Skiers enjoy knee-deep powder at Steamboat Ski Area | SteamboatToday.com

Skiers enjoy knee-deep powder at Steamboat Ski Area

— The beards coming off the mountain told the story of an epic morning of powder skiing Thursday at the Steamboat Ski area.

"Best day I've had," Steamboat Springs snowboarder Paul Smith said after giving his friend Tim Rabbitt a high five.

Between 5 a.m. Wednesday and 5 a.m. Thursday, the ski area received 20 inches at mid-mountain and 20 inches at the summit.

The snow was knee-deep in most places.

"It got skied pretty hard yesterday I think," skier Benjamin Hoffner said. "For the year, it's definitely No. 1, but all-time, I've been up there when it's waist-deep."

With steady snow Wednesday, it was no secret that Thursday was going to be a powder day.

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Residents with powder clauses made plans to take the morning off work.

The Meadows parking lot filled up quickly, and skiers started lining up early at the Gondola to get first tracks.

Once the gondola opened, skiers flocked to the summit, while others found the goods at lower elevation.

"We mainly stayed lower mountain," Rabbitt said. "Powder was just as good down low as it was up high."

Lower mountain further proved to be a good option because of delays at Pony Express, Morningside and Sunshine Express lifts.

Ski area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said the delays related to the amount of snow that fell.

In addition, Pony Express was closed for 11 minutes starting at 9:50 a.m. because there was a spacing issue with the chairs.

Over three days, 32.5 inches of snow fell at mid-mountain, which was in line with what forecasters predicted.

Thursday morning's 20-inch reading made for a memorable day of skiing, but it was shy of the 27-inch record set on Feb. 20, 2012. An additional seven inches fell that day to give the ski area 34 inches of snow in a 30-hour period.

Like that day, Steamboat was again the big winner Thursday morning, and other Colorado ski areas understandably had some snow envy.

Monarch was the runner-up with 20 inches of snow. Crested Butte had 16 inches, 10 inches fell at Aspen and Winter Park saw 11 inches. Vail only saw 6 inches of snow in a 48-hour period, but they received additional snow during the day Thursday.

Snowy Range in southern Wyoming saw a whopping 39 inches of snow.

Steamboat now has a 64-inch base at mid-mountain, and 161 inches of snow has fallen since Nov. 1.

So far, 32.5 inches of snow has fallen in January. On average, 78.2 inches of snow falls in January.

The ski area was reminding guests and pass holders to use caution on the mountain.

"This is the type of storm that has us reminding guests that there is always room for a friend on a powder day," Steamboat Ski Patrol director John Kohnke said. "Deep snow conditions exist on all parts of the mountain, and we want skiers and riders to enjoy the mountain safely. Especially if they are riding in the trees, remember to steer clear of tree wells and stay with a partner."

Joel Gratz, who runs opensnow.com, wrote that the next chance of snow is on Sunday through Tuesday. There is another chance of snow at the end of next week.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland