Tom Ross: Have you skied the Nose of the Nostrils? |

Tom Ross: Have you skied the Nose of the Nostrils?

Skiers and riders spoiled by third 400-inch winter in 5 years

Steamboat ski instructor David Klein takes a group down Headwall on Friday afternoon. The ski area reported 4 inches of new snow Friday to put the total at 403.5.

— For members of the Steamboat Powder Patrol, these are the good old days.

For longtime Steamboat skier Sue Hansen, it was a great winter to ski her favorite unofficial trail on Mount Werner, the Nose of the Nostrils. Stick with me, and I’ll reveal the location of her powder stash.

The Steamboat Ski Area reported a modest 4 inches of fresh snow on its 5 a.m. ski report Friday. They proved to be a historic 4 inches, pushing the ski area’s season snowfall to 403.5 inches and counting.

Do you realize that in the past 30 years we’ve had just seven winters when 400 inches of snow fell at Thunderhead, and three of those have happened in the past five years? If you arrived in the ‘Boat for your first winter on the mountain in November 2005, you can’t help but be a little spoiled. You’ve skied more powder than a person could reasonably hope for. The average season snowfall for the past three winters is 412 inches compared to the 30-year average of 315 inches.

If you’ve logged a lot of days on the mountain this winter and last (the record year of 2007-08 with 489 inches), you’ve probably invested in a sturdy diary to keep track of the best of the best powder days.

Allow me to put this in perspective. Four hundred-inch winters don’t happen every other season.

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Steamboat had an incredible season in 1983-84. That was the winter of 40 days and 40 nights of continuous snow beginning at the end of November and continuing into January. We finished up with 447.5 inches that winter. But we didn’t see another 400-inch winter for nine years. And a couple of the ensuing winters were stinkers – 1986-87 saw 166.75 inches of snow all winter.

After the 1992-93 season kicked in with 423.5 inches, we took two years off and then hit back-to-back homers with 441.25 inches in 1995-96 and 447.75 inches in 1996-97, establishing a new season record at that time.

I recall the snowfall of 1997 for all the people in Old Town Steamboat who literally lost their cars in snow banks. However, it’s really January of 1996 that I recall best. That was when 216.5 inches of snow fell – in one month.

Thanks to the record keeping of Steamboat Ski Area Public Relations Director Mike Lane, we can reconstruct the last nine days of that month, when 119 inches fell in what felt like one unending storm.

It began Jan. 23, 2006, and continued with 8, 16, 16, 3, 7, 9 and 10 inches in succeeding days and wrapped up with 26 inches Jan. 31.

Consistency was the hallmark of this winter and last. We didn’t see a 24-hour period when 20 inches fell at mid-mountain. To appreciate the biggest powders days of this winter, it’s necessary to look at the snow totals for Storm Peak.

Jan. 25 and 26, for example, saw a combined 20 inches fall at mid-mountain while 32 inches fell at the summit. That’s a big powder event.

Hansen, finishing up her 27th winter and making the most of her 25th season pass this week, knew where she was headed Jan. 25 before she even woke up in the morning.

“I went to the Nose of the Nostrils,” Hansen said with a serious look on her face.

If you’re consulting your trail map and can’t find a ski run called the Nose, let alone anything referring to nostrils, allow Hansen to explain.

“The Nose is that little patch of trees on Storm Peak in between the two groomed areas – the Nostrils,” she said.

Don’t tell anyone, but Hansen knows she can always count on finding some untracked turns in The Nose because everyone else zooms right past in their hurry to navigate the nasal passages.

Hey, a woman who can last for 27 winters in the ‘Boat is allowed to be creative when it comes to naming her powder stashes.