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Steamboat Magazine

Mountainside - W03/04

12/01/2003 01:00AM ● By Anonymous

Winter 2003:

Mountainside - W03/04

Who me? I don't need a ski lesson    My first day on skis was at Loveland in 1981. I rented Solomon rear-entry boots and Dynamic 170 cm skis with Spaceman bindings and took a half-day lesson with about 25 other anonymous people.    I moved to Steamboat Springs in ‘83, the December to remember. Forty days and 40 nights of deep powder. I refined my ski technique by the “better keep up” method. If I wanted to ski with anyone, I had better keep up.    Last winter, after 22 years of skiing, I had a breakthrough. I became a better skier. And I owe this new-found insight to a ski instructor. That’s right, I took a second lesson.    Within five minutes, Emily McWatters of Nordic Link had me skiing 100% better. If I could realize this much improvement in such a short amount of time, it could only mean one of two things.    1. I was a really bad skier to begin with. Or 2. Working with an instructor or coach, no matter what your skill level, will help you improve. “Absolutely, skiing (and riding) is like everything else. You should never stop learning or wanting to learn,” says veteran ski instructor Tom DeGroff. “It’s all about efficiency and letting the equipment work for you.”   Ski technique used to be about three things. Pressure. Edging. Steering. “Say no to steering. That’s not a part of it anymore. With shaped alpine skis, your stance is wider and you’re skiing on both skis, not just one,” Tom says.   “We try to make it easy as far as efficiency goes,” says Barry Smith, who has been teaching skiing since 1974. “Where to stand on your feet, hoto pressure your foot inside your boot, hand placement ... It’s the little things that can make you a more efficient skier. Most people are working too hard.”   Instruction from a coach, no matter what your skill level or homany years you’ve been skiing, can keep any ski day from resembling work.Far cry from Syberia: Pearl Lake yurts are cozy, convenient   Tucked into the tall straight pines near the banks of Pearl Lake, two yurts reveal themselves slowly, despite the fact they are located in a designated campground of a popular state park. Once you spot them, camouflaged between the trees, they have the look of intimacy and the feel of adventure.    Yurts are circular, domed portable tents originally used by the nomadic Mongols of Siberia. Making arrangements to sleep in an authentic yurt in Siberia would be a great adventure, but it may not be the most convenient getaway for the average family. And convenience is high on the list of the features these yurts offer.    In wintertime, a short ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile ride will bring you to these comfortable, secure shelters. The yurts are built out of rugged vinyl canvas, elevated on 4X4 posts, and supported by 2X4 framing and decking. They are insulated, and their domed shape sheds heavy snowfall.    The yurts come complete with a couple of lamps, a ceiling fan, plenty of outlets and electric heaters. Inside, you can plug in your laptop computer, whip up smoothies with the blender you brought from home, or read a good book, without a headlamp strapped to your head. Practically all the comforts of home.    All you need to bring is your sleeping bag, some food and utensils, and if you plan on cooking, a camp stove. No cooking is allowed in the yurts, but a convenient metal shelf built onto the deck railing is ideal for holding a campstove.    Each yurt sleeps up to six people (sorry, no dogs allowed) and is furnished with a picnic table, four Adirondack deck chairs, two sets of bunkbeds (the lower bunk folds out into a double-sized futon). One of the yurts is accessible for people with disabilities. Powder and Steamboat go together like champagne and strawberries    Those who have spent any amount of time on the slopes of Mount Werner will tell you they have skied it. They knowhat it looks like and what it feels like and even what it smells and tastes like. But they may not knowhy Steamboat is a magnet for champagne powder™.    Atmospheric scientist Randy Burys of the Storm Peak Laboratory and avalanche expert Arthur Judson identify three factors that must exist for champagne powder to form.    1. Location. Steamboat is not too far south, but not too far north, either. Southern storms tend to be laden with heavy snow. Northern storms can be extremely cold, which inhibits the formation of prime powder snowflakes. Steamboat is in a prime spot.   2. Wind. Steamboat normally has mild wind speeds. A winter storm, even with the ideal cloud temperature to produce powder, won’t produce a legendary dump if the wind is up. The snowflakes get pounded into the snowpack, creating a thick and dense snocover, certainly not champagne.    3. Topography. Mount Werner is not a giant among mountains but it is a significant topographical feature. It’s not so steep that storms hit it like a brick wall, but it is massive enough to lift clouds, creating an orographic effect. Look at a map. If a winter storm tracks from the northwest, little topography out there will affect the storm clouds. If it tracks through the slot of open Wyoming desert, the Park Range is the persuasive topographical feature that lets those clouds know... Just park your powder here, thank you.    4. The last factor is belief. There is a collective belief in this valley that allows us to say, “Yes, Virginia, it will, indeed, be champagne powder™.” No matter the snow, you’re good to go with combo runs     Whenever I speak with someone who is neto Steamboat, they typically mention hosurprised they are to find out hobig the ski area really is. So many great runs, and plenty of vertical.    One of the things I enjoy about our mountain is that it offers the ability to tie many runs together into one flowing, continuous pursuit.    As a bump skier, I love riding Storm Peak Express and hitting a couple thousand vertical feet of moguls in one run by skiing Storm Peak face to the first half of Nelson’s and over to White Out, finishing with the bottom of Surprise. This is an awesome, nonstop, endurance workout.    After a snostorm when the powder builds up, most everyone heads to the famous glades for some of the best tree skiing I have ever experienced. Unfortunately, because everyone knows about Shadows, Closets and Twilight, the untracked powder can be skied out before you even get there.   For fresher powder and similar glades, take a short ride up Four Points and head to the aspens between Twister and Hurricane (Twisticane), then move over to Four Points for a couple more untracked turns and hit the trees between Nelson’s and Twister, then go for one more pitch on Typhoon. I doubt you’ll see any tracks on these runs before 10 a.m.   When the snoconditions are not so soft, Steamboat also has super smooth, wide groomers that work together well. From the top of Storm Peak, head down skiers’ left to Sunset, then over to the bottom of Rainbow. Head back up Storm Peak lift for a classic run on Buddy’s to Tornado Lane and back to Burgess Creek lift. Take a beautiful run on Valley Vieto See Me and back up the gondola to start all over again.    Yes, I have given away some secrets here, but believe me there’s plenty more! I hope to see you out on this fantastic mountain of ours soon.