Ahhh, the sweet lingering effects of this week’s 12.5” of fresh snow. I’m still grinning from Wednesday’s ultra fun powder day that snuck up on us to deliver a full day of freshies wherever you turned. Those flakes have given us a renewed lease on spring skiing, and they’ve offered the groomers a fresh palette with which to work their magic.
A blanket of clouds is hovering high above the ski area this morning, but no matter which direction you look, Steamboat is surrounded by blue sky.
Those clouds are nestled in to protect some really decent spring snow. It’s genuine packed powder up there. Temps dipped below freezing last night, but it was already 35 degrees when I went up this morning, making my first turns down Rudi’s Run creamy and the top two pitches of White Out a downright enjoyable venture into the bumps. Mid-mountain is the sweet spot this morning, and I’d expect that spot to rise to the top as the day wears on. Groomers like High Noon and Two O’Clock are fast. The bumps are packed and nicely manageable on Three O’Clock.
Of course, none of these conditions apply to the meticulously built bumps that are being mashed on the lower mountain right now. America’s top mogul skiers and aerialists are skiing Steamboat today, competing in the U.S. Freestyle Championships. They’re crushing 1,000 feet of moguls on Mayer’s Mogul Course (named for local Olympic medalist Travis Mayer) and soaring in inverted spins off the vertical jumps on Voo Doo.
Watch the moguls competitions from the finish line or slide right up to the side of the course. Either way, it’s easy to sneak in some gondola laps between races. And definitely bring your cow bell if you have one. The more cow bell, the better.
Nearly 70 women hit the moguls course during yesterday’s qualifying round. Three-time Olympian Hannah Kearney goes into today’s finals in the top slot, with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes Sophia Schwartz and Lane Stolzner solid in the top seven. Women compete for gold in the moguls at 1 p.m. today.
That’s when you’ll get one last shot to see the legendary Hannah Kearney ski her way into history. She’s retiring after this weekend. Her Steamboat race will be her grand finale. She even gifted her U.S. Ski Team moguls ski pants to adoring, young, up-and-coming skiers yesterday afternoon. An icon in skiing, Kearny is unrivaled in moguls. She is a gold and bronze Olympic medalist, World Champion and the most decorated World Cup athlete of all time, having earned 71 World Cup podiums. Talking about today’s race, she told the Steamboat Today, “This is my last chance to try to ski a perfect mogul run.”
You might not want to miss that. And heck yeah … more cow bell.
Men’s moguls qualifying runs start at 10:15 a.m., with local eyes on hometown skiers Ryan Dyer and Jeremy Cota for the medal hunt. The men’s finals are scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
When the ski day is done, do you daydream about what it’s really like to live in Steamboat? This weekend is prime time to mingle with the locals and get a genuine taste of the scene. Here’s your Friday through Sunday après ski alert:
Get out your cowboy boots and head downtown tonight. There’s a barn dance in the historic Depot Art Center in honor of Ag Appreciation Week, where a super fun group of local dancers called Steamboat Stomp is hosting a half-hour cowboy cha-cha lesson at 7:30 p.m. The DJ music kicks in at 8 p.m. so you can two-step the night away. Your $5 donation benefits the Community Agriculture Alliance and helps insure Steamboat stays the kind of real-life ranch town that skiers love to visit.
If Western swing isn’t your thing, chill with several local bands and bid on cool stuff at the Chief Theater, where they’re raising money for Keepin’ it Free, Steamboat’s amazing free summer concert series. The benefit starts at 6 p.m., and they’ll be announcing the lineup for summer 2015 free concerts – thereby giving you at least five great reasons to come back to Steamboat in the summer.
Once your legs are toast and your head is spinning from watching aerialists compete in the U.S. Freestyle Championships on Saturday, head down to the base area for another sun-soaked free concert. The Wheeland Brothers are playing their special brand of “beach rock reggae” this week, which sounds just about right for a day of riding in the sun and sipping on afternoon beers. They’ve been festival faves at the Firefly, Wakarusa, High Sierra and Summer Camp music festivals – darn good cred for this festival-lovin’ town. The Southern California brothers claim that if you like the beach, you’ll love their music. That’s perfect, since the National Weather Service predicts that Gondola Square is pretty much going to feel like the beach this weekend.
Last but not least, this is your last chance for night skiing. Catch a sunset run from the top of Christie while it’s warm and beautiful, and it feels like you can see all the way into the heart of the snow-encrusted Flat Tops Wilderness. Skiing under the stars ends on Monday.
After that, it’s all about Springalicious and skiing under the budding aspens.
Enjoy this gorgeous Friday in the ‘Boat!
Jennie Lay, Telemark skier