Steamboat Ski Area opening brings honeymooners back to Mount Werner
Mitch and Chris Maynard were in a nostalgic mood Nov. 22 as they queued up in the lift line at the Christie Peak Chairlift, and prepared to kick off the 2017-18 ski season at Steamboat Ski Area.
After all, the Maynards hadn’t been to Steamboat Springs in 20 years. Not since they spent their honeymoon here had they cruised the Sitz and Vogue trails that were the main item on the pre-Thanksgiving Day menu at Steamboat.
“We honeymooned here in 1997 and thought we’d bring our two girls out to see it,” Chris Maynard said. “This will be the first time I’ve skied in 16 years.”
The Maynards shared a story about an animal encounter during their honeymoon here like you’ve never heard, but more about that later.
Steamboat Scholarship Day opening on Thanksgiving Eve, with the proceeds benefitting the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, always presents a slightly different crowd than the rest of the ski season, or maybe it just feels that way.
Hitting 33 ski areas in one season
Kim Klopp of Park City, Utah, was beginning another ski season odyssey as she slipped into the lift line wearing a flamboyant costume. Her outfit included a shocking pink helmet, aqua jacket and brown skirt trimmed with an aqua ruffle.
Her sense of ski fashion may be a little out of the ordinary, but Klopp takes her skiing seriously.
She and a crew of friends managed to ski 33 different ski areas in 2016-17, and this season, with both Max and Epic passes around their necks, she and the members of her posse will spend the ski season ahead following the powder.
“We’re going wambling,” Klopp said, emphasizing the W.
However, it was the honeymooners who had the best story to tell. Yes, the Maynards skied with, and posed for pictures with Billy Kidd during their honeymoon trip here. But the enduring memory of that romantic vacation was an encounter with a tiny wild animal.
Mitch Maynard recalled how they were skiing a trail on the upper mountain when out of the corner of his eye, he saw a small white streak dash across the top of a mogul. When he approached the mogul the critter turned out to be an ermine (a brown weasel in its winter coat) with a black tip on its white tail.
Maynard sensed the animal was in distress, but when he extended his hand, the creature curled up in his heavy glove. The couple took the ermine to the nearest lift shack, and a staffer from a local veterinary clinic came to retrieve and care for it.
The next day, the Maynards interrupted their honeymoon to check on the ermine, which made a nice recovery.
The animal that longtime Steamboat Ski Patroller Duncan Draper was escorting around Gondola Square Nov. 22 was approximately 50 times as big as an ermine.
Draper has worked at the ski area for 25 years, a dozen of them spent on ski patrol. On Wednesday, he was walking Powder, the safety dog on a leash and pausing often to interact with guests of the ski area.
“It’s all marketing,” Draper said with a sly smile. But the truth is, Powder, a young female Saint Bernard, who goes through 30 pounds of dog food a week, plays a role in helping to ensure Steamboat’s guests have a safe vacation.
Powder doesn’t literally rescue skiers, but serves as an ice-breaker — skiers arriving at the resort with their skis in tow, can’t resist stopping to pet the dog. And that gives Draper an opening to ask them if they know the three essentials of ski safety: “Don’t hit anything,” he said. “If you come to a stop on a ski trail, stop where people can see you,” and, “before you resume skiing, look uphill first.”
“I met some people today from Georgia who are here for the weekend and this is their first ski trip to the West,” Draper said, adding that it’s always good to check in with guests who aren’t familiar with big-mountain skiing.
Steamboat’s tradition of competitive skiing
Of course Scholarship Day is a significant fundraiser for the competitive youth skiing programs of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Club Executive Director, Jim Boyne, and a large group of young competitive skiers were handing out hot chocolate to guests and expressing their gratitude and enthusiasm at the base of the mountain Wednesday.
Local skier Kathy Knous, who skied 108 days last winter divided between Steamboat and Vail, said she makes it a point to never miss Scholarship Day.
Former Winter Sport Club athlete Tanner Visnick, and a member of the U.S. Telemark Ski Team who has competed in eight World Championship races and 36 World Cups, was home from Bozeman, Montana, where he is in his senior year at Montana State University. Scholarship Day was his first day back on skis after a serious knee injury last ski season.
“It feels pretty good,” he said after a quick run.
North Routt County resident Cindy Gantick, who teaches at Soda Creek Elementary School reported meeting visiting skiers from Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas on Scholarship Day.
Chris and Kristy Stille of Dubuque, Iowa, flew in to Denver from Iowa, and drove up to Steamboat, not to ski, but to spend Thanksgiving with Kristy’s family members who moved to Steamboat from Tampa, Florida, in August.
It’s a shame the Stille’s don’t ski.
Steamboat begins operating the gondola Thanksgiving Day and ski patrolman Paul Draper predicted people won’t be disappointed with the new terrain.
“The Daze skied good yesterday,” he said Wednesday.