Kelsey McMillan sinks as she glides across the water Sunday at the Slash Down Pond Skim competition at Steamboat Ski Area. The competition helped mark Closing Day for the resort.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Kelsey McMillan sinks as she glides across the water Sunday at the Slash Down Pond Skim competition at Steamboat Ski Area. The competition helped mark Closing Day for the resort.

Steamboat skiers and riders flock to send off the season

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— In the sense that no season is the same and that there’s no average Steamboat Springs winter, there’s no average Closing Day at Steamboat Ski Area.

Thus Sunday was, naturally, unique. It was another powder day, 8 inches of fresh snow making for a 60-inch base greeting the long streams of locals who swarmed to the gondola to cap the 338-inch season.

It also was windy, halting operations for several chairlifts and perhaps making for some uncomfortable runs, but stopping far short of blowing away the day’s exuberance.

Still, Closing Day is defined for so many by tradition, and on Sunday, Steamboat observed one of its holy days, dutifully saying goodbye in ritualistic fashion as Steamboat Ski Area closed for the season.

Some head up on Closing Day to add to a tally.

“This makes 20 in a row,” one skier said, riding up the gondola just after noon.

He ticked off another Closing Day tradition, cracking open a beer for the ride up.

Skiers and snowboarders tore across the mountain and worked for one last lift-assisted go at their favorite stashes. Plenty did so wearing the officially unofficial Closing Day uniform: the goofiest thing you have in your closet.

That was the dress code all around the mountain for Closing Day skiers of all experience. Donna and Jeff Henderson ended part-time Steamboat status by moving to town last year, and Sunday enjoyed their first Closing Day as full-time residents. And they fit right in, Donna in a flashy pink poodle skirt she re-discovered in her closet, a remnant of a party several years back.

“We realized that costumes are appropriate,” Jeff said.

The story was similar for the 73 participants in the annual Closing Day pond skim competition, as well, though given the complexity of various get-ups, that may have come as a surprise.

Third place finisher Liam Baxter, a 10-year old who made the event’s top 3 for the second time in as many years, couldn’t find a whole ape costume in his house but settled for a full-body shark costume with a werewolf head. The “were-shark,” not to mention Baxter’s misty into the pool, again proved popular with judges.

“It was cold,” he said.

Will Cheesebro has become a Closing Day tradition all by himself, thanks to his outlandish pond skim costumes and performances. He didn’t disappoint Sunday, appearing as if he’d raided his sister’s room circa 1984, all the way down to the hoop earrings. Maybe that’s really all there was to it, as he said it was all the product of spur-of-the-moment thinking. His vintage skis might have been a bit long for a Ms. Cheesebro, but he said they worked just fine for him.

“I skied some pow on the straight skis. It was cold but worth it,” he said, after finishing second.

The day’s winners, however, made the best of one very key prop: dual sets of bindings on one set of skis. It took some practice, time to absorb what they labeled the key lesson that “communication is important.” But, Dave Burford and Mike Maroney claimed to have skied from the top of Storm Peak down to the pond skim competition, and there they shined.

They hit a kicker in front of the pool, flying in a perfect dual spread eagle before they splashed down.

They claimed another pair of skis among their prize haul, so there’s no need to share a ride going forward.

Soon after that, the bands started and Gondola Square filled to the brim, Steamboat showing up in droves to bid the 2012-13 season adieu.

Of course, even some skiers offered their own salute, slipping by the hubbub, strapping on skins and beginning a hike up the mountain.

Sometimes it's just so hard to say goodbye.

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