Opening weekend conditions welcomed; more snow on its way

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— Opening weekend of Steamboat Ski Area saw sunny skies and some of the best early-season snow on the ground in recent memory. The snowstorms in October and early November helped pave the way for the pristine conditions, and more snow during the next few days coupled with frigid temperatures should add to it.

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National Weather Service technician Dan Cuevas out of the Grand Junction office said there is a 30 percent chance of snow Monday but estimated that about 12 to 18 more inches of snow at the ski area could accumulate by Thursday.

Later on this week, Steamboat also could see the season’s first sub-zero overnight temperatures.

“We’ll probably be seeing the coldest temperatures we’ve seen with this incoming storm,” Cuevas said.

Temperature highs Monday should be between 25 and 35 degrees, Cuevas said, dropping into the 10s Tuesday night with as much as 3 inches of snow. On Thursday night, the National Weather Service forecast is calling for -4 degrees.

There also is expected to be some gusty winds as high as 25 miles per hour Tuesday. Snow and wind downtown and on the valley floor, however, won't add up to much, Cuevas said.

Those late-fall, early-winter conditions should be met with all smiles by area skiers and riders. A blanket of fresh snow is on its way, but the terrain conditions since Scholarship Day on Wednesday have been near perfect.

“I would say these are some of the best conditions in the 28 seasons that I’ve skied Opening Day,” longtime Steamboat resident and former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Joe Kelly said. “To have Storm Peak open is just amazing right from the start. And to have it covered like this, there are very few rocks showing up there.”

From those picking up snowsports for the first time to experts, opening weekend had just about everything to offer on a pair of skis or a snowboard.

“I haven’t seen conditions like this, and I’ve been out here since 2006,” ski area snowboard instructor Ned Cremin said. “Everybody’s really pumped to have so much terrain open. There are a lot more choices. There’s not only beginner terrain, but intermediate and some advanced.”

Cremin said business at the ski area was noticeably up from past seasons' opening weekends. The massive precipitation and snow buildup since Oct. 1 certainly drew some outside tourists to the ski area's 781 acres open during the weekend, but Cremin said it was mostly a home-front crowd.

“The snow conditions brought a lot of people out,” he said. “Not only tourists, but a lot of Coloradoans have come out, too.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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