Around the Boat
It’s hard to believe, but there are less than two weeks left in the ski season. With a base of almost 100″ at the summit, and a big storm headed our way tonight, we are having an excellent finish to the year. The mix of cloud cover and sun today is the transition between sunny spring skiing and the next powder storm to bless our mountains. Variable conditions can be found on the mountain this morning with some runs offering firm and fast turns, while others are soft and carvable with midwinter conditions. We really wanted to check out the whole mountain today, so we set out to see how many different chairlifts we could ride in 90 minutes.
We started the morning off with a quiet gondola ride and only a few other skiers and riders joining us early. The expansive views of the Yampa Valley from a gondola car never get old; I love soaking that in every single time I come up skiing. After stepping off the gondola and into the fresh mountain air, we made our way over to Sundown for a run down One O’Clock. The turns at the top of High Noon were pretty nice and changed a bit the further we went down the mountain. With no one else around, we made wide turns taking up the entire run going as fast as we wanted.
We made another loop on Sundown and headed toward Sunshine Express. This is a pretty mellow part of the mountain but always offers up fun turns. Sunshine Lift Line had some firm and fast corduroy and was a blast to ski with no one else around. We knew that no lap on Sunshine Express was complete without a run down Tomahawk, so we added it to our tour today. Without another person in sight, we carved down Tomahawk and hopped on South Peak lift.
Although South Peak is a short lift, it offers up great views of Sunshine Peak and drops you off in perfect position to hit West Side. West Side is a short but sweet run and offered up some fast turns today to get us to our next lift, Elkhead.
Of all the lifts on the mountain, I think Elkhead has the best views to enjoy while riding up. My favorite part of Steamboat is Closet and Shadows, and you can stare at all the fun lines to ski while enjoying a ride up Elkhead.
The top of Elkhead is a good spot because you can head anywhere on the mountain from there. No matter if you are headed to the base, Storm or Sundown, you have all the options open to you there — not to mention a killer view of the valley and the top of Mt. Werner. Since we were trying to hit different lifts at this point, we pointed our skis toward Storm Peak via Lower Rainbow. Although the turns from the top of Elkhead to Rainbow are few, they are often good as not too many people ski down that run. We had soft and carvable turns all the way down Lower Rainbow to Storm Peak. Just as I mentioned in my report last week, Lower Rainbow often has great conditions no matter what the rest of the mountain looks like. Wide open and soft turns all the way to the bottom made this one of the better runs today.
Storm Peak was our sixth chairlift of the day, and we had hardly seen anyone at this point, making us feel like we were enjoying a private ski area. We took a moment at the top of Storm Peak to admire how buried Buddy was. Looking good, Mr. Werner! Note that the top of the statue is approximately 10 feet tall. That’s a lot of snow this year!
We made our way down Buddy’s Run which offered up excellent skiing conditions. We were very surprised at how soft the snow was on almost the entire run. A world apart from the other runs we had done so far, with conditions that reflected midwinter snow. As we got closer the bottom of the run, the snow was a bit more firm but still made for some fun turns.
At the top of Pony Express, we found some nice untouched corduroy on Longhorn. When conditions are good, Longhorn is one of the best runs on the mountain with a great consistent pitch and usually no one around. Yet again today, we enjoyed complete solitude all the way down the run skiing as fast as we wanted and soaking up the last few weeks of the ski season.
As our 90 minute time limit drew to a close, we finished the day off with a ride up Thunderhead to enjoy some turns down the iconic Heavenly Daze. We again found some variable conditions with some spots allowing for ski edges to dig in, while other spots were holding firm and keeping us paying attention. The sun started shining down on us as we made our way to the base area under the gondola carrying more skiers and riders to the top for a day of fun. Carving turns down the Daze with the expansive view of the Flat Tops in the distance is always a treat no matter how many times you have done it.
OK, so we toured the whole mountain today and found a lot of variable conditions. As I mentioned earlier, it is a transition day between warm spring weather and a blizzard of fresh powder coming tonight so the conditions were all over the place. A good part of the mountain could use some sun to warm up, while runs that hide from the sun were skiing better than expected.
Pick of the mountain today is Buddy’s Run: Very soft and carvable snow set this run apart from all the other runs we took today. And as you see above, we tried a lot of them to compare. Make sure you take a look at Buddy’s statue at the top as he is the most buried he has been in years!
Do your snow dance today, the storm headed our way tonight looks awesome.
Be safe, and have a great day on the mountain
Kevin Olsen, Alpine skier