Something has changed in the valley, and I’m not just talking about daylight savings. There is a sense that we have turned the corner from the dead of winter and into spring. The sun is getting higher in the sky, the snow is getting a bit wetters and you can see little patches of this stuff called grass popping up around town. Just because springlike weather is here does’t mean that winter is completely over, though. It just means it’s time to start praying for those monster spring storms.
This morning was pretty dry, but that shouldn’t stop you from making the best of it. I decided that today would be a day for the Pony lift and Pioneer Ridge. There isn’t much groomed over there, but the runs are fast and steep. Plus, the lift ride is quick so you can really get your money’s worth.
Longhorn was the only run that was groomed last night on Pioneer Ridge, so I decided to give it a shot. I almost only ride the Pony lift on powder days, and I never really end up on Longhorn. But after a few blazingly fast laps this morning, I think it might be my new favorite groomer. It rides like a super G course with plenty of rollers and steeps to carve around and jump off. The conditions where a bit tough, but as the day warms up, it should be nice and grippy.
Other than Longhorn, most of the runs in the area were a bit crusty. But by the time I left, the top was softening, and the turns where starting to get better. When the bumps get warm enough to ride, I recommend checking out one of Steamboat’s best kept secrets: The trees to the skier’s right of Longhorn used to be too tight to make good turns in, but thanks to the pine beetle and the havoc it has wreaked on our forests, these trees have become one of the nicest glades on the mountain. Go about half way down the run, look for an opening into the forest, and enjoy some great turns through the pines.
Even though there is no new snow and the light out there is very flat, there is hope. The National Weather Service is calling for a few inches at the top of Storm Peak tonight. But who knows? Storms like these are warmer and packed full of moisture right from the Pacific. With all those clouds and energy barreling into the state, you never really know when you will get one of those surprise spring powder days. So if there is one lesson to be learned this time of year, it’s to always check the snow report.
Dan Tullos, snowboarder