s enthusiasts made their way down, many off for a real Thanksgiv­ing Day dinner.

Some were already dreaming about seconds.

“We’ll come out two more days,” Jennifer Elliott said. “We’ll enjoy the beautiful Colorado sun, the blue sky and this great snow.”

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

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