Powder Dads: Routt County’s newest way to help fathers learn and have fun
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For many, spending a day on the mountain is about more than just finding the deepest powder stashes — it’s also a time to connect with people, even if just a quick chat on the chairlift.
Now, the Routt County Fatherhood Program is using that social aspect of skiing and riding to create a space for local dads to meet each other and make friends.
The Powder Dads, a small group of local, snow-loving fathers, meets at 9 a.m. every Wednesday in front of the music stage next to the gondola.
About three to five dads typically show up, according to Tom Valand, the head of the Fatherhood Program who started the group. The itinerary tends to be flexible, he said, catering to all skill levels and trail preferences.
When it comes to getting dads to socialize with other dads, Valand said casual chats over coffee aren’t the most effective ways to foster relationships, particularly in an outdoorsy community like Steamboat Springs.
“It’s hard to get guys to sit around a table and talk,” he said. “Guys in general want to either build something together or do something together.”
Valand added that many parents in Steamboat do not work traditional 9-to-5 jobs, which allows them the flexibility to spend a weekday morning at the ski area.
“It’s something people want to do,” he said.
The goal, as Valand described, is to get men to open up more about the hardships they face as parents juggling children, jobs and other life commitments. Throughout the day, particularly during chairlift rides, Valand finds opportunities to cultivate conversations about topics that would otherwise be hard to talk about.
“People on Facebook always share good memories. You don’t share when you have two sick kids and it’s 2 a.m. and your wife is mad at you,” Valand said.
Patrick Schaeffer, a local father of two boys, has been participating in Powder Dads since the group’s inception. He has shared some of his own insights about being a father but also learned a lot from others. Recommendations on where to take young children at the ski area have been among the most useful information he has gained through the weekly outings.
He also has made lasting friendships in the form of ski buddies.
“It’s just fun to get together with other dads who are able to get away for a couple hours,” Schaeffer said.
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