TR - Steamboat, week of Feb. 24
This trip was planned and paid for a year ago. My wife scored a week at a ski-in ski-out condo at Steamboat at a charity auction. Kids and grandkids were invited and all showed. It has been a dismal winter in the mid-Atlantic. Our local lift served areas do not offer my kind or skiing, ungroomed natural snow, preferably powder in the trees. This leaves only self-served backcountry (Whitegrass.com), but alas every snow this season has fallen on bare, warm, wet ground. I really needed and really looked forward to this trip. Colo is having their best season in a decade. Steamboat is really 2 different areas. The lower mountain has groomed slopes and a looooong green heinous catwalk back to the base. The blues are quite steep for blues and wide, groomed and very firm. Any intermediate with any doubt in their ability to hold an edge would be seriously intimidated, IMHO. The upper mountain, and there are ~ 3600 vertical feet total, is very nice.
We arrived on Sat. and our first ski day was Sun. a week or so after the last snow. This would be deadly in New England but at Steamboat, no problem. We found plenty of light untracked powder in the woods at higher elevations. The trick was to stay in the conifers. The legendary aspens, while certainly pretty, have no foliage and let the sun in to bake the snow into nasty, stiff, sometimes crusty consistency. The snow stays good where the sun doesn't shine! It snowed on Sun. night and we awoke on Mon. morn. to 4" of powder at the base and a foot up high. There was ice fog, wind, and visibility of 100 ft. The powder skiing was fantastic. Mon. night same thing; Tues. morn. even better. On these two days the conifers, the aspens, and substantial parts of the open slopes all offered superb powder skiing.
On Wed. the sun reappeared, along with crowds who had been skittish about skiing in the snow and ice fog of the previous 2 days. We went to the chutes. Steamboat is known primarily for low angle tree skiing. But there is more to it than that. The chutes are in an area off to one side that requires some traversing and/or some hiking. They are seriously narrow and steep for 200-300 vertical feet; then they mellow out into a huge 'meadow' of conifer shaded powder, eventually leading back to a lift. Each lap in the chutes requires 2 lift rides. These factors and the general scarcity of powder/steep maniacs means that the snow in this area stays good for days after a storm. We skied through Fri. with no new snow; the base area temp. rose a little higher daily, into the mid 50s, yet we skied light dry uncut powder in the higher conifers every day. The mountain boasts 3000 acres of skiable slopes and trails. There are probably another 3000 acres in edges and tree islands alongside the trails. Very nice mountain. We also sampled the hot springs. Very nice ski vacation.
Thanks for the report. Haven't skied Steamboat before, which is my bad since I know someone who lives there.
To what East/West terrain would you compare the a) slow angle trees and b) the chutes?
Ski any of the bump runs? Supposedly, Steamboat is also known for them.
The bump runs were there but for the most part I ignored them. I go west for powder & trees and the bumps just deplete my legs and shorten the time I can spend on powder and trees.
As to your other questions, I tend to have the best memory of places visited recently. My son and I went to Red Mountain & Whitewater in spring 06. Some of the low angle woods at Red Mountain (and not much is low angle at Red) reminded me of the Big Meadow area and the runs off the Morningside chair at Steamboat. Near the top of Granite Mountain (@ Red) there are some mellow trees before it gets steep & tight. Then there is a long green run around the backside of Granite that accesses black runs Beer Belly and Roots. Below the steep parts of these runs there are beautiful low angle glades. On the skier's left of that green run, about halfway down the mountain, it is even better. You have to do some poking around to find it.
The Steamboat chutes are short but steep & narrow. They are narrowed by trees not rocky & cliffy narrow. Actually Chute 3 looks rocky & cliffy from the bottom so we didn't do it. Whitewater has chutes that have a similar feel but they are steeper and longer, and seriously scary. They are also unmarked, deep in the woods and hard to find
Gotta ask: what are low angle woods?
Gotta ask: what are low angle woods?
I'll assume you're serious; places where you just aim and go without worrying about speed control. The pitch and the depth of the powder control speed for you so that all you have to worry about is choosing a line. Pitch and depth trade off against each other of course, so that what qualifies under one condition may not under another. Some examples that often have this quality are Cherry Bowl at the top before it gets steep, and Salamander Woods.
Thanks, I have never heard the term used anywhere except here, tonight.