John F. Russell: Opening Day conditions don’t define season |

John F. Russell: Opening Day conditions don’t define season

— I've been working at the Steamboat Pilot & Today for a long time, and throughout the years, I've seen all kinds of Opening Days.

Some years, not unlike this one, I've headed up the hill on the first day of ski season to find a ribbon of man-made snow winding from the lower mountain to the base. But there have been other years when I've found several feet of snow from the top of the mountain to the bottom.

There is no rhyme or reason to it, but I've also learned never to put too much thought into Opening Day. I don't run out and learn the snow dance or start praying to the snow gods this early. I just try to remain positive and make the most of whatever happens.

I've also come to understand that there isn't much we can do to bring snow to the area. Mother Nature and the snow gods (or weather patterns) control that, and not much will influence them.

Instead, I choose to celebrate the good years and to remain positive during the tough years.

I can remember years that started out slow and ended with a big bang. There was a winter back in the early to mid-’90s when you still could see the ground at my in-laws’ downtown Steamboat Springs home on New Year’s Eve. But the next day, the snow started falling, and it continued to fall every day in January. By the end of the month, you couldn't find a patch of grass anywhere, and we were on our way to a great year.

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This year, I've noticed that skiers are cautiously optimistic about the season despite the ski area opening with a ribbon of man-made snow that ran from Christie Peak to the base area. The skiing was pretty good considering the unseasonably high temperatures we’ve had this month.

After last season, I've also come to realize that skiers can be a little superstitious. There even are a few who get upset when the Steamboat Today publishes a story about a promising forecast that calls for lots of snow. They think that if the paper writes about an expected snowstorm, the story somehow will jinx it.

I've been working at the paper for many years, and we always have done a great job of covering community events, but I can't remember anyone in my office controlling the weather. My guess is that if we had control of where and how much it snowed, we would not have to sell advertising to make money.

During the next few months, I expect to see skiers in Steamboat Springs perform a number of different rituals hoping to bring snow to the Yampa Valley, and I plan to be right there with them. Not only because I love a good powder day but also because I understand that snow and skiing is a vital part of what makes Steamboat Springs such a great place to live in. But I also fully understand that none of us can control the weather.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email

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