Ski area offers summer fun

Daily activities include hiking, biking, dining

— Gone are the days when the Steamboat Ski Area was about skiing and skiing only.

A push to promote summer activities culminates yearly with the opening of the mountain to activities such as mountain biking, hiking and disc golf.

The ski area has been open for several weeks on a limited basis, but the onset of the summer tourism season signals the beginning of daily operations.

"The summer is very important to us, particularly down in the Front Range," said Andy Wirth, vice president of sales and marketing for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. "The summer guest is a more likely winter prospect, and the winter prospect is more likely a summer prospect. We are the preferred destination for the three-night, four-night stay customer. When they are thinking about getting away, we are a weekend getaway. Most importantly, from a brand perspective, this is one of the few real mountain towns."

The gondola, which carries skiers and snowboarders in the winter, carries passengers, pets and mountain bikes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday during summer. Sunday's hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Aug. 27.

The ski area runs a series of packages on discounted gondola rides, but the basic ticket is $18 for an adult, $13 for children 13 to 17 years old, and $8 for children 6 to 12. Children 5 and younger ride free. The cost is $14 for senior citizens 65 and older.

The gondola accesses dining and hiking opportunities atop the mountain, including:

The Vista Verde Trail is a one-mile loop at the top of the gondola. It's a self-guided nature walk, which has handicap accessibility for the first half of the hike. The gondola also has a handicap-accessible car.

The Thunderhead Trail is a more strenuous climb from the base to the gondola's top.

Mountain biking trails are separate from the hiking trails, and mountain bike rentals are available on-site.

The on-mountain dining options include Hazie's, Oasis Bar and Hill on the third floor of the Thunderhead Lodge. The Oasis bar is open from 10:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and the grill is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Hazie's is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, beginning today.

Hazie's dinner begins at 7 p.m. today, as well.

A Saturday night Sunset Martini Bar started last season, and the ski area will offer it again this year. Adults 21 and older can ride the gondola and drink a martini for $12. Additional drinks and appetizers are extra.

The popular brunch, featuring a New Orleans-style buffet and expanded menu, is at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.

Prices for all dining options include the gondola ride, but people are reminded the gondola is open weather permitting. Mornings are the best time to ride the gondola because of frequent afternoon thunderstorms and high winds.

At the ski area's base, the Gondola Square Adventure Zone has expanded to include a Human Gyro ride, which is something similar to what astronauts use to train for flights, but on a smaller, safer scale.

The adventure zone, includes, among other things, a climbing wall and a slingshot bungee jump.

"You've seen us make investments in significantly enhancing the experience at the base of this mountain," Wirth said. "I think my favorite thing, on a personal level, is when you walk through the base area at 10 a.m. in the morning. You have families from all over the country casually enjoying the Gondola Square and then these six or seven men or women who are going to go out and pound out 18 intense miles on their mountain bike. I think that's a fun dichotomy to have."

Tickets for Gondola Square activities, including miniature golf, can be purchased at the main ticket office in Gondola Square.

The disc golf course is maintained and free. Discs are available for rent at Ridesports, along with the mountain bikes. A deposit is required on the discs.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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