Skiing the Pandemic in Steamboat Springs 2020

Last weekend was beautiful!  Blue skies and bright sunshine welcomed me as I was walking up to the gondola.  Families were playing together in the snow and many were just enjoying time on Timber and Torch’s patio.  Though there was a short line to get onto the gondola, the singles line was empty and I walked right up and into a cabin.

I was a in a little bit of a hurry because I wanted to get a couple runs in before I met my friend for some runs.  Once I was in the cabin, I started my Ski Tracks app and looked around.  I was in the cabin with four others who were from out of town.  Outside, I could tell there was fewer people than normal.  News of coronavirus 19 was just getting real in Colorado, with Steamboat just announcing its first case the day before.

Most everyone who I have been running into had a sober perspective on the contagion.  It has been hard to believe that it would reach the far corner of Colorado, but it did.  On my walk to the gondola, I saw families packing cars for the drive back where they came from.  I saw one family arriving and wondered how long they would stay.  I get it – if I didn’t live here, I would be making decisions relating to my family.  But, since I live here, I went skiing and kept my gloves on.

My friend was visiting from Nebraska.  She was stoked to be able get some snowboarding in.  We had met years earlier in Montana where we both lived, worked, and played in the mountains.  I took her on a short locals tour.  Though Storm Peak lift had a line to it, we were able to hit several other lifts without lines.  We didn’t have to wait but a minute or two at each lift.

Around noon, the snow had become very slushy and was hard to move around.  I had one of the worst falls of the season.  Two runs later, I took her to the T Bar.  We grabbed cold beverages and caught up over the last ten years.  It was good to sit in a chair and relax, something I had not done in awhile.

The end of that day Steamboat closed for the season.  Concern about the virus and it’s spread caused all resorts in Colorado to close.  Being folks from out of state who brought the illness to Summit County and Steamboat, we all understood that this measure would both reduce new problems from arriving and keeping any contagious persons from going to another place and be a problem there.

Today, it’s expected that there will be up to 30 inches of new snow at the top of the mountains here in Steamboat.  In the valley, we have light snow and rain.  It’s damp and wet.  And quiet as we all wait out the pandemic.

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!

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 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.

Steamboat Springs Disc Golf

Thunderhead Disc Golf Course in Steamboat Springs

Disc golf has become a favorite sport of mine.  With three courses nearby, I have been able to squeeze in games between meetings, and also just take off a little early at the end of the day for a round.  Steamboat Springs disc golf is done on mountain courses.  Uphill shots, throws across ravines, and tricky shots around rocks and trees make golfing here entertaining.

Steamboat Springs has Hillside at Colorado Mountain College.  The disc golf course located adjacent the dormitory is a fun, quick course.  I often call it a ‘true par 3’ course.  Others may not think so, but with my arm and accuracy, I’m able to par or birdie most holes.  With this course, it takes you around the base of a mountainside.  Most of the holes are easy to see, with a couple using raised flags off the baskets to help identify your target.  The most fun shots of the CMC course happen when weather is moving in or out.  Winds can gust to 40 mph and carry a disc a long way.

Thunderhead Disc Golf Course at Steamboat Ski Resort is a challenge.  This course is located at the base of Thunderhead lift, at the top of Burgess Creek Road.  Tee shots are long, often obstructed, and come complete with excellent views of the Yampa Valley.  There are definitely uphill tee shots to work with.  Overall, the tee to basket shots are commonly even in elevation.  The terrain between them is not.  A beautiful tee shot can be deceiving and a small hook leaves a lie in a ditch or caught in Tamarack limbs.  The downhill shots on this course are a lot of fun.  They take strategy.

My favorite, Haybro Redtail  Disc Golf Course, is located 20 minutes south of Steamboat Springs.  It is on private land and developed by serious disc golf players.  The course starts on the valley floor and takes a player uphill along a ridge above the farm.  Most holes are marked with basket flags because the terrain is all pro.  The shrubs and trees provide for excellent obstacles and many shots are through narrow spaces.  If the space is navigated well, the lie of your tee shot is usually excellent.

I find this course challenging and very fun.  The views are excellent, and the atmosphere is private, except for the occasional herd of cows.  When visiting Haybro, there is a waiver to sign and leave $5.  All of this is to keep the course in good condition.  It is a privately funded good time.

There are more reasons to be in Steamboat Springs other than great disc golf, and disc golf is a great bonus to being here.  It is great to get out and toss some discs with friends and enjoy Colorado a little bit more.

32″ of Snow in 3 Days

Steamboat Resort Snow and Ski Lift

This ski season in Steamboat Springs has been affected by La Nina quite a bit.  We have seen big dry spells throughout Colorado.  This isn’t very common.  The weather seemed like Autumn would never end.  If I recall, December 12th was my last frisbee golf game.  Then it snowed enough and got cold enough that I thought Winter had arrived.

I was wrong.  The snow and cold held, with beautiful blue skies dominating our days.  We all began to stress because tourists were coming in, but there was very little snowpack.  Steamboat Ski Resort’s snowmaking crews worked constantly to fill in a runs.  The resort opened November 22nd, and we had our typical single run to get our ski legs on.

The skiing was good, but we needed fresh snow.  With Christmas a few days away, the weather changed.

A series of fronts moved through leaving new snow every day for three days.   It changed our snowpack to soft packed powder and the resort was able to open up an abundant amount of territory for all of us to get fresh tracks.

It also allowed for visitors to Steamboat Springs enjoy what level of skier they are.  Earlier season trails definitely lend themselves to more experienced skiers.  With new territory, and great snow, we were able to enjoy top to bottom skiing, and terrain for families and kids were open and friendly.

It’s nice to wake up in the morning and grab a 9” or 7” of fresh snow.  It puts smiles on everyone’s faces in this town!

What fascinates me every time we get storms like this, is how snow clean up crews care for real estate around town.  Of course roads are cared for first, yet this activity leaves large berms of snow for HOA’s to clean up.  Private snow crews come through early and make sure residents can get to where to they need to go.

Private crews also come back a second, or third, time to clean up undone areas.  These areas are commonly detail work.  Crews in large front end loaders, road graders, trucks of all sizes, and skidsters consolidate snow into areas that are meant for big piles of snow.  (Later in the season, when piles reach 16+ feet tall, they are removed by loaders and dump trucks.)  The second time through is when private residences are detailed as well.

It is common for snow crews to work very long days and sleep little.

It’s good to have some excellent snow for the Holidays!