On the snow, here we go: Season starting for local athletes | SteamboatToday.com

On the snow, here we go: Season starting for local athletes

— It doesn't just come right back, and after members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club snowboarding team strapped in Tuesday for the first time this season, there was more than the usual amount of slipping and sliding.

"It feels weird to be back on snow," 13-year old boarder Cooper Scheel said.

There were tumbles from the rails, implanted in the snow at Howelsen Hill, and awkward falls onto that snow. Tuesday wasn't about bruises for the roughly two dozen athletes who took part, however. It was about joy.

They had four rails to choose from and about 100 feet of snow, the product of last week's first serious in-town snowfall and some very welcome work by the city's snowmaking crews. It proved enough.

"Happiness," said 12-year old Johnny Duty, summing up his emotions not in a sentence, but a word.

As is often the case a weekday afternoon, Howelsen Hill was a zoo Tuesday. Athletes inside the lodge signed waiver forms. A long line of parents and their snowbound children snaked away from a pay window as they purchased season passes to the downtown ski area. Outside, a dozen different groups worked through more dryland training — a soccer game here, agility drills there and coming across the parking lot, a group finishing up a training run with sneakers, not skis.

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On the relatively small patch of snow behind the lodge, snowboard athletes trudged up the hill, hoisting their boards on their shoulders. A lift isn't expected to be operational until next week, and then, it will only drag athletes halfway up the hill. Howelsen won't be open to the public until late this month.

Their coaches had worked on the rails, crafting two of the four this summer from discarded gates previously used at the nearby rodeo arena. They sanded them down and painted them, and Tuesday, they got their first slides.

"We've been patiently waiting," Club snowboard director Tori Koski said. "These kids have been working hard in dryland, doing a lot of core training and some strength exercises. As soon as we have enough snow, it's time to be on snow. This was the day."

These weren't the first Winter Sports Club athletes to hit the snow. The Alpine snowboarding team was training at Copper Mountain on Tuesday, preparing for the season's first competition next week. Skiers have been making laps at Loveland Ski Area, as well.

But, they were thrilled to get the chance.

"It's crazy we can be on snow already," said Mason Reed, a Steamboat Mountain School student from Ohio prepping for his second winter in Steamboat Springs.

"We don't have any snow in Ohio yet," he said, grinning. "We're still rusty. We try to skateboard in the summer to stay with it. It's definitely hard getting back on the board, but it's so much fun."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9