‘It happened’: The ski season that was never guaranteed closes out at Steamboat Resort
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With five belts from the Steamboat horn, the ski season that was never guaranteed to start came to a close at Steamboat Resort on Sunday.
As the first horn sounded, a mad dash to the gondola began with skiers and riders shuffling as quickly as they could to get on the gondola one last time before it closes for good — at that location at least.
By the time the last horn sounded, it was accompanied by cheers and applause from a Gondola Square crowd that seemed appreciative the season was able to happen at all.
For Linda Danter, Sunday marked the end of her 18th season working at Steamboat Resort. Normally, the last day of the season is a sad day, but this year is a mix of both, she said.
“For us, it has been a very stressful year, so I am glad to move on,” said Danter, who works as an ambassador for the resort. “But of course, my pals that I work with all winter long, I will miss them so much.”
Ambassadors at the resort have been dressing up to different themes all week, and Sunday’s theme was superheroes. While other caped ambassadors dawned spandex and masks — in addition to their now commonplace face covering — Danter’s superhero outfit was a tribute to Rob Perlman, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.’s president and COO.
For some, the slopes offered a reprieve from the pandemic.
“Getting out on the mountain and getting the fresh air and good feelings, good vibes, it all just kind of felt as if there was a post-pandemic world out there,” said Tommy Ball, who lives in Steamboat Springs and skied about 100 days this season.
Ball’s sister, Natalie Ball, who moved to Steamboat last month after spending the pandemic as a nurse in New York, said it was incredible to have an outlet like skiing in such a stressful year.
“In our world, we call them outdoorphins,” Natalie said, mashing together the words “outdoors” and “endorphins.” “Coming out and being able to be outside and doing any activity you can is really just amazing.”
The Row family were all shredding up the slushy late afternoon snow Sunday, including 21-month-old Jace, who has become a pretty good skier in his first season, according to his mother Kiyah Row.
“I would say it was a lifesaver with him,” Kiyah said about being able to get out to ski during a pandemic with a young child.
Steamboat local Charlie MacArthur was also nearing his 100th day on the mountain Sunday, where he utilizes the resort’s uphill policy.
“On a year where we weren’t sure, it happened, so nothing to complain about at all,” MacArthur said. “All my days are uphill, and I am glad the resort lets it happen.”
Phippsburg resident Joe Lozano said last season was going well until the shutdown. Like many, Lozano said it was disappointing to have such a low snow year, but, “It is still fun.” Lozano was there Sunday with his children, and each of them skied 25 or more days this season.
When the resort closed last year, Steamboat local John Paulus had skied 65 days. Paulus, who took his wife on a date to Steamboat in the 1980s where she learned to ski, has been coming to Steamboat every year since 1998 and bought a place locally in 2003.
As someone who has been very careful about his own exposure to COVID-19, Paulus said he feels the resort has been doing a good job enforcing safety measures, like mask wearing.
“The mountain has done an amazing job,” Paulus said. “I felt totally comfortable this year. At first, I wasn’t going to ride the gondola, but then it’s like it is no big deal; we can have all the windows open.”
Sunday marks the end of an era at Steamboat Resort, with construction on a new gondola terminal beginning later this month. By next season, the base area will look quite different, with the new gondola building being about 300 feet to the east over Burgess Creek, where the magic carpets are now.
This will allow the resort to redevelop the square over the next three years, adding new amenities like an ice rink, fire pits and more communal space.
“I think it is going to be cool. This beige building is really just smack dab in the middle of everything,” Tommy Ball said, referring to the current gondola terminal. “I think that will just improve the whole experience of arriving and being able to see the mountain.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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