Early season snow brings smiles to faces of visitors at Steamboat Ski Touring Center | SteamboatToday.com

Early season snow brings smiles to faces of visitors at Steamboat Ski Touring Center

Gail Smith makes her way along the trails at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center earlier this week. The center at the Rollingstone Ranch & Club opened in mid-November. The operators of the course said the Haymaker touring center will open Dec. 12.

— A broad smile crossed Gail Smith's face as she was photographed making her way along the Fish Creek trail at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center on Wednesday afternoon.

She insisted, with a slight blush, that she's not the greatest cross country skier and that there might be better skiing along in a few minutes. It was hard to ignore the fact that she was having a good time, and there is plenty of time to work on her form since the season still is young.

The Ski Touring Center has all but 4 of its 15 kilometers open for the season. The operators plan to open 8 kilometers of additional terrain at Haymaker Golf Course on Dec. 12, offering local cross country skiers plenty of terrain to explore.

"We have Kajsa's, Elk Valley and Fish Creek all open, and we are working on more," said Birgitta Lindgren, owner of the Ski Touring Center.

Last year the Ski Touring Center expanded its operations to the Haymaker, which offers a new opportunity for skiers who live or are visiting the Yampa Valley in the winter.

"The first winter at Haymaker went great," Lindgren said.

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The new trails at Haymaker drew people back to the sport, Lindgren said, especially those who were looking for a little more forgiving terrain than what the Ski Touring Center offers on the mountain — most of the terrain at Haymaker is moderate.

"It brought back an older crowd," Lindgren said. "I was happy to see that the terrain brought back a lot of skiers that I have not seen in years."

She said the new trails at Haymaker have expanded the variety of terrain offered in Steamboat Springs, giving local skiers and visitors choices when deciding where to ski. When the trails open at Haymaker on Dec. 12, the passes will cost just $5 that day and then will increase to $18 per day.

The skiing shop at the Ski Touring Center opened Nov. 5 and the trails opened a few days later Nov. 17. The cost for a trail ticket currently is $12 and skiers can expect early season conditions. The heavy snow allowed the Ski Touring Center to open a majority of its trails before Thanksgiving. However, Lindgren still is hoping for more snow to open the remaining trails, including Boot Hill.

Lessons also are in full swing, and the center is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day.

In addition, the Ski Touring Center is offering a special lunch-trail ticket deal for $20. That price includes lunch (excluding the drink and dessert extra) and a trail pass. Lynne Romeo, who formerly owned and operated Ciao Gelato in downtown Steamboat Springs, will be running the diner this year. She will offer a variety of Italian specialties such as pizza, stromboli and paninis. But the Ski Touring Center's traditional lunch of homemade soup and Limpa bread also will be available. The pizza, paninis and stromboli also are available for takeout.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966