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Westword's Guide to teh '96-'97 ski and snowboard season

Otherwise, Berkstrom says, he has to put in a good word for Cafe Ink (520 East Durant Avenue). "Hey, it's got a good atmosphere, good coffee and sandwiches, even good hot chocolate." Where is it? "At D&E Snowboard Shop, of course."

General information: 1-970-925-1220 or 1-800-525-6200
Snow report: 1-970-925-1221 or 1-970-923-1221
Location: 209 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.
Opening and closing dates: November 28 to April 13.
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Terrain: 10% beginner, 52% intermediate, 18% advanced, 20% expert. 2,655 developed acres with a 4,260 vertical drop. Base: 8,104'; top: 12,310'; longest run: 4.16 miles.

Lifts: 7 high-speed quads, 1 triple chair, 7 double chairs, 2 platter pulls.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $56; child (7-17) full-day $33; senior (65-69) full-day $45. Early-season prices available.

Lessons: Group lessons: half-day $49, full-day $57. Private lessons: half-day $270, full-day $395. First-time ski or snowboard package: 3-day program, lift tickets and rental.

Rentals: Available at base of mountain and in town.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Call 1-970-923-3148 or 1-970-925-2145 for information.

Special events: Sleigh ride with Santa, Dec. 22; Santa on the Mall, Dec. 23-24; Torchlight Parade With Santa on the Snowmass Village Mall, Dec. 24; 46th Annual Winterskol Carnival, Jan. 14-19; Snowmass Mardi Gras celebration, Feb. 11; Snowmass Banana Season, Mar. 30-Apr. 5; Easter sunrise service, Aspen Mountain, Mar. 30.

Steamboat/Howelsen Ski Areas
"My two-week visit has turned into a four-year visit," says Shaughn Vihlein. "And when I first visited here, I didn't even know there was a ski mountain." Vihlein, who is originally from Milwaukee but has lived in Georgia, Indiana and California, stopped by Steamboat Springs to see her dad, who's lived there for 23 years. "I met a bunch of people, and they were like, 'You have to snowboard,'" says Vihlein. "It only took me five days to get it down, and I was way hooked."

To maintain her habit, Vihlein waitresses at Mocha Molly's (635 Lincoln Avenue), one of the most popular local coffeehouses. "I work nights in the winter," she says, "so I can get out there during the day." She prefers riding during the week because the tourist contingent is still made up primarily of skiers who aren't always kind to shredders. "I think the locals understand it better these days," she says. "They're easier on us than they were at first."

Vihlein tries to go easy on herself when it comes to bump runs, mainly because "I'm not that good," she confesses. So she avoids the popular bumper, White Out, in favor of good cruisers such as Buddy's Run, Vagabond and Heavenly Daze. "Buddy's is my favorite overall," she adds. "But on a powder day, I like Closets and Shadows for the trees, and you can access a lot of other tree runs from it, too." When she's feeling more confident, Vihlein shreds The Hike in Creek Canyon, an out-of-bounds area that she says is where "really good 'boarders go." And according to her, everyone goes on Broadway. "It's a fun little cruiser run where you can do hits on the side," she says, adding that Norther is the direction to head for some air. "There are little 'Cat tracks you can jump off of," she says. "Everyone takes it to get down to the main lift." Those needing more air should go to The Gates, such as Gate D. "It's kind of out there, past the main area," she says. "Lots of big rocks, lots of cliffs. If you want to get yourself hurt, that's the place."

If you want to get yourself alone, Vihlein suggests going low, as in the lower areas of the mountain. "Everyone stays up at the top," she says. "Try Octopus Trees or Lucky Charm. But if you're looking to hang totally solo, she says, don't come to Mocha Molly's. "This is really the happening place," she adds. "And I'm not just saying that because I work here. It's casual but crowded and fun. And the sandwiches and pastries are all good."

Another packed spot is The Slopeside, right off the mountain, a "really cool bar decked out Western-style with brick-oven pizzas," Vihlein says. "You can eat and drink there for under $15." More bargains can be found at Dos Amigos (1910 Mt. Warner Road), where appetizers are half-price from 2:30 to 6 p.m. "I'd have to say the place for killer Italian is Cugino's [825 Oak Street]," she says. "And at the Old Town Pub [600 Lincoln Avenue], Thursday night is burger night, and those are great burgers." And her choice for breakfast--after Mocha Molly's, of course--is The Shack (740 Lincoln Avenue). "I get 'the hobo,'" she says. "It's all this stuff in a big omelette. The waitresses there have been there for twenty years, and it's always packed. You can really get stuffed for the day.

"And if you're not hitting the slopes that day, I say drop five bucks and soak in the hot springs."

Steamboat
General information: 1-970-879-6111 or 1-800-922-2722
Snow report: 1-970-879-7300

Location: 157 miles northwest of Denver via I-70 west to Colo. Hwy. 9 (exit 205) to U.S. Hwy. 40.

Opening and closing dates: November 23 to April 14.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 14% beginner, 56% intermediate, 30% advanced. 2,679 skiable acres with a 3,668' vertical drop. Base: 6,900'; top: 10,568'; longest run: 3 miles.

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