Did you know that today is actually the first day of winter? I bet you were convinced it was last week, what with Steamboat’s 3 feet in 3 days, buried cars, winter wonderland streets and snow globe downtown. But that was just fall. Just a prep for real winter. Holy smokey cold snow, it is real winter up there today!
The report from 5 am had 6 inches of fresh at the summit, and it’s been snowing all morning. Winter snow, big, fat, shortest-day-of-the-year kind of flakes. It feels more like 8″ to 12″ depending on where you ski. The wind came in a bit out of the west, so in spots the snow had been swept clean and in others it is twice as deep. Three O’Clock was like water skiing a moving ocean, waves of deep, waves of wind effect. Super fun but a bit challenging. I got lots of snow in my helmet, if you catch my drift. If you’re a tree hugger, the trees are where it’s at today — they help with visibility and cut down on wind effect. (Note: Don’t hug trees on accident, there are still lots of only slightly buried hazards to get caught in, keep your speed down so that patrol doesn’t have to come rescue you). Look for tree runs that face north or northeast: Closets was heaven, Triangle trees under Bar UE have a ton of snow in them (it all blows off the top of Storm Peak and right into those trees).
Once your legs are beat to smithereens, or if you are new to altitude, the groomers are skiing super fun with a few fresh inches on top of a more predictable surface. The visibility up high is a bit, oh, invisible. ‘Tis the price we pay for big wintry storms blowing in. And it is in fact the darkest day of the year. But if you can let it all go, on this shortest day of the year, it’s all fun. The top of the mountain is hoots and hollers and swirling snow, lower mountain is quiet and good visibility, lots of soft turns to be had. The Christmas scene is in full effect at the base with a big decorated spruce, families meeting up for lessons, lines of eager riders working their way to the hill. Push on through the holiday chaos and get up there!
Happy winter everyone, (good for our beautiful mountain), happy longest night (good for recovery for another day tomorrow), happy solstice (good for return of the sun, return to big days, return of the northern hemisphere), happiest holidays. Enjoy the plentiful snow, the treasured time with friends and family, and this magical place called Steamboat Springs.
Ali Givnish, Alpine skier