Last fall, my friend Kim had a problem - leftover time share points that needed to be used. Thinking of a ski vacation, she found January dates available in Steamboat, Colorado. Kim wanted to know if I was interested in coming along. Well......let's just say she didn't have to twist my arm!
|Wild women in Steamboat!|
I'd traveled to Steamboat twice before, most recently on a 2011 girl's trip. Thrilled to be visiting again, I eagerly counted the days until our late January adventure.
An unexpected four-hour layover in Seattle caused a later than planned midnight arrival into Steamboat. But Kim and I were up bright and early the following morning, stoked to hit the slopes. A shuttle dropped us at the foot of the mountain, and we grabbed a quick breakfast in Gondola Square.
|"Let's ski over there!"|
After picking up our passes (we lucked out and found a killer three-day deal!) Kim and I boarded Steamboat's iconic gondola for a quick trip to mid-mountain. Deboarding, we consulted our trail map. Steamboat is a huge ski area - it was hard to choose which run to try first.
|Takin' a break at a mid-mountain lodge|
We started out at the Storm Peak Express Lift. From my last trip, I remembered some fun trails and good snow. But the promised snowfall had yet to arrive, and the trails were skied-off and icy. After a couple runs, Kim took a quick potty break at the Four Points Lodge, while I tried the cool Adirondack chairs out front.
|The lodge we almost missed due to fog|
Kim remembered the Sunshine Express Lift had some nice terrain. Only one problem - it was on the other side of the resort. We whipped out the trail map once again and plotted our route to get there.
Conditions were much improved on the south side, and we had some nice trips downhill. But, late in the morning, the predicted weather system began to arrive, bringing with it thick foggy clouds.
Visibility became an issue. At the top of the lift, we could barely see ten feet in front of us. Kim didn't like this at all. As we traveled downhill, the clouds thinned slightly, but navigation became a challenge. It's not a problem at my local ski area (which I know like the back of my hand) but skiing in the fog at a new, unfamiliar place wasn't fun. While trying to find a nearby mid-mountain lodge, we kept following signs, but the clouds were so thick we didn't see the lodge until we were almost right next to it!
|"See that great view out the gondola? Not!"|
While inside eating lunch, snow began to fall. Thick heavy flakes filled the cloudy skies, limiting what visibility was left to nearly nothing. Although the snow was beautiful (and we hoped for lots of it to fall!) it didn't help our wayfinding issue.
|Foggy ride down|
So, by mid-afternoon, Kim and I decided to call it quits and ride the gondola back down to the base area. On a sunny day, the gondola ride gives spectacular views of the adjacent mountains, and valley below. But not today! Nothing to see but fog-shrouded slopes.
At the base area, the snow was dumping furiously. The weatherman was predicting several inches overnight. Kim and I were giddy. Powder day tomorrow!
|Second day sunshine - but not for long!|
The next day dawned to partly cloudy skies. Steamboat's website boasted seven inches of new fresh, fluffy snow had fallen overnight. It didn't take much motivation to get us out of bed and up to the slopes!
Riding the gondola up that morning, Kim and I were treated to some blue skies. Oh, it looked very promising! Having had such a good time the prior day, we decided to head back to the Sunshine Express lift.
As we followed the trail to the mountain's south side, we noticed all the trees were covered in a frosty white coating. Oh so pretty! The Aspen trees that lined most of the trails were especially lovely.
|Lots of fresh powder!|
Oh was the snow fabulous! A beautiful white carpet of sparkling white fluffy powder! It was so soft and light - a dream to ski through! Kim and I whooped and hollered with glee as we swooshed down the slopes.
|Yahoo! Powder day!|
For the first part of the morning, sunshine dominated the skies. It lit up the frosty trees and made the snow sparkle like diamonds.
|Admiring the scenery|
The run under the Sunshine Lift was so nice, Kim and I kept going down repeatedly. I had fun ducking into the Aspen glades, while Kim was content to slide through the fluffy untracked sides. I got out my GoPro and documented the fun.
Sadly, by late morning our friend the fog was back. Heavy clouds rolled in, and fat snowflakes began to fall. Although I welcomed the additional snow, I wasn't too thrilled to battle low visibility again.
|Clouds and snow came back|
Still, we made the best of this special powder day. After several more runs, lunch, and a warm up in the nearby lodge, Kim and I decided to go check out a couple runs by the Thunderhead Express Lift.
|New snow smiles|
But the morning's powder skiing had taken it's toll on poor Kim. After one run, she decided to call it quits and take an easy run the rest of the way down. I wasn't quite ready to stop, and told Kim I'd meet her at a nearby coffee shop.
I decided to try a black diamond run I'd eyed from the lift. Although it looked a bit bumpy, I thought the soft snow would make it easier. But ski runs always look a lot better from the chairlift. Approaching the top, I discovered a gigantic field of moguls all the way down! It was a quad-burner, and by the time I'd finally reached bottom, I was toast!
|Foggy ski down|
Instead of riding the gondola, I made a mellow trip to the bottom via the Heavenly Daze and Vogue Runs. Then Kim and I met up, and spent a relaxing evening in our condo.
Two days done, one left! We really hoped our final day in Steamboat would be a sunny one. Would Kim and I finally luck out? I'll share photos and story in my next post.
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