It’s mind-boggling how quickly the weather can change in the Rockies. The difference one hour or a 3,668 foot elevation gain (Steamboat’s vertical rise) can make is crazy. I woke up around 6:30am to howling winds and what appeared to be a dark, stormy cloud hovering over the mountain. All I really wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and fall back asleep… nice, warm and cozy. By 7:30am, as I left my house, the skies were starting to part, giving the morning sky a majestic glow. Despite the promise of sunshine, the dark cloud, although it had risen somewhat, still clung to Mt. Werner, Storm Peak and Sunshine Peak (Steamboat’s three highest peaks).
Riding up the gondola, I admired our beautiful Yampa Valley, so eloquently dressed in golden rays of the morning sun. Looking above, I could see up to Four Points Lodge, but beyond that, the peaks were all covered in a frosty fog. I was lucky enough to enjoy all of my runs this morning in complete solitude… a sweet, Saturday morning treat if you ask me. To get to Four Points Lift, I stuck to Rudi’s and enjoyed a nice little groomer to warm up my legs. On Rudi’s, I was still beneath the cloud, so visibility was good, although I was glad I had chosen my flat light goggles since the hovering cloud was blocking the morning sun from decorating most of the slopes. I always love a ride up Four Points. The lifties are great, the line is empty and the slower pace of the lift allows you to enjoy the natural beauty surrounding you. Riding up Four Points I noticed a subtle pink glow backlighting the mountain, before it turned into the chilly fog up above. I unloaded Four Points in the fog, but could still see a sunny Yampa Valley below. The sense of peace and solitude I felt as I looked up into the fog and down into the sunny valley, not seeing a soul around, was an unexpected surprise.
Sunset to Rainbow was a great early morning groomer to ride. I mentioned earlier that I awoke to howling wind, and I know I wasn’t dreaming because you could certainly see the wind-blown snow. I would highly recommend staying out of the trees and sticking to groomed runs for now, but I have to admit, the wind-blown snow actually created some soft and really nice pockets on the groomed runs I did ride this morning. Last week I saw squirrels dancing on Rainbow, and this week, I saw (I’m guessing) the same two squirrels doing their very best morning snow dance on Rainbow yet again… maybe we should all follow suit and do our very best snow dances as well. Rainbow led me to Pony Express and yet again, up into the frosty morning fog. It was amazing how I loaded Pony under parting skies, promising that the sun would indeed peek out any minute, and I unloaded Pony in another world, stuck in a mystical, peaceful fog.
Longhorn, one of my favorite runs on the mountain, was groomed and I enjoyed floating in and out of some more wind-blown, soft pockets. I particularly love the narrow steepness and incredible valley views, not to mention the fact that you normally don’t see many people on this run. From Pony, I went to Thunderhead to catch one more lower mountain run before calling it a morning. I told myself to mix it up, to try something new, but my board must have had some sort of magnetic pull to a groomed Valley View. I rode Valley View last Saturday, and rode it again this Saturday, so I know I didn’t do a good job of mixing it up, but I did make a good choice and found some awesome turns on another favorite run. Stick to the right side and you’ll find a few soft, wind-blown pockets to float in and out of.
It’s no secret that we’re all wishing for more snow, wishing for another epic day filled with champagne powder®, but for now, I would like to give Steamboat Mountain props for doing the very best they can do with what they have to work with. Check out this photo and you’ll see what I mean…
Until next time, keep on snow dancing and have a great Saturday, whether you’re up in the mystical fog or down in the valley sunshine…
Erin Campbell, snowboarder
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