Early birds beat the lines at Steamboat Ski Resort
December 27, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Early bird skiers get the fresh corduroy.
If there is a universal axiom about skiing at a Western resort such as Steamboat during the week between Christmas and New Year's, it's the importance of getting into the gondola line by 9:15 a.m.
Sleep-in and you can expect to waste some precious time in the gondola line. It's especially important to arrive before 10 a.m. if you have yet to purchase your lift ticket. That means standing in two lines — one single-file line at the ticket office, and a second at the gondola.
I pulled into the Meadows Parking Lot at 8:45 a.m. Dec. 27, and was surprised to find it only about a third full, a sure sign that the morning rush at the gondola had yet to arrive.
“This is an authentic town that happens to have a ski resort...I really appreciate what it is to be tied to a special place like this.”
– Michigan skier Jake Fagan
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Next, I ran into one local skier in the parking lot who was already done skiing for the day. He claimed to have already skied four runs off the top of Storm Peak with ample time to get to work. There's a guy who knows how to time his holiday skiing.
As of 9:15 a.m., Dec. 27, skiers and snowboarders were flowing through the gondola maze at a brisk pace, but 45 minutes later, the maze was full. And there was also a long line at the ticket windows.
But then, one meets the nicest people in line at the ski area, people like Ally Stermer a high school art teacher from Bend, Oregon, who is visiting friends and family members who congregated in Steamboat this week.
Stermer is a former resident of Fort Collins, just a hop and a jump over Cameron Pass from the Yampa Valley, and knows the Steamboat Ski Area well. Which makes it all the more surprising that she slept in Wednesday morning and found herself in a long line to purchase her lift pass.
Although she didn't qualify as an early bird, Stermer did have birds on her mind.
Asked about her favorite area on Mount Werner, she didn't hesitate, "I go straight to Morningside because you can feed the bird," Stermer said.
When I gave her a quizzical look, her companion pulled his phone out of his pocket and showed me a photograph of Stermer riding the Morningside chairlift with a Clark's Nutcracker in midair, flaring its wings within inches of Stermer's outstretched hand.
Of course we all know better than to feed wild animals, don't we?
"I only feed them nuts and seeds," Stermer confirmed. And she also enjoys the terrain in Morningside almost as much as the social jay birds.
"I like the trees and the bumpy trails," Stermer said.
The ski area announced Dec. 26 it had opened 49 trails and 1,200 acres of terrain within the span of 48 hours. That brought the number of operating lifts to 14, including Sunshine and Sundown, which truly opened up the Priest Creek area.
However, the ski area could use another powder dump just like the last one; a skier coming off the mountain Wednesday said that after taking a look at Rolex and West Side, and seeing vegetation sticking up through the snow, he opted to ski down the cat-track known as Broadway.
Loyal Steamboat skier Jake Fagan of Midland, Michigan, said great snow is only a piece of Steamboat's appeal for him. While pursuing a degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Fagan said he skied Aspen and Vail, but found he felt more comfortable in Steamboat.
"I first came here in 1982 and have returned almost every year since," Fagan said. "This is an authentic town that happens to have a ski resort. And I've gotten to know people here – families like the Iacovettos and the Romicks, I really appreciate what it is to be tied to a special place like this."