Steamboat area Nordic centers await more snow to open
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Ski Touring Center as well as the Nordic trails at Haymaker Golf Course and Lake Catamount are waiting for more snow to fall.
While the cross-country tracks on Rabbit Ears Pass, like Bruce’s Trail, are groomed and ready to go, the Steamboat and Haymaker touring centers only have 1 to 3 inches of snow on the ground. Both need at least 8 inches before they can open.
“Typically, our average opening date is Nov. 17,” said Kajsa Wiik-Lindgren, manager of both ski touring centers. “But I don’t think we’re going to make that.”
According to Wiik-Lindgren, the Nordic centers have opened every year in November except last year and 1982. In 2017, Steamboat and Haymaker touring centers opened on Christmas Eve and remained opened until March 22. In 1982, the centers experienced a bad snow season and did not open until Jan. 1 and closed early on March 1.
Neither centers are in locations conducive to manmade snowmaking, so it’s up to Mother Nature to produce the snow they need.
In addition to snowfall, Lake Catamount Ski Touring Center also awaits the lowering of the lake level.
“On many average years, we shoot for second Saturday in December,” Lake Catamount club outfitter Kevin Kopischke said. “The good snow we got last week is not on the current exposed lake bottom because water was covering that weeks ago. We need water to drop a couple of feet.”
Even in a good winter, the earliest Lake Catamount’s center opened was Dec. 5. A lot of the ski trails at Lake Catamount are on agricultural parcels, like open hayfields, but the Nordic center lies at the edge of the lake, where skiers take an initial drop down to the left or right to access the trail system at the lake bottom. Currently, snowcats can’t even access the lake’s bottom.
The Lake Catamount Metro District mitigates the lake levels, lowering them in winter.
Kopischke said the latest winter opening of the touring center was mid-January in 2012, following a drought that plagued the Steamboat Springs area in 2011. The center also closed early that year on March 1.
“We try to open with reasonable or good conditions, not when others typically open,” Kopischke said. “We like there to be no sticks or rocks — enough snow to make it happen.”
For now, Bruce’s Trail remains one of the most popular spots to kick off the cross country ski season. Daily and seasonal rentals are available at Steamboat Ski Touring Center, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“I went up there today,” Wiik-Lindgren said. “It’s amazing up there. It is like mid-winter — it’s awesome.”
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