Mother Nature flipped the switch to winter over the weekend bringing a big storm to northern Colorado and leaving 6.5 inches of snow in her wake as of Monday morning. The new snowfall and prime snowmaking temperatures allowed Steamboat Resort mountain crews to open the gondola and Heavenly Daze earlier today.

“The recent storms and cold temperatures have set us up for great early-season skiing and riding conditions,” said Rob Perlman, president and chief operating officer. “We are thrilled to open the gondola and provide another trail for our guests to enjoy. Now that skiing and riding is available from Thunderhead to the base area, our crews can focus on building a base for the season on more trails and eventually opening top-to-bottom terrain.”

Skiers and riders can now experience 30 acres across six trails, serviced by the gondola and Christie Peak Express.  With Heavenly Daze — in addition to the previously opened Sitz, Sitz Back, Jess’ Cut-Off, Vogue and Stampede trails on the lower mountain — the resort is featuring more than 2,000 vertical feet of fun.

Mother Nature had a late start in bringing winter storms to the Yampa Valley this season, making her first appearance more than a week ago on November 17. Since then, nearly 3 feet of snow accumulated at Steamboat Resort. In addition to natural snowfall, a series of cold nights and extended cold mornings allowed mountain crews to crank the resort’s snowmaking fleet to record levels in building a base on lower mountain and Heavenly Daze.  A storm that arrived in the area early Sunday morning brought more natural snow to the mountain and is expected to drop up to 2 feet of snow in addition to brining continued cold temperatures through Tuesday.

“The forecast this winter is calling for a weakening La Niña system, which bodes well for northern resorts such as Steamboat,” said Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations for Steamboat. “The winter of 2007/08 was also a La Niña, and Steamboat finished that season with a record amount of snow. Until the big storms come, we’ll continue to take advantage of snowmaking opportunities and open more terrain as possible.”

With the gondola now open, food and retail outlets will be available at the mid-mountain lodge. Thunderhead Food Court and Red’s Bar will serve limited menus, and Thunderhead Shop will have retail offerings. These are in addition to the Steamboat Ski & Sport locations in the base area with rentals and retail available, and Gondola Joe’s and Bear River Bar & Grill serving food in Gondola Square.

Uphill (skinning) access is currently closed until further notice to allow mountain crews to maintain conditions and prepare new trails for opening. Guests who want to access Forest Service land on foot can do so via Burgess Creek Road.

To find up-to-date trail conditions, lift operations and more, as well as when new terrain will be opening, visit www.steamboat.com or follow Steamboat on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.