Ch-ch-chilly though it is at the base of the mountain, today is a beautiful day above 7,500 feet. The snow is cold and fast, and conditions are tailored to all abilities; it’s a great day to learn and practice carving. As you walk out of the gondola or onto the slopes, you’ll notice that the snow is squeaking loudly beneath your boots. This happens when the snow is colder than 15 degrees (F), and it means that the density of single snow crystals is high. Cold, squeaky snow is fast and dry. Today if you cover your face and stay high in elevation, you’ll have a speedy and warm day on the mountain.
This morning, with the skies so clear and vast, I thought I’d show off some other important mountains in the Routt County Rockies. From the top of the ski mountain, one can see some diverse geology and history across the valley. Although it’s a great mountain, Mt. Werner isn’t the only important peak in town.
Closest to Steamboat, and perhaps the most interesting in shape and lore, is Sleeping Giant. This photo is looking northeast from the top of Burgess Creek and Elkhead lifts, but the gondola also offers great views of the gentle Giant. Known as a protector of our town and valley, the Giant is featured in much Steamboat Springs art and photography. The legend of Sleeping Giant can be found at Yampa Valley Lore.
Also looking north, this picture from Rainbow Saddle shows Hahn’s Peak, a dormant volcano that towered over one of Routt County’s earliest towns. The town of Hahns Peak was a mining camp in the late 1800s and was once the county seat. Hahn’s Peak boomed for some time during a gold and silver rush in the area yet became a bit of a ghost town afterward. Now Hahn’s Peak is a gateway to two beautiful state parks and a very cozy community full of history and happenings. Hahn’s Peak Roadhouse is one of my favorite local bars, and the town’s small museum houses exceptional history. Steamboat Lake is a marvelous summer camping attraction, and the Zirkel Wilderness offers glorious hiking.
Looking South from Thunderhead Peak, you can see about 30 miles to the Flattop Wilderness and the town of Yampa. The Flattops, given their namesake shape from glacial erosion, offer some of the valley’s best backcountry skiing, camping and fishing. I grew up in the tiny town of Yampa cross-country skiing to the Post Office and riding extreme backcountry terrain on my father’s back. One of the most popular summer hikes in the area is the Devil’s Causeway, a 6-mile round trip to 11,800 feet. The highlight of the hike is a thin rock ridge with many hundred foot drops on either side. Not for the faint of heart, scrambling across the Causeway is a great thrill.
Have a happy ski day and a wonderful new year!
Willow Fitzgerald, Telemark skier