What a difference a day makes.
It was a bitterly cold morning as we strode off the gondola at Steamboat on a Thursday morning. Bitter as in well below zero – on the Fahrenheit scale. But the cold soon paled into insignificance as we put on our skis, and didn’t slide. On newly waxed skis too. It was like we were stuck to the snow. Pushing over to a groomer helped but as soon as we slid off machine groomed slopes, the stickiness returned. And it was bad.
We took our skis in to be waxed at 10am, and warmed up with a coffee or two. The wax made a slight difference, but not much. Even the locals complained, so we knew it wasn’t just us. There was really little we could do except explore various runs, get our bearings, avoid frostbite, and cross our fingers for new snow. It wasn’t the best day’s skiing.
Friday was a little warmer, with an inch or so of new. There were few people out at 8.30am, so we ripped the perfect groomers to warm up before plucking up the courage to sample the trees off the Pony Express chair. But when we did – wow – it was like a different mountain. There was lightly tracked, 3 day old knee deep fluff everywhere, and no glue. We skied so many trees that day, aspen groves, perfectly spaced pine tree, and we had it all basically to ourselves. It was a great day skiing.
And then it got better. Saturday’s snow report said there were 5 inches overnight, so we got in the shuttle and hit the gondola line at 8am. This translated into about the 5th gondola loaded. Pony Express didn’t open until 9am, so we took off down the front side on Vagabond, licking up the pow on the side of the groomer and in the trees. Back at the top, we dropped down an untracked, bumpy Surprise to the Pony chair, where tree pow heaven awaited (pics here).
It was a holiday Saturday, but we skied fresh lines all morning – I’ve no idea where the people were. It wasn’t difficult to find at least twice as much fresh as the reported 5 inches. And this was the perfect champagne pow that Colorado is famous for. Cold white dust that explodes as you effortless cruise through the deep pillows and troughs in fun aspen groves like Nash Junction.
Around 2.30pm we met up with (trip organizer) Gene and the remaining Deb Armstrong groupies (!). He suggested a final run down Twilight, a tree run on the other side of the mountain. We headed over, and were rewarded with one of the runs of the day. The sort of stuff you see in ski movies – carving through tight aspens in knee deep snow. And we thought Friday was good!
Our buddy Gene has an uncanny ability to conjure up new snow on his wonderfully organized ski trips. Keep it up Gene – and I might even join the groupies next year :-}
Day 17: 8300m, Day 18: 9650m Day 19: 9150m Day 20: 6300m
Season totals so far: 20 days, 10 powder days, 151,200m vertical