Tom Ross: Girlz in Skirtz carry on closing day tradition
Sugar plum fairy biffs on Mount Werner, ensures skirt-wearing tradition will continue
April 18, 2004
Taking in the eerie, spring-break quiet of Steamboat Springs, it’s difficult to believe the revelry going on in Gondola Square just a week ago, as locals celebrated the end of another ski season the only way we know how: By dressing up in bizarre outfits and trying to make it down a slushy mountain in one piece.
The sugarplum fairy was one of the unlucky ones: She skinned her elbow while snowboarding on Mount Werner on closing day.
I know, I know, it sounds like I’ve got my holidays confused. But there were a dozen Easter bunnies in Gondola Square for the Steamboat Ski Area’s closing day last week, and there was only one Alex Stegmaier. Alex, 15, was dressed up in all blue for the final day of the snowboarding season; she had on a blue fright wig, pale blue fairy wings, a blue floral top, a powder blue ballerina’s skirt and blue snowboard pants.
“I’m the sugarplum fairy,” Alex said. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that her outfit wasn’t plum colored. Then she held up her arm, revealing a purple scrape on her elbow, and I had to agree, she was the sugarplum fairy on Easter Sunday. Even better, she was continuing a long-standing Steamboat tradition. For at least a quarter of a century, Steamboat’s wild mountain women have been ushering out each ski season by taking part in “Girlz in Skirtz.” The tradition is fairly simple — some of the hottest female skiers (and now riders) on the mountain don skirts and crazy fashion glasses for the last day of the season and ski in a crowd that draws stares everywhere they go.
What was special about Alex on Sunday is that she represented the second generation of Stegmaiers taking part in Girlz with Skirtz — Alex’s mom, Jacquie, has been skiing in a skirt for many years.
It wasn’t just the kids who were wearing costumes for the final day of the ski season. Stephanie Loomis has been participating in Girlz with Skirtz for 15 years now. She was resplendent in a faux cheetah coat set off by a truly tacky, black vinyl purse. Stephanie said in all her years of closing days, she has rarely seen such a combination of winter conditions on top of the mountain juxtaposed with downright sketchy conditions at the bottom of the mountain.
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Skiers exiting the mountain had to pick their way down lower Vagabond and Why Not to a narrow ribbon of manmade snow on Headwall. However, Loomis found the skiing on Buddy’s Run was as good as it has been all spring. Mick Holloway, 14, was letting his freak flag fly, snowboarding in a shiny gold evening cape with puffy shoulders. His mother purchased it for $6 at a thrift shop in Portland, Ore. It made a splash on the slopes, but didn’t prove to be very practical.
“People were yelling at me from the chairlifts,” Mick said. “But then I got some air, and the cape flopped over my face and I biffed.”
Wes Dearborn was dressed a little more practically than Holloway for the day’s blustery conditions. He was wearing a heavy wool poncho. Dearborn, completing his 12th ski season in Steamboat, said the snow on the upper mountain was good, but his most memorable day of the season was in March during the Heuga Express. Dearborn dragged his 212 centimeter Atomic giant slalom skis out of the closet in an effort to fulfill his need for speed. Due in part to Dearborn’s efforts, the Steamboat Springs Police Department has been loaning a radar gun to the Heuga benefit for three years now. The gun clocked Dearborn going 82 mph — and he didn’t even get a ticket.
“Any time you can go that fast and be legal, it’s a good thing,” Dearborn said.
Keep in mind, skiing 80 mph (or for that matter, 60 mph) outside a closed and controlled course like the one prepared for the Heuga Express would recklessly endanger other skiers and riders.
At the end of the day, the crowd of skiers and riders celebrating the last turns of the 2003-04 season gathered in front of the Bud Light Stage to groove on the paleolithic southern rock of the Marshall Tucker Band. Alex and her friend, Payje Bier, were politely watching the older generation get into the nostalgia act.
For most of the day, just as a goof, they had been listening to the retro ’90s British pop of the Spice Girls (let me see, there was Baby Spice and Ginger Spice, Sporty and Scary Spice … who am I forgetting?). Alex snowboarded with a small boom box perched on her shoulder — a factor that just might have contributed to the fall that resulted in the plum-colored scrape on her elbow. When the Marshall Tucker Band announced it would play “Ramblin’,” a song it first recorded in 1973, it struck me that their music is twice as old as Alex Stegmaier is.
Thank goodness there is a new generation to carry on the traditions of closing day on the mountain.