Steamboat Springs There were many ways in which Sunday’s closing day at the Steamboat Ski Area was different from the end of past ski seasons.
The gondola shuttled skiers and snowboarders up and down over budding aspen trees and lower-mountain trails that have been closed for weeks. Light snow flurries Sunday taunted the skiers and riders who spent much of the season waiting for big snow.
The lackluster snow year led many to doubt whether the resort could even stay open until Sunday.
It did. And just like in seasons past, Closing Day was a jovial occasion.
Hundreds of people packed the base of the ski area Sunday afternoon to watch skiers clad in costumes try to skim over a cold pond that was 70 feet long, 20 feet wide and 4 feet deep.
Spiderman made it across and did a dance in front of the crowd. Joshua Tanner wasn’t so lucky, but he was glad the Splashdown Pond Skim drew a crowd.
“This is fantastic. I’m glad everybody came down here for this even though it’s the end of the season,” Tanner said after he skied into the pond dressed as Gene Simmons of Kiss. “It shows everybody’s support for the mountain.”
After the fifth annual pond skim, hundreds stayed for free concerts by Toots and the Maytals and JJ Grey & Mofro.
“This year it obviously took a little bit of extra effort,” ski area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said about the closing day activities. “Our mountain crews did a phenomenal job of creating a pond where there was not even snow before today. We’re all excited another great season has come to a close, and we’re looking forward to the next one.”
An unusual season
The ski area ended the season with just 37 trails spanning about 600 acres. It received 228 inches of snow at mid-mountain this season compared to 433 last season. Still, many local skiers were quick to mention February’s 27-inch powder day as a highlight.
“It has definitely been an unusual season, and I think it put all of the people in the Steamboat community to the true test to see how everyone shows that Western spirit even when the snow isn’t what we’re used to,” Kasten said. “We didn’t know if we were going to make it, but we were able to because of the efforts of the crews on the mountain who were maintaining the snow, tilling it and grooming it every day.”
Standing in Gondola Square as hundreds gathered around a stage for the final closing day concert, Otto Seibel also reflected on the season.
“We were desperate for good snow, but it never came,” he said. “But snowboarders and skiers have a certain spirit. Mother Nature is going to give us what she’s going to give us, and we’re going to make the best of it and enjoy it.”