Our winter days between storms have been consistent – cold air, deep blue skies, snow holding firm under foot. While we expect to be chasing early morning pow this weekend, I must confess that I prefer afternoon skiing most of the time.

I’ve always felt like this. And I realize this makes me the ugly stepchild of ski bums – because apparently “real” ski bums ski early. The diehards who press glass at the gondola each morning line up to share their epic ski tales of  glory days in the late ‘70s, all the ‘80s, and every monster dump of the 21st century. They covet first tracks whether it’s powder or corduroy. Their narrative reigns.

I’ll relent that on a big delicious powder day (especially after we’ve been on hold between storms), those early lines can be awfully nice. But in the end, even in my 26th ski season on the Steamboat slopes, the Old Timers have not swayed me. Here are seven good reasons why this “alternative ski bum” still prefers the afternoon:

1. It’s quiet. Despite an early burst of energy, most people just don’t make it to the end of the day. I like having runs to myself. Praise the solitude. Embrace the silence.

Tempting sunset: Solo tracks descending Storm Peak

2. You don’t have to get up and out of the house before the sun comes up. Instead, I set out to ski when the sun is high and bright in the sky. There are some extra shadows in Shadows by late day, but Westside is a blaze of bright white glory.

Afternoon turns heading for Rainbow

3. While ski bums are known to survive sunrise on energy bars and Mountain Dew en route to the gondola, I’d rather watch the sun rise from the warm and cozy comfort inside my cabin and linger over my latte.

Coffee > Mountain Dew

4. Why venture out in the coldest part of the day? Generally, the longer the sun is up, the warmer it gets. Not always…but pretty much almost always, afternoons are a tad bit toastier.

5. It’s fun to see tiny little kids showing off their “pizzas” and “french fries” when families set out for some post-ski-lesson runs together. Witnessing newly hatched little rippers always makes me smile.

Last ride up

6. Frankly, by 2 p.m. I need a break in my day. When email is exploding and my phone won’t stop ringing, a ski break is the best possible way to shut it all down. Nature brings perspective. It puts your business in alignment. It renews serenity. While you’re sliding down the mountain and feeling cool fresh air fly across your face, perplexing pieces of professional life seem to fall into place.

7. Afternoon sugar! Free hot chocolate and “snowballs” are served up in Gondola Square by the uber-friendly Ambassadors as you walk off the late-day slopes. Kids call it heaven. I call it dinner.

Jimmy, a ski instructor skiing on his day off, gets his late-day donut fix

Still don’t believe me that afternoon rules? Just ask Nils, the longtime shuttle driver for the Meadows Lot. When I got off my solo ride to the base at 2:15 yesterday, he just grinned and said, “Best time of the day! Enjoy it!” Take his professional advice if you don’t take mine – he’s so legit he even had a ski run named after him at Howelsen Hill for a few years!

Captain of the Meadows shuttle, Nils

If you haven’t noticed the news, this is a big weekend honoring women. Steamboat Springs is having a Women’s March on Sunday. And tonight, just in time to stoke you up for the weekend storm, SheJumps is hosting a film fest at the library, debuting two ski films, Full Moon and Finding the Line, made by women.

In the meantime, savor your morning coffee, and I’ll see you on the slopes this afternoon!

Jennie Lay, Telemark skier

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