All throughout town today at 8 a.m., skiers and riders clad in all their gear and carrying sticks moved toward bus stops, trails and to the base area. Steamboat on a powder morning is like a busy bee hive, swarmed with happy workers with only one goal: great turns. As I geared up in the car on the way to the mountain, I admired the determination of the stiff-booted visitors walking uphill in the snow to the (almost) conveniently located free bus lines. And goodness, it would be worth it.
With snow in the forecast and the Cowboy Downhill weekend just ramping up, this should be an exciting holiday weekend. We’ve had 5 inches of snow in the last 24 hours, and it’s still snowing! As I rise into the storm on Sundown lift, I’ve never been so happy to enter the fog.
My first goal this morning was to locate and ski a run that in 22 years I think I’ve never skied before. Last Sunday, I spied it from Elkhead lift and admired its pitch and mystery. I adore Steamboat, but I am beginning to fear that I’ve skied every inch. Sunnyside, it turns out, was easy to find, starting directly under Elkhead, and was awesome. Fresh powder on fresh corduroy and completely mine. The run is long, steep (a blue-black), and included a bump pitch that I already love. Although it may heave been my last un-charted run, I am very glad to know it.
At the top of Sundown, the weather was certainly wintry. Snow blustered and fell, but not with terrible aggression. One can truly appreciate a scarf and goggles in such a place. Wrapping around toward Storm Peak Face, the wind grew a little stronger, so I ducked into the trees between Sideburn and Closet. The fresh snow was deep and fluffy in those trees. Gorgeous is the forest in the wintertime.
On the way down, I hit a speedy Rainbow and a soft Surprise. Lower Vagabond was vast and uncrowded, and I got mixed in with a group of slalomers, and we all sped down the groomed pitch. People were still emerging ski ready from their slopeside condos as I passed along Right-O-Way.
If you get chilly or tired on your way down the mountain, check out the teepee that’s about halfway down both Vagabond and Why Not. Used as a resting spot for the SnowSports School, and a great place for picnicking, it’s a really cool way to talk a little Ute Indian history with your family.
The Cowboy Downhill is one of the greatest events of the Steamboat season. It shows the meaning of our Western heritage and does so in a pretty comedic way. Some of the cowboys, most of whom are coming straight from the National Western Stock Show in Denver, have been skiing Steamboat for as long as they’ve been ranching. It’s really wonderful to welcome them back each year. Check out the Balloon Glow on Sunday night, which promises to be beautiful, and the free concert after the race on Monday.
Happy Martin Luther King Day!
Willow Fitzgerald, Telemark skier