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Steamboat Magazine

Visit Like a Local: Jon Dean

11/12/2020 11:43AM ● By Rachel Miller

Jon Dean launches from a cliff in the Steamboat backcountry as the sunset fades below the horizon.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS- Jon Dean is a freeskier who has lived in Steamboat Springs for 15 years. He has long been involved in the competitive freeski world, including several years on the Subaru Freeride Series, has coached big mountain freeskiing for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, and judges freeskiing competitions for the International Freeskiers Association.

What is big mountain freeskiing?

Big mountain skiing is taking wherever the boundaries are of a ski run and painting your own picture within that, while skiing it fast, and skiing it controlled. You bring backcountry ski skills into the main ski resort on the gnarlier runs. In competitions, you’re judged off of line-choice. So, when you ski the hardest way down a particular run, you get the highest possible line score. You’re judged on control, fluidity, technique and style/energy as well. There’s a lot to take into account.

What advice do you have for beginner skiers?

My main advice is to have fun. A lot of people take skiing really seriously; they think, ‘I have to do this and that and I don’t want to look stupid.’ A lot of people fall down a few times, they get embarrassed, they quit. Having fun is the biggest part of skiing, because it’s something you’ll hopefully be doing your whole life.

What are your favorite runs at the Steamboat Ski Area?

North St. Pats is up there for me – you hike to it, so there are fewer people, and lots of hidden features to get air off of. I also like Right-O-Way, because getting there means I made it out of the canyon safe.

Do you have any advice for first-time skiers at Howelsen Hill?

Honestly, Howelsen is one of the most important pieces of our town. For visitors, the main thing I would say is go there and buy a lift ticket. Buy a cookie and a hot chocolate, take in the history of the lodge and the hill itself. They have magic carpets and flat runs where you can learn to ski without the big crowds in more of an intimate environment.

Where do you go to relax after a day on the slopes?

I always go to the T Bar. It’s family-run, always great people and fun times. It’s the most fun place on earth – other than on the mountain.

What other outdoor winter activities do you enjoy in Steamboat Springs?

I like snowmobiling; I’ll use them a lot for backcountry skiing, but my wife, Erika, and I will also take our dogs up on Rabbit Ears Pass and have them run behind us while we snowmobile. 

How can Steamboat visitors help support the local skiing community?

The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has started something called the “Ski Town U.S.A.® Initiative.” They did a poll and something like 50% of kids in Steamboat don’t ski, either because they can’t afford to or don’t know where to start. So SSWSC teamed up with Christy Sports to give kids free ski gear and lessons. (Go to for more information).