Late snow keeps most local Nordic centers closed
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The lack of snow in Steamboat Springs this year is starting to get to record territory. Some Nordic centers are completely closed as they wait for more snow, while the Ski Touring Center and Howelsen Hill Ski Area have limited terrain open.
“This is a very late opening for us,” said Kajsa Lindgren, co-owner of the Ski Touring Center. “Our average opening is Nov. 17 in the last 40 years. It’s not our worst year, by any means. Our worst year, we opened Jan. 1 and closed March 1. We’re still doing good.”
The Ski Touring Center opened Monday, and skiers can glide over part of the Fish Creek Trail, to the tunnel and back, as well as Kaisa’s Loop.
Catamount Nordic Center typically opens in mid-December but is closed until another two feet of snow falls. Haymaker needs another 18 inches or so until groomers can get the trails ready for skiers. Until then, the shop remains closed, as well.
“We usually are open by Dec. 12, the second week of December,” said Catamount Nordic center manager David McAtee. “I’ve been managing the place for 22 years, and I’ve only had one other year we were past Dec. 12.”
Since both golf courses and Nordic centers are so exposed, any snowfall is blown around by the wind. So, there’s not more than a couple of inches on the ground in both places.
“It isn’t typical,” McAtee said. “We’re just hoping for more snow, and it’ll come; it’s just when.”
When the center does open, season pass holders can just show up to ski. However, anyone else will have to call in advance and make a reservation.
The Steamboat Ski Touring Center is working to slowly open up more terrain with the little snow that’s on the ground. The shop is open, and the center can have three customers in the building at once. Lindgren said the center is encouraging online booking for those who need passes or rentals. As for season pass holders, they can check in at the window, in person or via text before hitting the trails.
Howelsen Hill is the only other option in Steamboat Springs to Nordic ski on groomed trails. Just a few kilometers of trails are open, mostly around the rodeo grounds. People can see an updated trail map and grooming conditions at maps.steamboatsprings.net/nordictrails.
“We have a snow gun in the practice rodeo arena that will add another loop in the rodeo grounds, but with 80% of our trails, we rely on Mother Nature to do it,” said Howelsen Hill snowcat operator Ben Glassmeyer. “Once we have enough snow, we’ll drive a cat out there and pack it until we have a good amount of snow. We don’t want to go out there while it’s too thin.”
Glassmeyer said 6 inches is the minimum to drive a cat on it, but a foot of snow gives him more confidence in grooming.
Everyone should do a snow dance, or appease the snow gods, because if more terrain doesn’t open soon, Nordic centers will start worrying.
“I’d like to think positively and say we would still be alright, but of course, you start worrying, because snow is our livelihood, and we need snow to survive,” said Lindgren. “I’d say if we didn’t get snow by Jan. 1, it would be of deep concern.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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