Really good storm skiing this afternoon

Friday, January 10, 2014

It’s been snowing about an inch per hour the entire day, and at 1pm the Steamboat ski area reported 13” had fallen at mid and top in the last 24 hours. It was a bit windy on the hill, and with winds increasing during the afternoon, conditions evolved through the day. In general and as you might expect, any aspect sheltered by the wind skied better as the afternoon progressed, but the wind was even starting to get into the trees and create some drifting there.

An early run down Shadows skied well, especially the lower half, as did the left side of Lower Shadows. The wind was strong enough to buff Sundown liftline so that it skied very consistently, encouraging high speed and bouncy GS turns for a couple of runs. Even the gully just above Duster was skiing great as many (but not all!) of the rocks were covered. Rolex trees also skied very deep if you could find the untracked lines, and the Aspen near the bottom were sublime.

The lower mountain received similar amounts of snow, so that was skiing great too. A quick run down the middle of Concentration had tons of untracked turns. Vertigo is a smaller trail than Concentration and had less untracked snow, but the skiing was still soft and consistent.

Fine skiing this afternoon

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

3” of new snow was reported at mid-mountain at 1pm with temperatures in the upper 20’s, while the upper mountain had a temperature around 10F. I feared dust-on-crust conditions up top, but was very pleasantly surprised to find very soft skiing everywhere.

The snow that fell was comprised of very small rimed snow crystals that formed a dense but buoyant surface. Riming occurs when snow crystals fall through a moist cloud layer comprised of supercooled water droplets. These water droplets then freeze on the snow crystal and obscure its original pristine shape. In fact, when the original shape of the crystal is no longer identifiable, the precipitation is referred to as graupel.

My perfunctory first run down Shadows found soft snow and big patches of the 3” of unskied powder. Next over to the Twilight area, of which the first half pretty much skied the same as Shadows. The lower half was warmer and more tilted to whatever sun we had up there this afternoon, and was getting heavy.

Last run I ripped down Sundown lifline, and the tracked up snow skied soft and bouncy and was extremely carveable. Then, up Elkhead to first catch Concentration, and then the last ride up Thunderhead for Vertigo. Both of these runs also skied soft and bouncy, very similar to Sundown liftline. A quick ride up Bashor lift to access See Me, which also skied great, to end the afternoon.

Outstanding skiing this afternoon

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Well, the storm did end up cooperating as the 1pm 24 hour report was 10” at mid and snowing. Added to the 2” yesterday morning means a foot, and they likely picked up an additional inch or so after 1pm as it snowed till about 3 or so. At that point the sun made an appearance creating stunning vistas!

I passed on pressing glass this morning as there was only 5” overnight, and since we had a period of time with westerly winds, I was thinking the snow would be wind-affected and difficult to ski. However, heavy snow showers started this morning when the wind switched to the northwest and I believe these filled in all of the uneveness.

The first clue was the flat pitch in the trees off the top of Storm Peak Express and Highline which skied soft, powdery and bouncy. Skiing remained that way as the pitch steepened down though Closet and over to Shadows to Lower Shadows. I measured between 14” and 16” of snow in the favored areas, with about the bottom half of that depth showing wind affects.

That was so good I repeated with slightly different lines through Shadows and Lower Shadows. Then over to the Twilight area which also skied great. Then over to the trees around Rolex which also held more of the same.

Last run on the upper hill was a ripping run down most of Sundown lifline. This did not have the depth of new snow, however the surface was burnished by the wind creating a consistent, soft and bouncy surface. Over to the newly opend terrain under the the old Priest Creek chair below Duster to find pockets of deep bottomless turns.

I then took a couple of runs in the trees off of Why Not above BC Skiway on the lower mountain, but there is a lot of downed timber and shrubbery in there and more snow is needed. But I found great deep consistent powder while dodging the obstacles nonetheless.

Powder snow becoming scarce

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Heading up for my afternoon ski around 2pm, it was obvious that Steamboat’s visitors have arrived as Heavenly Daze was crowded. Lift lines on the upper mountain have pretty much disappeared by then, so I went looking for soft snow in Shadows. Lots of places of great packed powder skiing, but I only found a few areas that had the one or two untracked turns. The snow in Lower Shadows warmed up nicely yesterday, and since it was cooler today with less sun, I opted for a cruiser down Moonlight to access Sundown.

The Sundown lifline was skiing very good, albeit it a bit stiff with our cool temperatures. I cut over to 3 O’Clock near the bottom to avoid the sparse snow just above Duster, and found soft snow first on the left side of the groomer track down 3 O’Clock and then the right side near the bottom.

My last run on the upper hill was Closet, which also had pockets of cut up powder as well as the odd hidden stash of untracked. I cut over to Hurricane and then down to Vagabond to ski some interesting snow in the trees over by Why Not and above BC Skiway. Lots of downed trees in there and we only have 41” mid mountain base, so the skiing was slow, careful and deliberate. Still, it was nice to ski some difficult-to-reach powder on the lower mountain.

After a bit of snow tonight, the storm forecast for Tuesday into Wednesday is uncertain as one model predicts substantial snow while another predicts far less. It seems we have had so many New Years Day powder days over the years I would lean toward the more optimistic forecast until more details emerge in subsequent model runs.

A bit more certain is that the pattern change forecast by the American model for several weeks now is likely to occur in about a weeks time, or perhaps just after next weekend. The European model has for the last two model runs agreed that another arctic outbreak is likely, similar to the one a few weeks ago, as the polar vortex over Hudson Bay moves westward.

More wind and more wind affected snow

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Temperatures rose through last night until they finally began to fall with frontal passage around 4am. We had a nice burst of snow from around 9am - 10am which dropped a quick 2”, and with that added to this mornings 3” report, the mountain had about 5” of snow from this storm.

The wind picked up during the day, forcing temporary lift closures for Storm Peak and Morningside. By the time I got up there for my afternoon of skiing, the wind had died down and the sun even made an appearance for my last couple of runs. The snow in the upper half of the Priest Creek area was very wind affected and more difficult skiing than the day before, but areas at lower elevation like parts of Lower Shadows and the Rolex trees did not see as much wind and skied very well. There are even pockets of deep untracked snow hiding about.

Good skiing on the lower mountain as well as it wasn’t as windy down there. Generally soft snow everywhere on the hill, with wind affected powder on the firm side. I took Lower Vagabond down for a ride up Thunderhead at the end of the day, and that groomer was skiing great. Even Heavenly Daze had soft carveable snow.

Far more sun than snow looks to be on tap for the remainder of the year, but the skiing is great right now!

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