Spring has sprung | SteamboatToday.com

Spring has sprung

Skiers evaluate warm weather, snow conditions

Spring skiing is in full bloom at least seven to 10 days early in Steamboat and surf’s up at Thunderhead Beach.

The strategy for the balance of the season involves sleeping in, dialing 879-7300 to check the midmountain temperature, timing your arrival at the gondola to catch the snow just as it begins to soften from the overnight freeze-down, then consulting the grooming report to locate the corduroy. Hit it just right, and you’ll be skiing an inch of softened margarine on top of a firm base.

Prime time Friday arrived between 10:30 a.m. and noon, when Heavenly Daze to See Me was a dream cruise.

Steamboat crews have been grooming some black diamond runs to enhance the spring conditions for visiting skiers.

“Our grooming crews have been working hard at night grooming some runs like Ted’s Ridge,” ski area spokesman Mike Lane said. Hurricane was among the runs that had been freshly groomed Friday.

Individual skiers’ perceptions of the spring conditions varied significantly.

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Jeff Blake of Jacksonville, Fla., said the snow didn’t live up to his expectations.

“It’s not necessarily a lack of powder,” Blake said. “When it’s hard at the top in the morning and slush at the bottom in the afternoon, it’s disappointing.”

The Coleman and Agle families of Oak Ridge, Tenn., were reveling in the spring sunshine. Back home in East Tennessee, they can expect green grass and maybe even dogwoods in bloom when they return. They were making the most of the spring snow.

“Whenever you go skiing, you don’t know what to expect,” Gary Coleman said. He added that the families spent their ski vacations at Grey Rocks, Quebec, during the past two winters.

Coleman’s wife, Betsy, said the two families had been looking forward to the Steamboat trip for a long time.

“The sky here is so blue,” she said. “We’ve been dreaming, planning and saving for this trip all winter.”

She said the families spent 26 hours driving to Steamboat, with six kids and all their gear packed into a Range Rover and a Saab. Betsy Coleman said all the driving was worth it.

Steamboat Ski Area President Chris Diamond said he has his eye on the long-range forecast and is hopeful a storm front will bring fresh snow to the ski area perhaps by Wednesday.

“I rode up the gondola with a family from Arkansas today, and they asked me if we’re going to make it to April,” Diamond said. “I told them not to worry. Most people think the skiing’s great.”

Based on snowfall records going back to the winter of 1979-80, March is Steamboat’s third snowiest month. January is the snowiest with an average of 80.8 inches of snowfall, and February ranks second, with 65.9 inches. The average March snowfall is 53 inches at midmountain. March 2003 produced 50.5 inches of snow at midmountain and 67.5 at the summit, compared to 39 at midmountain and 45 at the summit in 2002.

— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com