Friday, March 31, 2006


My Mum has been growing bonsai trees for the past twenty years. Here are some of her best ones. I'm not sure what most of them are except the last one which is a Tasmanian Myrtle. To give you some idea of the art involved in bonsai, this is a tree that typically grows up to 55 m ( 170 ft) tall. After twenty years this one is only about a foot and a half tall.

The third one - some sort of pine - is my favourite.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Tasmanian sunrise

We're currently visiting my Mum and Dad in Tasmania for a few days (as part of a longer trip to Australia - it's way too far from Steamboat to 'Tassie' to come all that way for a few days).

With the jet lag I woke early this morning (not something I'm in the habit of doing). The bonus was that I saw a lovely sunrise and got some nice photos. This one has a particularly interesting effect - I sat the camera on the roof of my Dad's car to steady it and ended up with a reflection of the sky in the roof.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Last day

Day 60. Another perfect spring day and my last day for the 2005-06 season. It was tough deciding what runs to ski for the last time for nine months. In the end my choices were largely dictated by the conditions - I spent the morning chasing the runs that had just the right amount of sun to be soft and friendly but not slushy.

Here's some stats on my season:
  • Total days skied: 60
  • Powder days: 19
  • Total vertical: 736,000 ft
  • Best day: Monday March 13
  • Lift pass cost per day skied: $15.42 (early purchase season pass at $925)
If you want to understand how to get around our mountain, look at this graph which divides my vertical by lift.

It's pretty simple really. Ride the Gondola in the morning and then circulate on Storm Peak Express and Sundown Express. Throw in the Pony Express on powder days.

Finally here's today's map. Now I can blog for a while on stuff other than skiing (warning, I'm just as obsessed about the Brisbane Lions)

Friday, March 24, 2006

A penultimate day

Day 59 - my second last day for the 2005-06 season. On one hand I feel like I've skied a lot. On the other I feel like I've skied so little, especially when next season is nine months away. My name's Dan and I'm a skiing addict.

More cruising today. Warm, sunny and uncrowded. Classic spring skiing. Soft and slushy in some places, hard and icy in others, including Nelson's Run which was really hard work, but I wanted to ski it at least once this season. Best run of the day? Sunshine Liftline. Ski a slalom course between the shadows of the chairs and this one is a lot of fun and quite hard work for what is otherwise a pretty gentle run.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Skiing for vertical

Today was definitely a day for high speed cruising on perfectly groomed runs so I set out to get in as much vertical as I could. In the end I still skied quite a few bumps (but no trees) and still managed nearly 24,000 ft in 3.5 hours, my biggest day of vertical for the season.

I started off around 9 am and there was no line at all at the Gondola. For the first hour the mountain was deserted so I really let it rip with high speed runs down Storm Peak North to Cyclone, upper Buddy's to Rainbow to Mooonlight and then High Noon to Two O'Clock to lower High Noon.

After that I headed over to Pioneer Ridge (which I wanted to try without powder for a change) via Storm Peak South and Tornado. The bumps on the Pony Express Liftline were a little firm in places but I still skied them pretty well, not something I could have said three months ago.

From Storm Peak Express I traversed across to the Sundown Liftline and lower Three O'Clock (hoping that they'd groomed this one last night but no such luck) where the bumps were more forgiving. From the Elkhead Chair via Norther and upper Vagabond I came unstuck about half way down Mother Nature. I skied it better than I expected but it's best not to leave the really tough runs until your legs are tired. My final ride was on the Thunderhead Express and my favourite run on the lower mountain, Vertigo, which was groomed and so nice!

That's day 58 of my 2005-06 season. I'm heading off to Australia on Sunday so I'm hoping to get in two more days and finish the season on a nice round 60 days which should also bring me within a whisker of 750,000 vertical ft.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Skiing in the clouds

That's a romantic spin on thick fog and very poor visiblity - probably the worst I've seen this season. Nevertheless I'm grateful that there was no wind and that this cloud had a silver lining, namely keeping the crowds away.

For the first day of spring is was quite gray and damp with about three inches of fresh snow on top of a crunchy base.

For day 57 of my soon to be finished 2005-06 season I went looking for the runs that somehow I've managed to miss so far this season. The first one I tried for was Nelson's Run but I got a little lost in the fog and ended up on Twister and Hurricane. I did however manage to fit in Oops and Voodoo.

Friday, March 17, 2006

If you really want to know how much snow we've had..

...check out this photo from the front page of today's newspaper.

We've passed 400 inches and are on track to break the all time record from the 1996-97 season of 427 inches.

I sure am glad I moved to a new condo with a garage before this winter!

St Patrick's Day

Well my St Patrick's Day parade was around the ski mountain. It was a little overcast and grey this morning but the snow is still lovely and soft from earlier in the week although you need to be a little careful of the untracked snow because with some warm weather it has settled a little heavy and is crusty in places. Great snow for skiing bumps though.

It was also not as crowded as earlier in the week. I think the partying every night must be catching up with the college kids here on spring break.

Today I went looking for Typhoon - it's one of those name runs in the trees like Closet and Shadows and Twilight that could be any one of dozens of lines. I don't know if I found it, but it doesn't really matter because whatever line it was I skied in the trees between Cyclone and Tornado, I enjoyed it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mountain tour

Today I decided to sample the free mountain tour for future reference. I've been asked by visitors whether it was worth taking and until today I didn't know the answer to that question. Now I know that it's a good way to quickly get a feel for the mountain and how best to get around. It starts at 10.30 at the top of the gondola and goes for about two hours.

Here's the map for day 55. Note that some of the runs on lower mountain were after the tour.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Powder with a bluebird chaser

Day 54 of my 2005-06 ski season and after yesterday's awesome powder, today was a totally beautiful bluebird day. I skied with my wife today and I found plenty of stashes of knee-deep, fresh powder in the trees to the sides of the runs she likes to ski.

We started with 15 minutes in the gondola line having waited like everyone else until mid-morning to head out so it would be a little warmer. From Thunderhead we took Rudi's and Blizzard to the Four Points Chair then Rainbow and Moonlight to the Storm Peak Express.

A run down the Sunshine Liftline (or for me, through the trees to the side) was enticing, but the Sunshine Chair was trying out for the title of world's slowest chairlift today so we dropped into Morningside and up the chair to Crow Track, upper Buddy's, Calf Roper and Rainbow again where I found some great powder in the aspens between Nelson's and upper Rainbow.

A traverse across Rudi's to upper Vagabond and then my wife took Why Not while I explored the powder in the trees between the switchbacks before heading home via the Green Line bus.

Monday, March 13, 2006

An epic powder Monday

I've talked before about powder Mondays but today was the best of them. The report at 5 am said 15 inches of fresh snow but it was closer to twenty. Not as much snow as Monday 28 November 2005 but I was much better prepared for this one in terms of my fitness and my powder skiing ability.

It was little busier than the typical Monday due to all the Spring Break visitors in town, but I was still at the top of the Gondola by 8.50 am. Rudi's and Blizzard were already chopped up by then but my next run from the top of the Storm Peak Express down Triangle 3 and then Bar-UE Liftline was first tracks with a constant face shot all the way!

From there it was Drop Out to Pioneer Ridge where I did several circuits and skied some great lines and then back through Nash Junction to the trees to the skier's left of Vortex and then the Storm Peak Express again. From there I moved to Priest Creek and the world's best tree skiing where I did Closet/Shadows/Lights Out, the trees between the Priest Creek Liftline and Three O'Clock, a great run through lots of fresh lines in Twilight and finally Closet.

At that point my legs were shot and it was time to head home via the trees to the skier's left of Moonlight to the Elkhead Chair then Heavenly Daze/Ted's Ridge down to the Bashor Chair and then finally down See Ya.

The total vertical in just under three hours was 20,000 ft. I've had a couple of (slightly) bigger days but only when I've stayed out much longer. Definitely my best day this season - so far (I added that qualifier so as to avoid jinxing the rest of the season!) There is nothing like floating through knee deep Champagne Powder gliding between the aspen trees. It's surreal.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Nice day for it

It's about 20 F outside and snowing, but it seems that's not going to stop my neighbour from having a BBQ! Apologies for the poor image quality but there's not much light.

Winter skiing in spring

After all the spring skiing we've had recently, now we're back to winter skiing. It was much colder today (but not bitterly cold) and snowing. I missed a powder day yesterday, but it was nice and soft in most places, and we're expecting a powder day tomorrow.

I began with my usual run down Rudi's and Blizzard to the Storm Peak Express. To the idiot who skied into me on Ego, the protocol is give way to the downhill skier.

I thought I might find some leftover powder from yesterday in the trees so I headed immediately to Closet/Shadows/Lights Out. Unfortunately it was a little skied out and the bumps underneath were pretty crusty after last week's thaw. My next run on Twilight was better and then I skied a couple of runs including Quickdraw, High Noon and Rolex with Tom and Erin from Philadelphia who own a condo right across the road from our old condo.

After they headed in for a hot chocolate I headed into the 1.30 trees followed by the trees between the Priest Creek Chair and Three O'Clock, both of which were very nice, then the trees of Hot Cakes down to the Morningside Chair up to The Ridge, Big Meadow and lower Buddy's.

After the BC Chair I ran the bumps of Norther and then I explored the trees between the switchbacks of Why Not. While the trees were a little shrubbier than is ideal, the snow in there was virtually untouched. I was however glad to be wearing a helmet because I collected quite a few small branches with my head.

From the Thunderhead Express my final run was down Vertigo which was better than I expected. The bumps underneath were soft and there was still quite a bit of powder on top.

It's only been six days since I last skied but it felt really good to be back on the mountain. I don't know how I'm going to get through this summer.

Anyway, here's the map of day 52 of my 2005-06 season.

Voting for Wal-Mart

I posted recently on opposition in our town to Walgreen's proposal to build a new store here. It seems things don't change much. There's a fascinating article in our local newspaper today about attempts in the early 90's to stop Wal-Mart coming to our town.

Opponents of Wal-Mart pursued legal action against to City to force it to submit the issue to the voters before issuing a building permit. The delightful irony is that after taking it all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court and winning, the people of Steamboat voted in favour of Wal-Mart by a comfortable margin.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A get well for Dave

My buddy Dave Willis and his wife Jen Jones have a had a bit of drama recently. First Jen's car blew up when she was down in Denver and then when Dave went down there to help her out his appendix blew up. I thought at first it was just his normal Illinois U bellyaching but it seems it was serious because they had to rush him to hospital to take it out.

He's home and on the mend now, but he can't do anything strenuous for a month which pretty much wrecks the rest of his ski season. Get well soon mate. At least there'll be plenty of snowpack in the backcountry when you're up for it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The only thing worse than no snow is...

...fresh snow when you're out of town. Looks like the early spring is over, winter is back and it's a powder day in Steamboat today and still snowing. Meanwhile I'm stuck in meetings in DC for the rest of the week.

We had weather delays out of Hayden yesterday so I ended up on the late flight to Washington Dulles arriving after midnight. If only I had a private jet ten hours of travel would have been more like four. That's the price you pay for living in a Rocky Mountain ski town paradise, and I'll pay it willingly!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Waiting for the snow

More spring skiing today while we wait for a front to move through tonight or tomorrow which should bring some fresh snow.

It was a little overcast today but still quite warm and very uncrowded. I started with Wally World which gets the morning sun and was already quite soft by 10 am before moving around to Westside, which was a lot better than I expected, then over to Storm Peak and Rainbow.

I then circulated on the BC chair for a bit while polishing my bumps technique on Norther, which was a little firm on the first run but softened nicely by the third, and Surprise, which was surprisingly slushy at the top. I also threw in Vagabond and the Thunderhead Express before meeting my wife and Leonie at Stokers in the gondola building. Something we discovered today - if you come up as a foot passenger on the gondola your $9 ticket gets you a $9 discount at the on mountain restaurants (Stokers, Hazie's or Ragnar's - but not the cafeteria).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Yampa Valley vista

I didn't ski today - too many people on the weekends and with the spring conditions we've been having the snow is too crusty between trees where it doesn't get any sun to retreat there. So we went for a short drive down to Stagecoach lake instead where we caught a little ice fishing (hmmm, I'd be worried about the stability of the ice with it having been so warm...)

We also caught a nice view of the Flat Tops on the way home.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A goal half achieved

Today was day 50 of my 2005-06 season - half of my original goal of skiing 100 days this season. I'm not disappointed that I won't get close to that original target because I feel like I've managed a huge amount of skiing (600,000 vertical feet) and more importantly that I've improved enormously.

I skied today with a crazy group of older Canadians from Toronto that I met on the gondola - Gary, Gary, Allen (or Alan or Allan), Marty, Carol, Estelle, Harriet and Jeannie. I'll post a photo once they email it to me. I like Canadians. Unlike my American neighbours, these people know what a fortnight is.

We had a great time in absolutely perfect spring conditions. As you can see from the map, we covered a fair part of the mountain, and best of all at the end of the day they treated me to my favourite Canadian beer - Moosehead!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Powder interlude

With the warm weather we've been having - 15-20F above average - we had no right to expect a powder day. In fact I didn't hurry out of bed this morning despite last night's forecast of 6-8 inches because I expected the snow to be wet and heavy. Was I surprised when I arrived at the top of the gondola at 9.30 am to find six inches of dry and fairly light snow.

I headed straight to Pioneer Ridge where I still found plenty of nice fresh lines, especially in amongst the trees. I rode the chair on one circuit with this guy who is a former professional golfer and now golf commentator with CBS. You meet some interesting people if you make the effort.

After exhausting the possibilities on Pioneer Ridge I headed over to my favourite tree runs - Closet/Shadows/Lights Out and then Twilight.

By late morning the temperature was really starting to climb and the snow was getting heavier so I decided to head home via Vertigo which was sweet. Not really skied out and still in the shade so the snow was nice and light.

All in all an incredible bonus of a day. Day 49 of my 2005-06 season and powder day 17. A total of nearly 17,000 vertical feet in a little over two hours and I feel like I've really earned a beer and a trip to the hot tub later today!