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Steamboat Magazine

Two Perfect Days

12/10/2021 12:00PM ● By Deb Olsen

Audrey Williams skies fresh powder on a bluebird day at the Steamboat Ski Area. Photo by Larry Pierce. 

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO – Ever wish you had a local guide to show you around the mountain? Let’s ski together for a couple of days. 

Day One: A Bluebird Day
Clear skies and cold

– Board the gondola with First Tracks.

Deb’s tip: First Tracks isn’t usually crowded on a cold, clear day, but untracked corduroy runs a close second to powder. Due to temperature inversions, it may get warmer as we near the top.

– From the gondie, take Spur Run to Sundown Lift, which opens early for First Tracks. 

– Once at the top, turn right onto Flintlock and from there to Rendezvous Way.

 Deb’s tip: Most skiers will be heading for the black runs, leaving untracked corduroy on the blues.

– Continue to Rolex, a steep black run that was groomed last night, something that only happens a few times a winter. 

Deb’s tip: Always check the grooming report to find these rare delights. 

– Return to the top via Sundown Lift and take High Noon to One O’Clock for more fresh corduroy. Stay high-up to cross over at the bottom to Lower High Noon.

– Take Elkhead lift to cross over to Mount Werner. Take Velvet to Lower Rainbow to Storm Peak Express, which will just be opening. 

– At the top of Storm Peak, ski straight ahead into Morningside Park.

Deb’s tip: Storm Peak Face is scrapy on a cold morning, while Morningside faces the sun. 

– Enjoy the 360° view at the top, then turn right down a short hill to the first gate back into the park. It’s steep at first, then goes through mellow trees back to the lift. 

– Turn left to Over Easy and Buddy’s Run, which we’ll cross – carefully – to Calf Roper, then into Four Points Lodge for a cuppa. 

Deb’s tip: We have too much skiing ahead to have a Bloody Mary, although it’s the BEST.

– After the break, ski down Cyclone. Its shadowy slopes hold the snow well and a possible fresh groom makes it fast. 

– Take Bar-U-E back to the top, thus avoiding Tornado Lane and Drop Out, which are likely to be icy. 

Deb’s tip: Because Bar-U-E is close to the ground and runs through the trees, it’s often warmer than high-speed lifts on windy days. 

– At the top, stop by the statue of Buddy Werner to pay him homage. 

– Traverse a well-established path to The Ridge; turn downhill anywhere that looks good, and take the catwalk to Flying Z. Stay in the gully on skier’s right. Ski past Bar-U-E and Storm Peak lifts down to Pony Express. 

Deb’s tip: The main part of the Z can have exposed rocks when it hasn’t snowed in awhile.

– Take a left at the top of Pony to Middle Rib, along the western boundary of the ski area. Stay right at the fork and take Outlaw past Pony Express to BC Ski Way, all the way to Thunderhead Express. Lunch is on the third floor of Thunderhead – a lot of stairs, but a great view. 

– Back outside the gondola building, ski Vagabond full-length to Thunderhead Express. 

– At the top of Thunderhead, skirt behind the lodge to Heavenly Daze, and ski along the right side to Ted’s Ridge, a steep but regularly groomed run. Continue on to Bashor chairlift.

– We’re going to Maverick’s halfpipe, even though we’re though we’re neither kids nor boarders. Ski back and forth across the pipe, reaching higher on the sides with each turn. 

Deb’s tip: It’s like a fish story. With each retelling, you went bigger. 

– From the top of Bashor, head down See Me, adjacent to All Out, the off-limits Alpine race course. 

Deb’s tip: This is your best shot at channeling Mikaela. 

– With storm clouds on the horizon, we’re ready for après ski at the T-bar. 

Audrey Williams skis the Two O’Clock trees at the Steamboat Ski Area. Photo by Larry Pierce. 


Day Two: A Powder Day
Eight inches and dumping

– Get to the gondola by 7:45, latest.

Deb’s tip: There’s no way to avoid the lines at the base on a powder day. The First Tracks line can be as long, or longer, than the main line.

– Take a sharp left at the top of Thunderhead onto Vagabond (look for untracked pow along the edges) and turn right onto Surprise. Enjoy the forgiving, snow-covered bumps on the first two pitches, then turn right (uphill, but only for a couple seconds), onto the catwalk. Cut left into the powder field adjacent to Surprise. 

Deb’s tip: Ski at a diagonal so you come out onto lower Surprise, rather than getting sucked into the stream at the end of the meadow. 

– Take Storm Peak lift, then head down skier’s left of Buddy’s Run, dipping into the trees. Cross the catwalk and continue under the Bar U-E lift line, then right onto the catwalk to Buddy’s Run and down Drop Out to Storm Peak Lift. 

– At the top, head to The Ridge and take it down to Skeeter’s Run, an often-overlooked hero run, which leads to Flying Z, where we can choose any line today. Go past Bar-U-E lift to Vortex and across to Burgess Creek Lift.

Deb’s tip: Ski right down the middle of the Z, alongside the island of trees, for sweet and deep. 

– Take Lights Out to Moonlight, where we can play like skateboarders on the berm. 

– Take Sundown Express to the summit. Turn right onto Sundial to Black Powder, a deep powder run that ends at Tomahawk cutoff. From there, head down Tomahawk to the trees between Buckshot and Ramrod. 

Deb’s tip: Kids love this area, which features gentle terrain and widely spaced trees. 

– Take Sunshine Express and turn right onto Sundial. This time, cut left into Hot Cakes, where the gentle bumps and chutes are especially fun in the ‘der. 

– Take Morningside Lift and turn right at the top. We’re taking a short, but steep, hike to the 10,568-foot summit. Go around the microwave towers to Gate D and East Face, which could well be snorkel-depth. At the bottom of the face, there’s a steep drop to Last Chance, where we need to get speed for the long traverse to Flying Z and Bar-U-E lift.

Deb’s tip: Bar-U-E is old and slow, the perfect chance to catch your breath. 

– At the summit, head to the Closets, perhaps the most famous tree run in America, and ultimately, onto Sunset. Then cross over to lower Rainbow, which takes us to Four Points lift. By now, we need a break – and a hot meal at Four Points. 

– After lunch, it’s time for Twister-Cane, the trees on skiers’ left of Twister and on to Hurricane. After the first pitch of Hurricane, take the Chisholm Trail to Rainbow, and cross the saddle to White Out, where the freestyle team has undoubtedly already laid down a line through the bumps.

– Take Storm Peak to the top and go right across Highline to Three O’clock. From there, stay left and go into the trees of Twilight, through aspen groves and pine forests, to the top of Daybreak. 

– Go up Sundown lift and right across Sundial, dropping off the right edge of Black Powder and then back onto Tomahawk. Detour onto Baby Powder, if only for the sake of its name. 

– Take South Peak lift, then go across the flats to Broadway. It may be a green catwalk, but the view from its hairpin turn is breathtaking. 

– Take Elkhead lift to Tower, but stay far right and cut out onto Norther, famous for its “geriatric” bumps. Go left onto Why Not to Surprise, then left through a gap in the trees at the top into a beetle kill area that will lead back out onto Vagabond. Cross over – carefully – to Betwixt. Because we’re kids at heart, we’re going to go through Rough Rider Basin on our way out. We may even duck through the obstacles. 

– From here take Beeline and go up Bashor. Turn right onto See Me, which will be a different run than it was yesterday, buried under a foot of snow. 

– With weary legs and a happy heart, we’ll ski to the base area, where drinks at Timber & Torch await. 

Night skiing anyone?