This week, I made a little jaunt to L.A. Is there anything better than a direct flight into Steamboat? I was transported from palm trees to perfect spring skiing in two hours flat. It’s simple, which strikes me as one of the best possible ways to start a vacation. With night skiing still open, you can jet in for an afternoon of après ski and soft sunset turns before you even delve into you first full day of fun in the sun.
No missed connections — just a direct flight to disconnect. The Bar UE lifties may have summed it up best on their white board this week. Wise words to live by when in Steamboat: “There is no WiFi in the forest, but I promise, you’ll find a better connection!”
Despite promising looking predictions and yesterday’s gloom, new snow has evaded us. It didn’t dip below freezing until the wee hours overnight, and this morning’s clouds are backing away, wispy and high. There’s a little breeze and the mercury is set to climb for one of our warmest days yet. It’s safe to say that we’ve delved into spring.
Local wildlife is giving us clues that are undebatable.
I saw my first pair of mountain bluebirds a couple of days ago. They flitted about in the snow looking as gloriously bright as the skies we’ve experienced a lot of this past week and undoubtedly will see again with predicted temperatures above 50 degrees this weekend.
Another harbinger of spring, our first greater sandhill cranes returned to the Yampa Valley on Wednesday. Right now, your best chance to glimpse this once-endangered flock of dancing birds with their loud, iconic squawk is near the airport in Hayden. Standing nearly 5 feet tall with a bright red forehead, it’s hard to miss the majestic ancient birds as they strut about the winter wheat fields.
Also, I have a pine marten who has been sunning himself outside my window. I don’t know if that’s an official sign of spring, but he’s adorable, and he is gleefully lapping up the warm weather and puddles of melting snow. He is having fun in the sun, without a doubt. Keep your eyes peeled for his brethren bopping about the ski area, especially in the pines along Why Not and around Thunderhead.
The most definitive sign of spring for skiers and riders is the arrival of sunglasses and sunscreen. Vests have replaced parkas. I even saw a shirtless skier hitting the racecourse late one day this week. We’re all riding for a tan at this point.
Groomers are king on cool March mornings (or overcast days) because a little bit of crust is to be expected when the sun blazes and temperatures rise. By contrast, Steamboat’s late-day snow is proving soft and mushy, but not sticky. It’s especially nice for long, carvy runs like Sunset to Moonlight, Heavenly Daze to Ted’s Ridge, Buddy’s Run to Cyclone, or Storm Peak to Rainbow. Cruise High Noon straight to Westside without a stop, then do it again. Hit the slopes at the sweet spot in the middle of the day, and you’ll find the kind of packed powder that’s perfect for spraying your ski buddies when you fly in with a hockey stop.
Right now, the afternoons are extra fun in the bumps, where spring snow is a little slower and more forgiving. I’m a huge fan of Surprise, Norther and the top of Three O’Clock for short bursts of bumps. I love Flying Z. The ultimate commitment is White Out, and aside from days with enormous dumps of fresh powder, this may be the best time of year to test your mettle on that long, grueling sea of moguls.
Burgeoning après ski is the quintessential clue that we’ve changed seasons. One of Steamboat’s favorite spring traditions is the Saturday free concerts in Gondola Square. Tomorrow’s appearance of Nahko and Medicine for the People has Steamboat all atwitter. The music promises to be groovy. The vibe will be hippy, happy and hell-bent on dancing.
And if your legs feel the burn from too many turns, your lazing Adirondack awaits next to the frosty beers at the Umbrella Bar.
Also, Nahko’s newest song proclaims, “I Believe in Good Things Coming,” so maybe we can all sing along, share the love, dance and create a community manifestation for a few more glorious spring snowstorms to come.
Happy spring! Now turn off your phone and ski, dance, connect!
Jennie Lay, Telemark skier