Sunday, March 1, 2015
Steamboat, CO: 02/19 - 02/23/2015
Although our 2 kids have been skiing almost since they could walk (they are 7 and 11 now), I’ve been waiting to do a family ski trip out west until they were both at an ability level that would allow them to fully enjoy the experience. This is the year, and we just returned from 5 days of skiing at Steamboat, CO. The trip couldn’t have worked out better.
Despite being cold and snowy here in the east, it's been something of a lean year out west. Steamboat has been having a better season than many western ski areas, but still the locals were all apologetic about the lack of snow when we arrived. I can’t tell you how many times we heard “you left all that snow to come ski here?”
It was bright and sunny when we landed in Steamboat. On one hand, that was great because I wanted the family to experience that great Colorado sunshine and packed powder. But deep inside I wanted it to DUMP. We got the best of both worlds: Bluebird conditions for our first day of skiing, followed by three days of dumpage (yielding two feet of champagne powder), capped off with one final bluebird day after the storm.
It’s funny how some western skiers can be so jaded about conditions. On our first day of skiing – before all the new snow – Steamboat was 100% open with great coverage and packed powder conditions that were nicer than just about anything we’ve skied back east this year. And all that sunshine and blue sky… how could anyone complain?
Then it started snowing early in the morning of our second day. By the time we were skiing there was an inch or two down, by noon it was 2 to 4, and it just kept going. Nearly 24 inches fell over 3 days. The locals stopped apologizing.
Steamboat is well known for its tree skiing, and with 3 days of falling snow the trees were the place to be. Initially we favored the lower angled aspen glades, but as the snow piled up our preferences leaned toward the steeper evergreens.
Steamboat’s got less in the way of extreme hike-to terrain than other western areas I've visited recently (Big Sky, Alta, Telluride), but there is some double-black terrain that Daniel and I hiked for a "men only" run or two each day. The "hike" is really nothing more than a 5 minute uphill walk of a couple hundred yards, but it keeps the riff-raff out and snow conditions stellar. Our favorite was a line called the "No Names."
The snow eventually tapered off during our fourth day of skiing, giving us another bluebird day for our fifth and final day. Over the course of the five days we built quite a list of favorite trails and glades, including Shadows and Closets (two expert tree runs off the summit), the wide open Storm Peak black diamonds, Heavenly Daze (a blue cruiser under the gondi), and Longhorn, a blue-black that goes on forever off the Pony Express lift.
The 4 of us skied bell-to-bell for 5 days straight, so there wasn't a lot of time for much else besides skiing, hot tubbing, eating and sleeping. But we still squeezed in a night skiing session and a visit to the natural hot springs outside of town (highly recommended!), an excursion that featured 2 miles of steep unpaved road that tested our rental car's capabilities.
If there's a down side to the trip, it's that maybe Gore will seem relatively ho-hum to the family now and I'll have to take them out west every year. But they love Gore and WF almost as much as I do, and a western ski trip every year isn't really in the family budget, so I don't think that'll happen. Still, once you’re hooked you’re hooked, and western skiing is now in our family's blood.