No opening day the same at Steamboat Ski Area
November 18, 2015
Steamboat Springs — History shows every opening day at the Steamboat Ski Area is different.
The last time the ski area decided to open early was Friday, Nov. 22, 2002, five days in advance of the originally scheduled opening.
That morning, the first 70 skiers who arrived were greeted with breakfast burritos prepared by a group of local residents. Four guys even camped out at the bottom of the Storm Peak Express lift to guarantee they got the first turns down from the summit.
"We have been blessed with a cooler-than-average fall, making ideal conditions for snowmaking," Vice President of Mountain Operations Doug Allen said in 2002. "This mixed with some 60 inches of snowfall (measured at Thunderhead) will make for one of the best openings that Steamboat has seen."
On the hill, skiers found untracked, deep, yet heavy snow with a few crusty spots.
Down at the base area, skiers laid out and got a tan under sunny skies in 50-plus-degree weather.
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That opening day, 45 percent of the ski area's terrain was open, with 64 trails encompassing 1,284 acres. Before that, the most terrain available opening day was 43 percent in 1985.
Not only was there top-to-bottom skiing, but with a 35-inch base at the summit, the ski area chose to open some of the popular tree runs.
One longtime local told Steamboat Today that, during the 1970s, it was not unusual to safely ski the trees until January.
Large amounts of early-season snow have not always meant an early opening at the ski area.
Despite what would prove to be a record 70 inches of snow in November 2010, opening day went on as originally scheduled, with top-to-bottom skiing, seven inches of new snow and 35 percent of the terrain open.
This year, with 47.5 inches of combined October and November snowfall and a 21-inch base at mid-mountain, the ski area credited both the natural snowfall, cold temperatures and snowmaking technology with being able to open early — at least to the top of Christy Peak Express.
It is a bonus for local residents, and tourism might also get a boost from the added publicity Aspen Mountain and Snowmass also received by opening early.
"There is a little bit of that, too," Colorado Ski Country spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph said. "It's kind of like when there is a Broncos game, and it snows, and it's shown to people all across the county. Maybe it's extra motivation to book that ski vacation."
In 2002, lift tickets were $15 for opening day, which typically serves as Scholarship Day, with proceeds going to support Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes.
This year, the early opening day will not serve as Scholarship Day, and lift tickets will run $49 on Saturday and Sunday, with access to the lower mountain. Season passes can also be used.
Scholarship Day will be held on the originally scheduled date of Nov. 25, with lift ticket prices of $30 and $20 for access to the lower mountain. By then, the ski area could be open from top to bottom, which Winter Sports Club Director Jim Boyne hopes will attract a big crowd and a correspondingly large donation from the ski area. During that epic 2010 opening day, a record $76,665 was raised.
Boyne encouraged everyone to celebrate the snow and support a good cause.
"It's a lot more than getting out to get your ski on," Boyne said. "When you come out on Scholarship Day, it makes a difference for a lot of young athletes in Steamboat."