First powder day at Steamboat Springs

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— Discrete math, differential equations, circuits, digital logic, water chemistry, material and water balances.

Or powder?

The classes University of Colorado students Jesse Nestler and Max Dunn missed on Wednesday indicate two things.

One, the pair are probably intelligent and have spent ample time holed up inside Norlin Library on the Boulder campus. And two, their willingness to skip a day of classes proves Steamboat Ski Area’s first powder day of the 2013-14 season shouldn't be missed.

“With great powder,” Dunn said, “comes great irresponsibility.”

While Opening Day draws a crowd and signifies the start of ski season, the first powder day of the year is the true rite of passage.

The ski area reported 9 inches of fresh snow at mid-mountain Wednesday, making that early alarm clock ring sound like the voice of an angel.

“How many people here probably have work today?,” Steamboat resident Erik Brooks asked rhetorically as the gondola lines began to lengthen.

It’s a routine, Brooks said, that every Steamboat skier or snowboarder is used to. Check the weather. Check it again. Check it again and again.

Then get the gear ready, put it near the door for easy access and get prepared for the first powder day of the year.

“I checked the weather probably 10 times,” Brooks said. “I saw anything from 3 to 7 (inches) to 19 to 24 (inches.)"

If the early snow didn’t tell riders it was a midseason powder day, the sub-zero conditions did. Negative 6 degree temperatures greeted an unusually small gondola powder crowd.

But it didn’t deter Nestler or Dunn. The two Colorado students looked at snow reports and depths starting Monday. That night it was determined Steamboat was the place to be Wednesday morning.

The pair drove up from Denver Tuesday night, parked in a friend's driveway and slept in the backseat of a Honda Civic coupe.

All in the name of that glorious Steamboat powder.

“This,” Nestler said, “is much better than class.”

Depending upon weather and mountain conditions, new terrain could soon be open, with the ski area reporting close to 100 inches of snowfall this year. According to the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., 83 trails covering 1,228 acres, or nearly 42 percent of the resort’s terrain, will be open by Thursday.

Elkhead, Preview and Bashor lifts will open Friday. Thunderhead is scheduled to open Dec. 11, followed by Sundown Express, Sunshine Express and South Peak on Dec. 12.

Morningside Park and Pony Express are scheduled to open Dec. 20 and Dec. 21 respectively.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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