Time to Ride – Skiing Time Out

Two stand up paddle boarders on the Yampa River.

Last week, on Wednesday, I was able to get some afternoon time free and go bike riding with my friend Poacher.  He has lived in Steamboat about a year and had not experienced a number of trails, mountainside riding, and cruising by the river.  We took a three hour ride around the area, exploring.

This week, Poacher sent me a text early in the morning and we set up time to ride in the early afternoon.  

The day is a warm Spring day with blue skies and a slight breeze.  The weather brought out a number of locals getting fresh air and moving around.  It is a brilliant day in Colorado!

We started uphill on Walton Creek then on to Val d’esere and down to Whistler Park.  Along the way we ran into our friend B, who was out working hard on his route.  We chatted for a bit and reveled in the warm Spring weather we were having that afternoon.  

From Whistler Park, we toured across the lower part of the mountainside area, traveling to Barn Village. Barn Village is set uphill from the famous More Barn of Steamboat marketing fame.  It’s the barn you see in many images relating to the resort.  The subdivision is well-built with single family homes and duplexes.  Their design is mountain contemporary and pleasing to view.  

At the top of Barn Village we took a shortcut path from the cul de sac up to Steamboat Boulevard.  Steamboat Boulevard is a favorite biking route for me.  It rolls quite a bit, and going from mountainside to town, the ride takes a person to Fish Creek Falls Road, which is an awesome downhill. This downhill is also one of the hills I purchased a new bike – one with disc brakes.

At the bottom of the downhill, Poacher and I concurred that the next time we do that really fun ride, we would be wearing helmets.  Slight mistake from a casual ride turning in to an adventure.

Both of us were feeling time pressured from taking an uncharted bike ride across Steamboat Springs.  We hopped on the Core Trail at Rabbit Ears Motel and took the fast lane to the mountainside.  Wrapping up our ride by following Burgess Creek for a couple blocks, we said goodbye and headed to our homes.

Bike riding in Steamboat Springs is usually a great time.  Sometimes trails get crowded.  Usually we run into a handful of folks and say hello to each of them.  The season is now for great road rides, while the snow melts from trails.

Spring 2020 Skiing at Steamboat Springs

This year’s snowfall has been really good.  We have our average snowfall for the year, but it’s the way it came.  Consistent over the weeks of Winter.  8” here, 6” there, and, of course, the 10+” days that came around.  I was lucky enough to sneak in a couple of those!  It’s not easy, but it’s worth the extra hour of responsibilities at the end of the day.

This past Thursday, I found myself done with work early for the day.  It hasn’t snowed in awhile and the temperatures have hit the 40 degree mark a couple times.  I had time on my hands so I decided to go night skiing for the first time this year.

It was a good choice.  With the sun being up later in the day, there is more time with ski time with sunshine.  Night skiing opens up with fresh groomed trail as well.  Soft groomer corduroy that’s a little warm is what the evening opened up with.  The lifts opened at 5:30 to a crowd of about 20 people.

The crowd moved pretty quick and I was at the top in about ten minutes.  The sun was slowly going down, giving vibrant sunset colors to the Flattop Mountains, South Routt Valley, and town.  There was few people  on the slopes so I was able to open it up to a bit of speed.  Being a short run, I was to the bottom quickly.  At the bottom, there were only a couple people.  

For the next run, it felt like I was the only one on the hill.  No one was around me and I enjoyed a great second lap.

From here, dinner was done for many folks and they began to filter in.  Through the evening, there wasn’t a bunch of people, but it was busy.  I was able to navigate happy turns for the rest of the evening.  

When the sun set, twilight gave way to the lights on the runs.  Riding the lift back to the top, the half moon rose above the ridge and greeted me.

Night skiing isn’t something that I usually do.  My schedule for the Winter has not made it easy to break away.  At least for this month, it seems like I’m going to be able to get at least a day in each week until closing!  I’m stoked.  Like, ski bum stoked!

Steamboat Winter Weather 2020

This Winter has been very snowy!  We have had a number of storms that stack up on after another and provide great conditions.

NOAA, at the beginning of the season, talked about cold weather and a little bit of snow for the early season.  They also talked about regular snow through January and then tapering off to warmer trends for the rest of the Winter.  They were right.

Early season, we had a number of snow events, but none were really, really big.  Often snow would come in amounts up to six inches then move on.  And, as typical with an exiting front, the temperatures got really, really cold.  Once, my car registered -11 degrees.  It was this cold for more than a week and has not returned.

Once living in temperatures this cold, a person gets to know that temperature as the definition of cold.  Now, at the end of January, 10 degrees feels like it’s warm outside.  A couple times this season when I was getting in my car early in the day, I thought it was about 10-15 degrees only to find out it was zero!

Brrr!

December had two really fun snow events.  My favorite was five days long.  Ullr blessed us with snow the entire time.  If I remember right, it was three storms in a row and it didn’t stop snowing.  There were periods where snow tapered off for hours only to start up again and bring fresh inches.

January brought several Champagne Powder days.  A person could walk up to a snow covered car and blow on the top few inches.  Poof!  It would fly away without effort.  Those days were great for skiing and riding.  Snow would curl behind you and wisp away like fairy dust.

Now with February approaching, the number of Champagne Powder days is limited.  It’s starting to warm up, like things do prior to Spring.  Often we have many days of great skiing in February and the first few weeks look good for moisture and cool temperatures.

Our biggest conundrum for all season is how the snowpack has set up.  Some areas of Steamboat have not opened up because of avalanche concerns.  Though these areas have set up, the lower layers of the snow are volatile.  In some places, the snow has melted away from the ground, making it easy to disturb.  In two areas of the resort, the terrain did slide, and it broke at the ground and slid slabs into the areas down below.  In the early season, two people were caught and found themselves relatively uninjured at the end of it all.

Overall, Winter has been Steamboat awesome.  Many more days of snow are in the forecast and I am ready to ski as many of them as I can!

Steamboat Springs Summer 2019

Approaching the fire tower at Hahn’s Peak

This is one of the best Summers to be in Steamboat!

Spring was wet.  Everyone will agree that it was off the charts with rainy weather, including two days where it snowed a few inches in town.  On Summer Solstice nonetheless!  

The result is a very green and lush Yampa Valley.  Trees, flowers, grasses all are full of life.  Wildlife is happy.  Visitors can’t believe the mild Summer weather nor the greens that are everywhere from hillsides to valley views.  

When Spring was raining, I noted two things: 1) this much water was going to make a beautiful Summer, and 2) El Nino was going to continue to keep it beautiful.  Lucky me, I was right!  

Having spent much time hiking nearby, it has been easy to enjoy the mountain climate.  Last weekend we took a trip to Hahn’s Peak for an overnight campout and hike up to the fire tower.  It was good to see so many people enjoying being out.  Though there were some bugs, camping out was very comfortable.  At night, the stars were vivid.  It was one of the clearest nights I have been able to observe the Milky Way.

On the hike up Hahn’s Peak to the fire tower, it was a little warmer than I wanted.  That being said, the hike was quick and towards the top, there were snowbanks dotting the landscape.  Some of them quite large and covering parts of the trail up.  It was great to see kids glissading down the snow and dogs rolling in the cold, tongues hanging out.

A weekend or so earlier, Rabbit Ears was much the same.  Meadows of wildflowers in bloom greeted us as we took the gentle hike towards the famous rock formation.  The number of flowers blooming was amazing and we found some we had not seen before.  Towards the transition to the top, there was a large snowfield we had to cross.  It was about a quarter-mile long, and at times two feet deep.  

Trekking up to Rabbit Ears

Both hikes were beautiful blue sky days like only Colorado can provide.  Being in Steamboat is something that I get bored from and do my best not to take for granted. Accessing great wilderness terrain within a short drive is a treat, and definitely one of the reasons I live here.  

Now that August is fast around the corner, families are considering the beginning of the school year.  Many visitors this week are many of these persons.  With many things still do, like tubing the Yampa and downhill mountain biking, it’s difficult to think that Summer will ever end.  Thankfully, when Summer ends, there is a great season approaching!

What is Mud Season?

If you haven’t heard of mud season, it is a term used in Colorado ski towns to talk about the time between Winter and Summer seasons.  This isn’t defined as a date, like Solstice or Equinox.  It is defined more by when the local resort opens and closes.  The resort commonly closes in mid-April and reopens on Memorial Day.  Then again, it closes sometime between Labor Day and the first week of October.  (For Steamboat, this varies a bit depending on reservations, mostly from sports teams, weddings, and visitors from the Denver area.)

In between is normally a mix of Spring or Fall weather that makes it difficult to explore outside.  There are good days to have fun, without question, but rain and snow can make things, um, muddy.  During this time tourists are not common.  Steamboat Springs in the height of Winter or Summer seasons will have up to 30,000 visitors on a weekend.  (That’s a lot for a town of 12,000 residents.)  During mud season, perhaps 2000-ish people will visit on a weekend.  Usually less.

In Spring, snow is melting.  Thawing begins on the valley floor and works it’s way up the mountains.

It’s nice to get around town quickly, not have lines at restaurants, as well as the local hot springs aren’t crowded.  Strangely, the Post Office consistently has a line.  Restaurants often have specials.  Two for one, 50% off entrées, and cheaper lunches are common.  Happy hour two for ones, all day, are common too.

What do we do during mud season?  It’s a combination of recovering from being very busy to seeing friends not seen because of being busy.  This is also a great time to vacation.  In transitions from one season to the next, weather is often excellent in other parts of the world.  While it is slower, we vacation where it’s warm or extend our ski season in Europe.

As I write this, our Fall mud season is coming to an end.  Thanksgiving is the opening of the resort and visitors will be everywhere.  After almost two months of a not very busy time, it’s good to see tourists again.  They bring a vibrancy that we enjoy.  Seeing smiling faces, families having a big experience, couples holding hands – this makes us very happy!

September in Steamboat

steamboat springs september aspens

September has become a favorite month for me.  Steamboat in September is a beautiful place and as the days change from warm to cool, the colors are also changing.  Our gardens are producing the last of the squash and tomatoes that they can before the frost.  The weather has monsoon rains that come and go with great thunder booms and big raindrops.  And we all can sense that Summer shenanigans are coming to a quick close.

Labor Day weekend tends to be a fun and busy weekend.  Many people visit to get a last bit of Summer in.  Between enjoying resort activities like hiking, Sunset Happy Hour, and the mountain coaster, the resort offers many things to do with a view.  Smiling faces with cameras nearby is a common site.

The next weekend is Chili Cook Off, held by the Main Street Association.  It’s held in conjunction with one of the last Farmers’ Markets of the year.  Persons compete to claim an award that proves they are a chili master.  Patrons enjoy over 12 different chili’s and local microbrew beer from Steamboat breweries.  The event a Steamboat favorite.

For me, the last event of the season is Oktoberwest.  It is Steamboat’s most popular brewfest.  Many breweries and ciders from around the state come in and share their craft drinks.  Each year, there is a great band that keeps things moving and shaking.  Though it isn’t the last event where locals can say hello to each other before it gets cold, it is the largest event where we can gather with sunglasses on and the biggest smiles we can wear.

All of this is fun, but it doesn’t compare to noticing hummingbirds migrating south, bears finding the last berries of the season, and watching the gold colors of Aspens slowly move downhill.  The bright hues of yellow, orange and red are both exhilarating and bittersweet.  Autumn is beautiful in Colorado.  Aspens are one plant that make it very epic and breathtaking.  And it also signals the end of Summer and the anxious wait for snowfall begins.

While students are working on their schoolwork and playing sports, without question their thoughts and conversations include tuning ski gear and getting new gear because they outgrew last year’s gear.  Adults, though thinking similar thoughts, are eager to get more downhill mountain biking in, as well as a camping trip or two in before it gets too cold.

September in Steamboat Springs is an excellent time.  Between the beautiful color changes and Fall activities, it is easy to appreciate being in a place that offers so much so close.

Quick Hike up to Christie Peak




Christie Lift Steamboat Springs Ski Resort

This Spring has been amazing weather!  Now, it’s starting to get a little dry.  So, I found it a great idea to hike up to Christie Peak before the Sun went down.

This Summer has many mountain hikes in it for me.  There are 14,000 foot peaks I’ve my eye on and I know I need to be in better shape if I’m to get to the tops.  Looking up at Thunderhead Lodge, I realize that the hike to Thunderhead and back is a little under the miles I will be traveling to a number of prospective peaks.  Many of these hikes are about 7 miles round trip, though several are much further.

So, in the evening, I took off after a small dinner.   I drank a pint of water and put one hiking shoe in front of the other.

I thought the hike would be more difficult.  It must have been the bike riding I’ve been doing because the trail up was friendly to me.  This trail, for me, tends to be a strong uphill.  Though I stopped a few times on the way, I was able to make it to the top of Christie Peak in about an hour.

The hike was full of flowers and wonderful scents.  The trail was dry the entire way.  And with the evening angle of the Sun, I was able to take mini-breaks in the shade.  Once at the top, it was a fantastic view of the valley.

Steamboat Springs Yampa Valley Sunset

And there were lift chairs to relax in and take in the breeze and view.

The hike down was equally as easy.  Being so late in the day, I was surprised to run into a handful of people who were on their way up.  To me, I thought they might get caught in low light.  It seemed like they knew what they were doing and I let the thought out of my mind.

At the end, I took time to rest next to Burgess Creek at the Base Area.  Overall, it was a treat to get out and I’m confident Thunderhead Lodge hike will be equally as rewarding.

Christie Peak Steamboat Springs

Spring 2018 Trip to Fish Creek Falls Steamboat Springs

This weekend was a fantastic weather time for a day hike.  But before that, we took a bike ride down the Core Trail, next to the Yampa River.  With a slight breeze and the morning sun, we took a bike ride into town.

On the river, there were a number of stand up paddle boarders navigating the class 1 and 2 waves, pulling out into eddies for a rest.  We watched them for awhile and pedaled on to find more waves, smiling friends, and end up buying a disc golf disc for a game later in the week.

We worked up an appetite and rode our bikes back to Wildhorse Plaza where we picked up just enough calories from the sandwiches  we purchased from Cruisers Subs.  One my favorite lunch spots, Cruisers always has fun personalities and great sandwiches with quality bread.

How did we get the idea to go up Fish Creek Falls?  It was too difficult.  The bike ride was a slow, recreational ride.  We had energy after a great lunch, so we picked another friend and headed up to the trailhead.

It’s Spring, so we knew the water would be going fast, but had no idea how big the falls were going to be.  They were bright, loud, and moving fast!  Here’s a picture of the lower falls:

Fish Creek Falls Steamboat Springs

That was a great view!  The water pouring over the edge and rumbling under the bridge was loud.  I was mesmerized for several minutes.  I checked in with everyone and we were all ready for the 2.5 mile walk to the upper falls.

This hike is beautiful, filled with aspen groves and wetlands.  Towards the end of the hike, an alpine wetland was flowing deep and fast with snowmelt.  A bridge over the main water arterial gave us a minute to take in the canyon views and grab a drink of water.

A short distance after, we rounded the ridge to find the upper falls.  They were spectacular, moving fast and filling deep pockets formed by the break in the rock wall, making a short canyon out towards the upper wetlands.

Steamboat Springs Fish Creek Falls 2018

Well, everything was downhill from here.  Literally.  After spending about an hour taking Nature, we headed back to our car and on to town.

One of my friends, who was visiting from out-of-town, asked, “Are all days like this is Steamboat?”.  I replied, “No, but usually when visitors are in town”.  To have a great sunny, Spring day like this can happen often here.  It’s one of the reasons I live here.

Steamboat Springs Hot Springs

Steamboat Springs Strawberry Hot Springs

Many ski days end with a great idea: hot spring soaking.  Steamboat Springs is known for it’s high quality hot springs.  Though there are several hot springs in the area (some say over 150), three are warm enough to get a good soak.  In fact, Steamboat Springs was named after a hot spring along the Yampa River.

When people were first settling in to the Yampa Valley, they would hear the chug of a steamboat.  They found the sound on the banks of the river and found that when water was heated enough, the steam would escape the bedrock and make a chugging sound.  Hence, Steamboat Springs was named.

The hot springs in the Steamboat area offer excellent micro nutrients, especially lithium.  The water comes from deep underground and fills the pools.  As the water below boils and pulls nutrients from the surrounding bedrock.  When the water reaches the surface, it comes out near 110 degrees, sometimes warmer, sometimes cooler.  Most hot springs have a way to mix in cooler water to make it more comfortable.

I’ve been an avid hot spring soaker for 20 years or more.  From Idaho to New Mexico, I have visited over 35 hot springs.  My favorites have been those with great views, great water content, and good temperature.  Steamboat Springs has two great facilities for this, with one I would put in my top three I’ve visited.

Steamboat Springs city has several hot springs, with one being warm enough to soak in.  This one is Old Town Hot Springs.  It is a full use facility with a fitness gym, olympic pool and several soaking pools.  The Heart Pool is the signature destination.  It has been a destination for travelers and residents since the inception.  History comments on how the Ute Indians and the Arapaho Indians would fight over these springs, noting the spiritual and healing qualities of the waters.

Spring Skiing in Steamboat Springs

View from Four Points Steamboat Springs Resort

Spring skiing isn’t for everyone, and since I live here, I’ve found it is for me!  Spring skiing is a lot of fun with sunshine and warm days making snow slushy.  And the snow is pretty much no fun around 2:00, which then it becomes time to see live music at the local slope side hang outs, or visit the hot springs, or any other of the numerous fun things to do in town.

My top 5 reasons I love Spring skiing in Steamboat Springs:

1)  Blue sky days:  Early Spring has many days of sunshine and big blue skies.  The Summer birds are starting arrive, and the bears are waking up.  February and March can have several days in a row of gray skies, usually bringing snow with them.  This year, a pineapple express came through and blessed us with more than two feet of snow over 5 days.  When the sun came out, it was beautiful!

2)  Outdoor Concert Season:  Spring brings the first outdoor concerts (that are warm).  Being outside on Gondola Square listening to national bands with great talent play music to a crowd is wonderful.  Many happy faces and people dancing sets the mood for a great evening.

3)  Spring Ski Clothing:  I’m not just talking about less dress and a pair of snow pants.  I’m talking about costumes, onesies, and cutoff shorts.  The skiing scene in Spring is full of festive frolicking.   I find persons who bring a show to the hill are very fun.  I’ve had too much fun with friends in costumes – now I’m on the look out for one myself.  A favorite story is a young woman friend of mine wore a princess costume over her ski clothes.  Every little girl was in awe.  She got so many complements and photos!  Nothing like being a fairy tale star!

4)  No Crowds:  When it’s warm out, and the snow isn’t perfect, being able to get a table on the deck of Four Points or Stoker is a great day.  Enjoying the view, the few skiers that are out, and having an afternoon break goes a long way to keep the soul sane.  When the snow is good, big turns and faster lanes are more easily enjoyed when there is no one that may run into (literally).

5)  End of Season Excitement:  The end of ski season is a little bittersweet.  Big powder days are gone.  However, days of white water rafting, mountain climbing, and lazy Summer deck sitting are imminent.  The closing days of Steamboat are very fun, and filled with the promise of epic Summer days, festivals, and camping.  We look forward to Steamboat Resort’s concert series each Saturday, and the closing day party, which has a big name band and many big smiles.

I’ve been Spring skiing a long time.  In my years, I’ve found Steamboat Resort and the season here to be some the most fun a person can have.  Between the birds and flowers of Spring, and the fun that can be had on the slopes, this season is one of the best I’ve experienced.