Early-season snow sweet for local skiers and snowboarders
Steamboat Springs — Memories that involve “the earliest,” “the deepest” or “the best” tend to be foggy, so Steamboat Springs’ Dr. Dan Smilkstein isn’t guaranteeing anything.
“I know there have been a few Octobers where we had some good snow for a day or so,” he said.
Was October 2013 the best of Octobers for local skiers and snowboarders willing to hike for their first turns of the season?
That’s difficult to say, but it is safe to conclude they’re not worrying too much about it. They haven’t had time.
“It’s been great,” Smilkstein said. “I’ve been going to the top of the mountain, to the weather station, and there’s been a 3-foot base and powder.”
He’s not alone. The storm that made for a white Halloween on Thursday night made for top-to-bottom skiing for those willing to work to get it Friday morning. Matt Tredway made his first assault this season on Mount Werner soon after an Oct. 4 storm. That pounding bogged Steamboat down in a foot of heavy, wet snow. It snapped tree limbs around town, but it made for a glorious start to the season.
“It was so light up on the mountain at the time, and there was so much snow, had it been a day in February, people would have counted it as one of the best powder days of the season,” Tredway said.
He was up again Friday morning.
“There were little trees sticking out toward the bottom, but I literally skinned all the way up and skied all the way down,” he said. “I took my skis off just above T Bar and walked, and it was a little muddy there, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.”
It’s early, declared Tredway, a 25-year veteran of Routt County winters.
Aaron Goforth, a snowboarder who rides a splitboard, has two years in Steamboat under his belt, but even to him it was obvious October was special. He estimates that, counting Friday’s journey, he’s made seven trips up Mount Werner already.
“Last year, I really didn’t go until right before the mountain opened, when the man-made snow went up to the gondola, right around Thanksgiving,” he said. “This is a whole different experience. I skied Hurricane this morning, and it was really good. I skied Buddy’s, Chute One, and it was all pretty amazing. I just kept thinking to myself, ‘When the resort opens, it won’t ski this good.’”
Skiers and snowboarders did have a few bits of advice for those hoping to join them on the slopes.
Tredway recommended getting out early, when muddy areas near the bottom still are frozen.
“It’s starting to freeze a little bit early, so you can get over that and back and you won’t have to take your ski boots to the car wash,” he said.
Mike Martin, an avid backcountry skier who’s so far avoided Routt County this year, said despite this year’s unusually snowy start, the terrain still can pose a huge, season-ending danger.
“Bring your old stuff still,” said Martin, ski and snowboard business program teacher at Colorado Mountain College. “As good as the snow has been, there’s not that much coverage. A lot of stuff lurks. Every year with my students, there’s someone who gets broken at this point, hits a log or hits a rock. It’s still the Wild West as far as conditions are concerned.”
There’s one last concern the early-season searchers warn of, too.
“The biggest trap in the world is to extrapolate the season based on today,” said Tredway.
The message: Keep praying for that snow.
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