Middle school student waits hours to claim 1st chair at Steamboat Resort’s earliest Opening Day ever (with video)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sunny skies ushered in Opening Day at Steamboat Resort as a mass of people waited in line at Christie Peak Express lift Friday, eager to make their inaugural turns of the season at the ski area.
To some, being among the first to ride up the lift is a coveted honor, akin to waking before dawn to shop on Black Friday or nabbing a seat for a blockbuster movie premiere.
People’s excitement was palpable as the clock approached 8:30 a.m., when Christie Express, the only available chairlift for the day, would start running. Music blasted from speakers as the crowd sang along to the chorus of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Resort employees handed out free burritos, energy bars and — to the first 100 guests — pairs of Smartwool socks.
Steamboat Springs native Kasen Young, 12, did not mess around when it came to snagging a spot on the first chair. He got to the resort at 5 a.m. to make sure he was first in line.
“I thought there would be a lot more competition,” he said.
A student at Steamboat Springs Middle School, Young convinced his parents to allow him to skip a portion of class to make some morning laps. He also rides for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club on the snowboard freestyle team and was at Howelsen Hill’s Opening Day the previous evening.
This season’s Opening Day, the 57th for the ski area, marks a historic event. The resort, originally scheduled to open on Nov. 23, got its earliest start ever after heavy snowfall in October.
Snowmaking crews have been busy spreading manmade snow to buttress the natural accumulation. The midmountain base depth was 14 inches as of Friday, according to the resort’s snow report. Ten out of 169 runs on the mountain are open, including Boulevard, Giggle Gulch, Right-O-Way, Short Cut, Sitzback, Stampede, Jess’ Cut-off, Sitz and Vogue.
The early start came as a welcome surprise to many, including University of Colorado Boulder student Emma Bradley. An Ikon Pass holder, she and some friends booked a lodge in Steamboat weeks ago, before the resort announced its early opening, with plans to make a short visit before hitting the trails at Winter Park Resort a couple hours away. When they heard Steamboat Resort was opening a week sooner than planned, they decided to extend their stay.
“It was such a lucky coincidence,” Bradley said.
Others took a more deliberate trip to the ski area’s 2019-20 winter season launch. Park City resident Kim Klopp makes a point of traveling to various resorts to enjoy their opening day festivities. Decked in a rainbow unicorn costume with golden horn attached to her helmet, Klopp was one of the more enthusiastic guests Friday.
“I love opening days. I love the vibe and everything,” she said. “Usually there are a lot more costumes.”
As a warning, early skiing means early season conditions. That means icy patches and potentially unmarked hazards.
Loryn Duke, director of communication at the resort, has urged people to be cautious in previous Steamboat Pilot & Today reporting on the early opening. Steamboat Ski Patrol had to assist several injured guests Friday, which is not how anyone wants to start the winter season.
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