Tom Ross: Deep Sunday one for the record books
Powder skiing in Priest Creek was heavenly, and we're still dazed
You can write this down in your diary — Nov. 28, 2004 — DEEP SUNDAY! And to think I almost didn’t go skiing yesterday.
How deep was it? Well, it’s difficult to say for certain. The ski area was reporting 11 inches of new snow overnight, and by afternoon, an additional 7 inches had fallen. But that wasn’t the sum total of it, not even close, because Steamboat had received 5 feet of snow since opening day on Wednesday, Nov. 24.
The point I’m trying to make is that when ski patrol opened up access to the gladed tree skiing in Priest Creek late Sunday morning, the untracked snow felt nearly bottomless under one’s skis.
Excuse me for a moment, I can’t breathe, and it’s difficult to write. I’ve got to get the snow out of my nostrils.
There, that’s better. I hate it when I’m skiing and the powder is so deep that it packs into my nostrils. In order to get my breath, I have to open my mouth, and then I start choking on the powder. Don’t you hate when that happens? Especially in November, when the skiing has no business being this good.
Boys and girls, I know we’ve had some amazing November powder days the past several years, but this is ridiculous. I don’t recall ever seeing a day like this in November. And I can recall many perfectly fine ski seasons when the Priest Creek trees didn’t open until after the first of the year. That’s typically because it takes a good deal of snow to cover the rocks, stumps and fallen trees that are present in naturally wooded ski trails. At 11:30 a.m., Nov. 28, there were still long lines of completely untracked snow in Sundown liftline, and for skiers and riders willing to stick their tips into the tight aspens in the Closets, it was even better. Part of what made the skiing so good on Sunday was the wet stuff that fell from the sky Thanksgiving night into Friday. There was about 6 inches of heavy snow in my driveway Friday morning, and it was so sticky the snowblower couldn’t cope with it. The impeller chute just clogged with snow, and the engine shut down. I groused about having to shovel the driveway by hand, but had I fully understood the beneficial effect it was having on the ski slopes, I wouldn’t have complained.
The 6 inches that fell at the base of the mountain Nov. 26 ballooned to 14 inches at Thunderhead and 2 feet at Storm Peak. All of that heavy snow wasn’t very good for skiing, but it couldn’t have arrived at a better time for the ski season.
Snowmaking crews had not made much progress during November nights that had been relatively balmy up to this point. The cement that fell out of the sky Thanksgiving night served to seal up many of the obstructions in gladed trails such as the Closets and Shadows.
Let’s be clear — there still are obstructions under the surface of the snow, and skiers and riders need to be cautious. I encountered a couple of small logs and one very large rock. But most of the junk on the forest floor is locked in 20 inches of very firm snowpack beneath all the recent powder. The weather forecast this week calls for a continuing chance of snow. There aren’t any vacationers to speak of in town as November gives way to December. If you’ve got a powder clause in your contract, this would a good time to invoke it. You just don’t know when early season skiing like this will come around again.
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