Why mud season is secretly the best – as told by Steamboat locals | SteamboatToday.com

Why mud season is secretly the best – as told by Steamboat locals

Rafters get a face full of water after hitting Charlie’s Hole in downtown Steamboat Springs while on a raft trip with Backdoor Sports. A popular mud season activity.
Joel Reichenberger
Trails in Mud season Although many are eager to get out on the trails, Melissa Dressen, Wildlife Biologist Hahn’s Peak-Bears Ears Ranger District said hikers must abide by the mandatory and voluntary closures below or be subject to fines. Hiking trails currently open: According to the City of Steamboat Springs Trails System
  • Skyline Trail (1.9 miles)
  • Sanctuary Trail (1.96 miles)
  • Ritas Route (.81 miles)
  • Butcherknife Trail (.66 miles)
  • Angels Way Trail (.83 miles)
  • Blue Sage Trail (1.26 miles)
  • Emerald Mountain (1.92 miles)
Mandatory Closures December 1 through April 15 every winter
  • Portion of Spring Creek Trail #1160
  • Mad Creek Trail #1100, Mad Creek Road NFSR 128
  • Hot Springs Trail #1169
  • Red Dirt Trail #1171
Mandatory Spring Closures Closed from May 15 through June 15 every spring, for trails on Buffalo Pass to protect elk calving areas.
  • Flash of Gold
  • BTR
Voluntary Closures December 1 through April 15 every winter
  • Coulton Creek Trail #1188 & Road NFSR 429
  • Greenville Mine NFSR 440 & NFSR 471
  • Silver Creek Trail #1105
  • Savis Creek Trail #1106
  • Lower Bear Trail #1206 and Rocky Peak Area
Recommended winter recreation areas, trails and roads According to U.S. Forest Service closure brochure
  • Rabbit Ears Pass
  • Buffalo Pass
  • Bear River Corridor to Flat Tops
  • Dunkley Pass
  • Seedhouse Road east of Hinman Park
  • Gore Pass
  • Hahn’s Peak Lake- Road 486 and 488
  • Road 430 and Tr. 1177 north of Seedhouse Rd
  • Road 440 and Tr. 1100.3A south of Seedhouse Rd
Motor vehicle use maps in the Routt National Forest which list Seasonal Designations (maps include information on approximate dates access is allowed, open and close dates vary slightly based on weather, road conditions, and staff availability). Hahns Peak/Bears Ears Yampa RD Parks RD Call the USDA Forest Service if further questions about spring access to national forest trails and roads.     Warm getaways nearby:
  • Sand Wash Basin, Colorado | Drive time: 51 min.
  • Dinosaur National Monument and Echo Park, Utah | Drive time: 2 hr. and 10 min.
  • Vernal, Utah | Drive time; 2 hr. and 47 min
  • Fruita, Colorado | Drive time: 3 hr. and 26 min.
  • Palisade, Colorado | Drive time: 3 hr. and 15 min.
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado | Drive time: 4 hr. and 45 min.
  • Colorado National Monument (near Fruita, Colorado) | Drive time: 3 hr. 47 min.
  • Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Utah | Drive time: 3 hr. and 31 min.
  • Moab, Utah | Drive time: 4 hr. and 47 min.
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona | Drive time: 9 hr. 41 min.
  • Zion National Park, Utah | Drive time: 8 hr. 41 min.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah | Drive time: 8 hr.
  • Red Rock Canyon, Nevada | Drive time: 10 hr. and 37 min.
Rafting areas nearby
  • Duffy and Juniper Canyons, near Maybell
  • Eagle River
  • Elk River
  • Pumphouse section of the Colorado River; and the Blue River
  •  Cross Mountain Canyon
Other activities in mud season:
  • Fly Fishing
  • Strawberry Park Hot Springs
  • Visit museums and art galleries downtown

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Spring’s beauty is subtle.

Rivers and creeks rise as the snow melts, and churning brown water threatens to escape its banks.

Crowds dwindle, and end-of-the-season powder days provide “old school snow days” for Steamboat Springs’ longtime locals with vacant chairs aplenty and almost nonexistent lift lines.

“In a way, we get our town back in April and May as our tourism industry comes to a halt, and us locals get this outstanding place all to ourselves,” said Kent Vertrees, longtime local. “Beyond the multi-sport opportunities that I can’t get enough of, it’s the slowing down and shift in pace that really resonates this time of year.”

The time between closing weekend festivities, which wind down Sunday with the annual pond skim competition, and the start of Steamboat’s busy summer tourism season is known as “mud season,” and it’s a tradition that locals savor.

While ski instructors, lifties and restaurant servers swap ski gear for dry suits and dust off their mountain bikes and camping gear for a trip to the desert or Mexico, others embrace the more laid-back shoulder season.

In honor of the upcoming mud season, Steamboat residents offer their take on mud season in the Yampa Valley.

Mud Season: Love it or hate it in the Yampa Valley?


Betse Grassby

Executive director of the Steamboat Art Museum

Mud season experience: 46 years

How it’s changed?

 “There is much less mud. My first seasons, few roads were paved at the mountain and throughout the county. I had two dogs and no garage — there was way too much mud in our house.”

Love it or hate it?  

“Love it, most of the time. I love the quiet and having our town back, so to speak. Not only that, the valley slowly changes color and early bulbs start to bloom as all the new life grows out of the mud.”

Tips and tricks on ‘surviving’ mud season?

 “Gore-Tex! There are now miles of paved bike paths to get outside either walking or biking in any weather.”

“Before streaming TV, I’d stock up on entire series from the library. Now, you can make your way through your watch list and binge-watch those shows you haven’t had time for.”

“Catch up with those few friends who may remain in town but you haven’t had a chance to see during the winter.”

“Enjoy the quiet — it’s gone before you know it.”


Kent Vertrees

Board president of Friends of the Yampa

Mud season experience: 24 years

How it’s changed? 

“My first few years in town were the classic ski bum life of doing my best to save money during mud season while transitioning from snow to rivers. I’d leave Steamboat in April and do the classic Utah, living out of my truck, hiking, biking and exploring to keep expenses down.”

Love it or hate it?

 “Love it — this is actually my favorite time of year. As an active outdoor junkie and riverman, it’s on for me and my crew in April and May, which is the only time of year that we can ski in the morning and kayak or raft in the afternoon.

The Yampa River is my heart and soul, and it’s a powder day every day for me when the snows melting and the river is high. We can still pick off great ski lines on Buffalo Pass and Fish Creek Canyon when the snow is good, and now that the rivers are flowing, we can paddle and go on epic river rafting adventures in the afternoon.”

Tips and tricks on ‘surviving’ mud season?     

“Buy a dry suit and learn how to paddle a kayak.”

“Keep an eye on your friends and close acquaintances as depression can set in this time of year with people transitioning from jobs, housing and friends moving on.”


Emily Hines

Marketing and special events coordinator for the city of Steamboat Springs

Mud season experience: 26 years

How it’s changed?

“As a kid growing up here, pretty much everything except the banks and grocery stores would shut down for at least a week, typically during spring break. While things still slow down dramatically during our spring mud season, today, you can still find a number of businesses and restaurants open. It isn’t as much of a ghost town as it used to be.”

Love it or hate it?

“Love it — I love how quiet things can be during mud season. Less car noise, less people, it’s just peaceful and quiet. I also love the sound of the rushing water as the snow starts to melt, the smell of the mud/grass starting to grow and all the birds singing away on a nice sunny day.

No long lines and no reservations required at restaurants open in mud season and then there’s the mud season locals discounts.

It’s nice to catch up with locals that you’ve known forever but don’t always get to see around town when it’s super busy.”

Tips and tricks on ‘surviving’ mud season?     

“Find some time to take a breath, slow down and relax after a busy winter season.”


Shari Fryer

President of the Yampatika board of directors

Mud season experience: 15 years

How it’s changed?

“At first it was a bit daunting. What do you do when the mountain closes and the kids ski lessons have finished? But now, it’s just another seasonal transition. And what’s not to love about seasonal transitions in Steamboat? All of them are spectacular and unique.”

Love it or hate it?

“Love it — it’s the start of spring. It’s my favorite time of the year because, for me, it’s full of hope. Buds are blooming, green grass is poking out, there are epic snow run offs on the side of the road, the river is raging, short sleeves are making an entrance and then, in blows another blizzard to enjoy.

Tips and tricks on ‘surviving’ mud season?     

“Get outside every chance you can. No matter what the weather is doing, anyone who lives here has all the clothes we need for every season. So don’t let the weather stop you — embrace it and do what you enjoy.”


Nancy Merrill

Co-founder and president of the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition

Mud season experience: 18 years

How it’s changed?

“As time has gone on, it seems that mud season has become less ‘muddy.’ Initially, I remember lots of very nasty weather days — rain, snow, sleet, etc. In recent years, we seem to be experiencing more mellow weather.”

Love it or hate it?

“I love mud season. As the snow melts, the migratory birds return, the trees bud out, and my garden comes alive again. It’s great to have the town to ourselves.”

“The migratory birds return to the valley — starting with the cranes in March, then the bluebirds, meadowlarks, orioles, hummingbirds, tanagers and warblers.”

Tips and tricks on ‘surviving’ mud season?     

“Get involved with birds and nature,” Merrill said.


Cody Perry

Founder of Rig to Flip

Mud season experience: 17 years

How it’s changed?

“I’ve grown to look forward to it so much more. All the birds return and creeks awaken and finally, that one day, you hear thunder again.”

Love it or hate it?

“I love it, Mud Season signals the opening days of running rivers.”

“It’s a transitional time. A time to make plans or take a break while the world becomes green again.”

Tips and tricks on ‘surviving’ mud season?     

“Standard Colorado weather rules apply. Have all the gear with you.”


Paula Huselton

Youth services assistant for the Bud Werner Memorial Library, worked for Steamboat Ski Area in the early ’90s

Mud season experience: 37 years

How it’s changed?

“Very few businesses were even open back then. You couldn’t go out to eat. I do remember when the Tugboat had $.25 beers, and $.50 nachos for happy hour for about a week after the mountain closed. Everyone was there.”

Love it or hate it?

“Love it. I have worked for the ski area for 37 winter seasons, some summers too have the quiet and our town is back to “US.” It always refreshes me. We’ve earned it.”

Tips and tricks on ‘surviving’ mud season?     

“To survive Mud Season you just have to take it as it comes, rain or shine.”


Patrick Stanko

Community Agriculture Alliance’s agriculture resource coordinator and livestock producer

Mud season expericne: 23 years

How it’s changed?

“As a kid, it was great to play in the mud and build dams and waterways. Now, it’s just work.”

Love it or hate it?

“Neither, it’s just a part of life. I love that town gets quiet and the springtime calves but hate tracking in mud everywhere. It’s a sign that summer is coming, and the green grass will be coming up soon.” 

Tips and tricks on ‘surviving’ mud season?     

“Enjoy the quite time before the busy summer. Also, have good floor mats for the vehicles.”

“Mud season is the start of the busy time for the agriculture producers in the valley as they are staring to plant, calve/lamb and build roadside fences. Please watch out for them.”


Rob Peterson

Honey Stinger marketing specialist

Mud season experience: 23 years

How it’s changed?

“Back in the day it was literally a ghost town for about six to eight weeks with a bunch of places closed for a month. You kind of got the run of the town. Now, we seem to have more and more people coming to visit and places only closing for a couple weeks versus a month. Each year, I feel like it gets shorter and shorter.”

Love it or hate it?

“Love it — it’s quiet and simple to do whatever you’d like or nothing at all. It’s nice rolling down main street (Lincoln Avenue) with little to no cars around. And, you can always get a table for dinner — at least with the places still open.”

Tips and tricks on ‘surviving’ mud season?     

“Take the time to chill and enjoy the quiet — the non-stop summer of activities is just around the corner.”



To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.


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