Spring conditions in Steamboat

9th February 2015, by Dave Watts

You can see for miles from the top of Steamboat’s slopes

You can see for miles from the top of Steamboat’s slopes

We spent last weekend in Steamboat which has copyrighted the term ‘Champagne Powder’. And it does indeed have an average annual snowfall higher than almost all other big name Colorado resorts – around 350 inches. And we were assured when we were there that their snow science laboratory at the top of the mountain had proved that Steamboat’s snow was even lighter and drier than the legendary Utah snow.

Sadly, our visit coincided with the resort’s lowest January snowfall for years and with unseasonably warm conditions – as high as 10ºC in the afternoons. So we weren’t able to enjoy to the full the fabulous tree skiing that Steamboat is renowned for. But we did make a few excursions into the trees – enough to convince us that in good snow conditions, the area does indeed have splendid tree skiing for everyone from first-timers to experts.

Most of the pistes offered typical spring conditions – rock hard in the morning, softening during the day and turning to slush by mid-afternoon; not what you expect of Colorado in early February. But the highest, north-facing slopes below Storm Peak were in good condition all day and offered great skiing.

And the resort has excellent pistes, ideal for enjoyable gentle cruising. What sets Steamboat apart from many resorts though is that it grooms several black slopes every night (a huge contrast to Winter Park, where we had spent the previous two days and which leaves virtually all its black runs to turn into giant mogul fields). This makes for great high-speed cruising and the black slopes are usually the quietest on the mountain because intermediates generally stick to the blues. Finding the groomers is made easy by Steamboat’s daily grooming maps, showing exactly which pistes were groomed last night and readily available at the main lift station.

Our visit coincided with the town’s Winter Carnival, which takes place in the old town, a few minutes bus ride from the ski resort. This features parades and ski-joring (being towed along on skis behind horses) along the main street and a night-time event at the old town’s local hill, which we went to. It was great fun with displays of torchlit descents, youngsters jumping through a flaming hoop, a skiing ‘Lighted Man’ in a pyrotechnic suit from which fireworks flew and a fabulous firework finale – all enjoyed by a crowd of around 8,000.

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