Ski area reports smooth opening Saturday
November 21, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Lindsey Reznicek's life as a skier began at age 3 at the Steamboat Ski Area. So, it's only fitting that Saturday, she was able to bring her daughter, 3-year-old Claire, to that same place for her very first ski lesson.
"She was very excited," Reznicek said of Claire.
The Steamboat Ski Area kicked off its 53rd winter season Saturday, its first early opening since 2002. With plenty of early-season snowfall and a 22-inch snow base at mid-mountain as of Saturday, conditions were ripe to get the ski season underway a few days early.
"There was obviously a lot of built-up excitement for this, just because of how much snow we got in the month of November alone," said Loryn Kasten, public relations manager for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. "So we were excited we had the ability to open up early and share that with everyone. The turnout this morning, and all day today, was fabulous."
Kasten said she arrived at the resort around 7 a.m., and already, a handful of people were in line to be the first on the chairlift and, therefore, first down the mountain. The only chairlift operating Saturday was Christie Peak Express, which didn't open until 8:30 a.m.
"So they were amped," Kasten said. "Then, all day long, there were great crowds with people who were really excited to be on their skis or snowboards."
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According to the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., as of Saturday, the ski area had received 51.5 inches of snowfall since Oct. 1, including an inch within 24 hours of opening. With only one lift and seven trails available — 21.5 of the 2,965 acres of the ski area were accessible — there weren't a lot of options for skiers.
But that didn't stop hundreds of people from coming out for their first taste of the mountain this winter. It was also the first chance for the ski area to get itself into gear, with many of its employees — from lift operators to ski patrol — having started training only this week.
"Our crews had to put in a lot of work to make this happen," Kasten said. "It was a big effort by everybody to make sure we could open early and that we had the right products for our guests and that it would be a good time."
Saturday also marked the first run for the resort's new radio frequency identification, or RFID, gates. Installed for the first time this season, the new technology allows for hands-free access via the small RFID chips implanted in season passes. The system is designed to make lines move more quickly through the lifts and the gondola, meaning skiers can spend more time making turns on the snow.
"With any new system, there is going to be kinks, and we thought it went very smoothly," Kasten said. "It was a good little test run to have our staff understand how the RFID technology works in action. It's amazing to see how fast that system moves things along."
The ski area will be open again Sunday, with Christie Peak Express operating from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The mountain will then close Monday and Tuesday before re-opening Wednesday for its annual Scholarship Day, a fundraiser for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Season passes will not be accepted that day.
The mountain will begin regular daily operations Thursday, the originally scheduled opening date. Kasten said they hope to know by Monday evening how much of the mountain will be available for use on Scholarship Day, but it's expected to be significantly more than was available this weekend.
"We will use Monday and Tuesday to work on other trails on the mountain," Kasten said. "Get the systems fully ready, get the rest of our employees through orientation and training and then, will start daily operations on Wednesday with Scholarship Day … starting Thursday, we are rocking and rolling with season passes."
Scholarship Day tickets are priced at $30, with a $20 lower mountain option.
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