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A festive end to ski season

An unidentified man wearing a large black wig lets fly with a snowball Sunday at Steamboat Ski Area. The ski area's Broadway run is a traditional gathering spot for revelry on the last day of the ski season, and this year was no different, as scores of costumed, rambunctious people convened on the side of the ski trail.
Mike Lawrence

— Gorillas, superheroes, butterflies and angels crowded the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area on Sunday, as skiers and snowboarders once again gave a festive end to the ski season by donning colorful clothing – or lack of it – and costumes of all kinds while taking a few final turns down Mount Werner.

“There’s a lot of good energy here today,” said Steamboat resident Hudson Maynard, who sported a tall, afro-style wig and no shirt while waiting in line for the Storm Peak Express lift with children Willow and Isaiah, also in full costume regalia.

Creative attire is a closing-day tradition at the ski area, which finished the season with 333 inches of snow recorded since Oct. 10, according to the ski area’s Web site, http://www.steamboat.com. While that accumulation is just a few inches less than Steamboat’s annual average, it is nearly 100 inches less than the winter of 2005-06, which brought 431 inches to Mount Werner.



Looking back on the winter just ended, some skiers couldn’t help but compare the past two seasons.

“After last winter, what is there to say?” said John Rohde, who lives in a house that can be seen from the ski area’s gondola. “We got a little spoiled last year.”



Still, Rohde said he and wife Suzanne Rohde logged about 90 days on the mountain this year, many with their son Asher, a 13-year-old seventh-grader and ski racer with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

And at the top of Storm Peak, Steamboat resident Nancy Thompson noted that when snow did fall this winter, it fell at the right times.

“There was a lot of snow that came on the weekends,” Thompson said. “It was really a pretty good season, considering the amount of snow we had.”

Local high school student Leigh Thielen took a philosophical view of the season.

“Seen better, seen worse,” she said at the top of Buddy’s Run, while wearing a “Star Wars” Jedi robe and challenging classmate Courtney Adamo to a duel with plastic light-sabers.

McKenyon King, 8, said he had a great winter on the mountain.

“It was awesome,” he said of the season.

Many skiers and snowboarders spent Sunday relaxing in the sun, particularly on the Broadway ski trail, a closing-day gathering spot that featured free-flying snowballs, free-flowing alcohol and frequent half-nakedness.

“It’s quite rowdy,” Steamboat resident Drew Finkbeiner said of the Broadway scene.

Ski patrol director John Kohnke said Sunday evening that he was still assessing the day’s festivities, which he compared to a New Year’s Eve celebration.

“Initially, it seems like it went OK,” Kohnke said. “I’ll probably know more (Monday). We do have a concern about alcohol consumption and responsible drinking. I know it’s a festive atmosphere, and I know people are having fun – and we promote fun – but from the patrol perspective, safety is always the primary concern. It’s been a wonderful season, and our goal is to ensure a safe and happy end to the season.”

Kohnke said his staff cycled through the Broadway area “all day long” to monitor the situation and circulate through the crowd. Extra trash cans were placed in the area. People were “very polite and very respectful” of ski patrollers, Kohnke said.

The festivities continued after the ski area closed, as many people rode a late-afternoon lift and hiked to the top of Storm Peak for some aprÃs-ski-season revelry.

“Once the lifts are closed, it kind of reverts back to National Forest land up there,” Kohnke said, adding that his staff again spoke with members of the crowd, offered assistance down the mountain, and advised people of when ski patrol would no longer be available at the top of Storm Peak.

“Our main concern is that everybody gets down safely,” Kohnke said.

The winter of 2007-08 will bring significant changes to the ski area. The new ownership by Intrawest Colorado, re-grading of the Headwall ski run, base area redevelopment projects and preliminary construction of the One Steamboat Place development adjacent to the gondola building will all change the look and feel of Steamboat Ski Area.

“It will be interesting to see what happens next winter,” Suzanne Rohde said. “Fortunately, the summers here are short.”

To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com


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