Christie Peak Express and $20 lift tickets launch 2012-13 season in Steamboat |

Christie Peak Express and $20 lift tickets launch 2012-13 season in Steamboat

— The Steamboat Ski Area will kick off its 50th anniversary season at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday when the Christie Peak Express begins ferrying skiers and riders up Mount Werner for an inaugural run that will approximate what skiers experienced on a frigid Jan. 12, 1963, when an old double chairlift hauled the first skiers to the same Christie Summit.

Intermediate skiers will weave turns down Sitz to Vogue with the option of diverting to Stampede or Jess' Cut-Off. The Desperado learning area will be open, and watch for some hits off terrain features at the top of Vogue. And with Wednesday’s season opening, the Steamboat Ski Area will have officially reached middle age.

Ski area officials wrote in a news release Monday that with continued snowmaking, cold temperatures and hopefully additional natural snow, they will work toward opening a portion of Heavenly Daze to skiers' right along with the gondola during the weekend. But it's all dependent upon the weather. The extended forecast as of Monday evening called for sunny skies and daytime highs in the upper 40s to low 50s through the week. Overnight lows in the valley will reach the mid-20s.

Wednesday is Scholarship Day, with $20 lift tickets benefiting the competitive skiing programs of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Multi-day passes will be held in abeyance until Thanksgiving Day, when the price of a daily ticket bumps to $49. Lift ticket pricing will be adjusted when the gondola begins operating.

However, skiers and riders can lock in three days on the slopes for $129 between Thanksgiving and Dec. 14 with the purchase of a Boat Launch pass online at or through Steamboat Central Reservations at least 48 hours in advance.

Wednesday’s benefit tickets at $20 represent a $5 reduction from 2011, when the gondola opened on Scholarship Day and all-mountain tickets cost $25. Lower-mountain passes were $20.

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The offseason brought much anticipation to Steamboat powderhounds who made the most of a 2011-12 winter that produced a disappointing 228 inches of snow all season.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Diamond pointed out that every opening day is full of unknown promises.

"Whether it's your first or 50th, opening day is truly magical as it represents a new beginning to a season full of unlimited possibilities and discovery," Diamond was quoted as saying in the news release. "This year, it carries even more significance, excitement and energy as we celebrate a historical milestone — 50 years of skiing and riding at the Steamboat Ski Area."

The first skiers and riders to board Christie Peak Express on Wednesday will want to keep their eyes open for the possibility of prizes; there will be free demos, dinners and lift tickets placed on random chairs.

And the best-loved horn section in New Orleans will take the stage in Gondola Square at 2 p.m. Saturday when the Dirty Dozen Brass Band performs a free show.

As always, safety matters, Ski Patrol’s John Kohnke said.

"Everyone needs to ski and ride with care, within their ability levels," Kohnke was quoted as saying.

He urged skiers to stay watchful for unmarked obstacles and to respect all closures and safety signage.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email