Thursday, December 31, 2009

Milestone day

We had to drive to Granby yesterday afternoon to collect my wife's mother and sister from the train (the same train my Mum arrived on a couple of months ago).

On the way back the snow was so heavy on Rabbit Ears Pass that I was down to 25 mph which made me happy because I knew it would also be dumping on the mountain!

I was out of bed at 6 am to see that the report was 11 inches of new snow and at the gondola at 7:55 am by which time the line was already quite long, so instead I was first in line for the Christie Express. From there it was a quick traverse over to the Thunderhead Express where I was on the fourth chair and then down skier's right of Vagabond to Surprise which was untracked and knee deep (so I'm already thinking "way more than 11 inches").

Then I hit the Storm Peak Express in time to be on the third chair. I don't know where the occupants of the first two chairs went, but I got first tracks down Storm Peak face right under the chair and then knee deep all the way down skiers' right of Cyclone.

After that it was over to the Pony Express where I did two circuits and found some glades where it was thigh deep (so now I'm thinking "11 inches? Bah! More like 18"). And this was full on Champagne Powder; so light and dry that you literally choke on it as you breath the face shots in.

Then across to the other side of the mountain for Shadows and Lights Out followed by Twilight. I wanted to keep going, and there were still freshies to be found in the trees, but by that time my legs were shot, so I hit Oops and Vagabond (all to myself!) on the way home.

In terms of milestones, this was the last day of 2009 and what a way to end the year, the first true powder day of the 2009-10 ski season, and day 36 of my season, which is significant because that's the total number of days I managed for the entire 2008-09 season.

Here's today's track. 13,038 vertical ft (season total 347,878 ft) in 2:36 (of which 20 minutes was waiting for Christie Express to open and another 10 was waiting for Storm Peak Express to open, but that's what you've got to do to get first tracks!)

Final bonus; it's still snowing, so the start to 2010 could be as good as the end to 2009.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Early start

I was on the 7:40 am bus and in the gondola line at 8 am for the early holiday week opening at 8:15. The report at 5 am said 3 inches of new snow but I wanted to be out early to beat the crowds anyway. As it turned out three inches was more like five and it made all the difference. A great morning of skiing. Fresh tracks down Rainbow was excellent. The bumps on Surprise were also particularly good as was 2 O'Clock and skiers' left of the Daze. It's still snowing and forecast to continue all night, so tomorrow could be the real deal.

Here's today's track. 15,026 vertical ft (season total 334,840 ft) in 2:14.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The book is dead...

...long live the book. From an press release today:
"On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books."
I'm a big reader and I haven't bought a physical book since I obtained a Kindle in February. Then my Mum borrowed my Kindle while she was visiting in November and wouldn't give it back so what was I to do? - upgrade to the Kindle DX which I love even more.


The biggest lines of the season today including 15 minutes at the gondola at 10:30 am (I don't mind a wait at 8 am to get fresh tracks) and long lines at Sundown Express and Storm Peak Express (well by Steamboat standards; the longest wait was probably only 5 minutes).

Here's today's track. 11,296 vertical ft (season total 319,814 ft) in 2:15. It looks like it's about to snow. Fingers (and toes) crossed.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Pony Express

Pioneer Ridge opened today so I rode the Pony Express for the first time this season. I didn't ski much over there since this area needs more snow than the rest of the mountain to be skiable (this area opened in the late 90's by which time the environmental restrictions on removing trees and rocks were much stricter). But it all helps to spread the people out during the busy holiday week, so I'm not complaining.

Here's today's track. 10,970 vertical ft (season total 308,518 ft) in 2:06. It was another perfect bluebird day today but I'm looking forward to the snow that's in the forecast for the rest of the week; hopefully we'll get our first dose of Champagne Powder.

Knee jerk reaction

That's the only way to describe the TSA's response to the latest attempt to blow up an aircraft, with the emphasis on the jerk part of knee-jerk. Banning blankets on laps during the last hour of the flight because that's when this nut decided to set himself alight is as dumb a response as one can imagine. If this guy had tried to blow up a baseball stadium whilst buying a hot dog during the first innings, would it make sense to ban the purchase of hot dogs during the first innings at future baseball games? It makes as much sense as this.

I travel a lot. I'm willing to live with the minuscule risks associated with not adding any more inconveniences to the process and more importantly, I refuse to let terrorists win by being terrorised. Too bad our Homeland Security overlords don't understand that basic principle.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunny Sunday

A beautiful sunny day today and much warmer than the past few days. Despite that and good snow, I felt I skied very blah today (when that's happened in the past I've always skied well the following day, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow!)

Here's today's track. 8,838 vertical ft (season total 297,548 ft) in 1:31.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Back in the trees

It was snowing when I went to bed last night, so I set the alarm to check the snow report first thing this morning. When I read that there had been six inches of new snow and that they were finally opening Steamboat's classic tree runs on the Priest Creek face I made sure I was at the gondola early enough to be in the fourth car to load.

A quick run down Rudi's and Blizzard to the Four Points chair and then Sunset to the Sundown Express ready for it to open at 9 am. And then it was on. A quick run down the Priest Creek liftline cutting across to lower 3 O'Clock was followed by Twilight and then upper Shadows (I bailed out at Dawn in order to avoid a long traverse since the trees below Duster are still closed).

The snow was deep and untracked if a little heavy in places with some quite deep drifts, a couple of which brought me unstuck. But it was still awesome to be back skiing these runs.

Here's the track. 11:39 vertical ft (season total 288,710 ft) in 2:15.

Friday, December 25, 2009

White Christmas

It's still snowing here in the 'Boat today and very, very cold. One of those days where you ski a run or two then and head inside for a hot chocolate before skiing a couple more runs. Worth it though for beautiful soft, dry snow.

Here's today's track. 10,590 vertical ft (season total 274,961 ft) in 3:11.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve powder

The report at 5 am said 10 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours and there were plenty of powderhounds at the gondola early looking to satisfy their craving. It wasn't quite an epic Steamboat powder day - there's still not enough of a base to ski the best tree runs - but it was clearly the best day of the season so far.

Here's the track. 14,977 vertical ft (season total 264,371 ft) in 3:02 including 25 minutes in the gondola line and 15 minutes warming my toes in the Four Points Hut (it was -4F at the top without any wind chill - brrr).

Best run of the day was probably The Ridge where I got a really good fresh line, followed by upper Twister and skiers' right on Two O'Clock. And I managed to take my favourite lower mountain run - Vertigo - on the way home!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Four weeks

The season has been going for four weeks now and the snow is still not great, but it is finally snowing right now.

I skied with Rob and Elizabeth again today. It was really tough going; very foggy making it hard to see all the hazards under the very thin cover. We still managed 17,359 vertical ft (season total 249,394 ft) in 4:18. Here's the track for today.

Here's the track for the past four weeks. As you can see, I've been skiing the same intermediate runs over and over and over again, because that's all there is until there's more snow. I've skied every day; 28 consecutive days which is the most I've ever skied in a row by a long way.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Aussie and the rabbi

Today I skied with an interesting couple I met in the gondola. They live in St Louis but the husband Rob is an Aussie. He and his wife are both Jewish and his wife Elizabeth is a rabbi (I was totally unaware that there are female rabbis but then I don't know that many Jewish people...) Now I've skied with a rabbi and my parish priest; if there are any representatives of other religions who want to ski with me I have no prejudices.

The snow still hasn't come yet, but I had so much fun with these guys I still managed my biggest day so far; 18,545 vertical ft (season total 232,035 ft) in 4:24. Here's the track.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Two words

Aw-ful. Actually that's one word. How about "really awful." Lower Rainbow was the only run that was even half way decent.

In the six ski seasons I've lived in Steamboat, I don't think we've ever been as desperate for snow as we are right now. Fortunately a storm is in the forecast; let's hope it drops two feet rather than two inches.

Here's today's track. 10,448 vertical ft (season total 213,487 ft) in 1:35.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weekend report

Yesterday was the third of five sessions in my Locals' Clinic and it was a beautiful day so despite the lack of snow it was a great day followed by drinks with my instructor and then a Christmas party, which is my I'm posting on it today rather than yesterday. The only downside was dodging the crowds on the intermediate runs.

Here's the track. 16,439 vertical ft in 5:11.

Today I was out early to avoid the crowds and ski the fresh groomers. Here's the track. 10,671 vertical ft (season total 203,039 ft) in 1:24.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pray for snow

I was out early today skiing virgin corduroy again, and whilst it was lots of fun, especially the wide fast turns I was able to make on largely deserted intermediate runs like Vagabond, Buddy's and Rainbow, it is going to be a big mess if some snow doesn't get here before the tourists start arriving in large numbers this weekend.

Here's today's track. 13,088 vertical ft (season total 175,929 ft) in 1:41.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sundown Express opens

I decided to head out early today even though there was no new snow overnight. I was motivated by the news that the Sundown Express would open at 9 am for the first time this season opening up a whole lot of new terrain.

I arrived at the Gondola just as it started loading at 8.30 am and was only about fifth in the singles line. I was first skier down Vagabond which I took whilst waiting for the Sundown Express to open; it was beautiful virgin corduroy.

Riding the Sundown Express I could see that we are probably two decent storms (or one really big one) away from having enough snow to ski my favourite tree runs (Shadows and Closet) but I was still happy to have something new to try. After a quick shot down High Noon (peak speed 46.7 mph according to my GPS) I decided to try the ungroomed Rolex. Big mistake. Two feet of cement - the heaviest snow I think I've ever skied in Steamboat.

A little later I decided to head over the other side to the Storm Peak Express, which turned out to be a great idea. Buddy's was beautifully groomed and was deserted - everyone had headed over to High Noon!

Here's today's track. Without really trying I put in the biggest day so far this season; 14,590 vertical ft (season total 162,841 ft) in 1:59.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Three weeks

The ski season has now been going for three weeks. We're still waiting for that really big dump of snow that will bring on the epic Steamboat powder tree skiing, but it should be here soon.

In the meantime, it's more of the same; cruising around on intermediate runs dodging all the tourists who love it there. Here's today's track. 6,201 vertical ft (season total 148,251 ft) in 1:05.

Here's the track for the first three weeks. I've circled in yellow the parts of the mountain that aren't open yet; more than 50% of the total terrain including most of the really good stuff.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A perfect day

Today was such a beautiful day it's hard to describe just how blue the sky was. I'd still trade it for a day like yesterday with fresh snow, but it certainly made cruising around the mountain a very pleasurable way to pass a couple of hours.

Here's today's track. 10,149 vertical ft (season total 142,041 ft) in 1:35.

A couple of new trails skied today, namely Triangle 3 and Ted's Ridge. Neither are close to their peak yet, but the variety was still nice.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Not epic but...

Today wasn't one of those epic Steamboat powder days but 7 inches on top of yesterday's 4 inches made it the best day of the season so far.

I was in the gondola lift line around 8:15 and was surprised to only be about 20th in line. So I managed first tracks on BC liftline and freshies in a couple of other places.

I also ventured into my favourite place - the trees - for the first time this season; not deep in the trees because there's not enough snow to properly cover all the hazards, but just into the open glades above and to skier's left of Cyclone. Knowing where to avoid the bad stuff is as much a benefit of local knowledge as knowing where to find the good stuff!

Here's today's track. 11,164 vertical ft (season total 131,892 ft) in 2:05 (including 15 minutes pressing glass at the gondola!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


It's snowing today but with the temperature hovering just above freezing, well it's wet. It almost reminds me of skiing in Australia where you'd finish the day feeling like you had taken a shower in your ski suit!

The good news is that wet snow sticks much better to the hard layer underneath setting up a much better base for when the real powder comes (soon, please!)

I have no track today due to a GPS technical error (nothing more complex than the stop button being accidentally pushed) so I'm back to working out vertical based on the lifts I rode. 8,264 vertical ft (season total 120,728 ft) in approximately 1:15.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's all in the hands

I had the second of five sessions in my Locals' Clinic today and what I've concluded is that the improvements I need to make in my skiing are all in my hand position. It seems counter-intuitive because you think of skiing being about using your legs, but the principle is that where the hands go the body goes, and where the body goes the feet go, and where the feet go the skis go.

It was considerably warmer today which made five hour on the mountain much more bearable than it would have been a couple of days ago.

Here's today's track. 11,619 vertical ft (season total 116,530 ft) in 5:08.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 16

It was a beautiful bluebird day today, still a little colder than normal but much warmer than the past two days.

Here's today's track. 11,589 vertical ft (season total 104,724 ft) in 1:52.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Warmer, or at least not as cold

The temperatures today were very similar to yesterday (about 5F/-15C) but today the sun was out and the wind was gone which made it much more pleasant. Buddy's Run was OK today vs horrible yesterday, and lower Rainbow was perfect packed powder. I also skied upper Vagabond for the first time this season, as well as the middle section of BC lift line.

Here's today's track. 9,109 vertical ft (season total 93,387 ft) in 1:30. Despite the cold the skiing was good enough to stay out a little longer today.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

All the way to the top

The Storm Peak Express opened today so finally we can ski all they way from the top of the mountain (well almost, if you don't count the top of Morningside or hiking to the weather station). Unfortunately it was bitterly cold and windy with zero visibility at the top of Storm Peak so it was strictly a once only deal today.

It was a bit warmer mid-mountain where some new terrain also opened today including Whiteout which was OK for the first part but then turned very scrubby, so I bailed on that and hit lower Rainbow which was very nice.

It was too cold to stay out long, so today's track is 6,436 vertical ft in 1:10. The season total is 84,288 vertical ft in 18 hours and 20 minutes.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Lucky 13

Day 13 of the season and it is continuing to snow. Only a couple of inches of new snow overnight, but enough that some new terrain was opened this morning (Surprise and upper Norther) so I hit those multiple times where the powder was a good 6-9 inches deep (but quickly tracked out).

Here's today's complete track. 6,234 vertical ft (season total 77,843 ft) in 1:16.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Skiing with Jim

I skied today with my friend Jim Sitlington who was kind enough to wait for me even though I was 15 minutes late (sorry mate). Jim is a part time ski instructor. It's fun skiing with instructor friends, but you do feel conscious of your technique.

Yesterday's snow had packed down nicely providing a lovely packed powder surface instead of the ice of earlier in the week. But it's getting a whole lot busier, which is normally not a problem with more terrain open but means crowded runs right now.

Here's today's track. 5,234 vertical ft (season total 71,609 ft) in 1:15.

We had an inversion going today so it would have been 10F/6C warmer at the top of the gondola than at the base, so a quite pleasant temperature despite the overcast conditions (which hopefully mean more snow very soon).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

At last!

Not only was their new terrain open today (lower Vagabond) but there was six inches of fresh powder when I got to the top of the gondola. It was a little too dust on crust to fit a strict definition of a powder day, but the contrast with previous days was so great I'm going to count it.

Here's today's track. 7,218 vertical ft (season total 66,336 ft) in one hour and five minutes.

The forecast is for snow all week, so it is going to get really good very soon!

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Today I did an all day clinic as part of a series of five clinics on successive Saturdays. It's a great deal - five all day lessons for $225 - but you really need to be a local for it to work, which is why they call it a Locals' Clinic. Although we did have a couple of ring ins - travel agents on a "familiarization" tour - including one guy from Christchurch, New Zealand (you know who I'm talking about Milson).

Here's today's track.

Not much different from previous days since no new terrain is open, except that I did every run multiple times for a total vertical of 14,512 ft (season total is 58,833 ft).

Friday, December 04, 2009


Today was even colder than yesterday (-6F/-21C at 6.30am) and only 10F/-12C when I went out around 1 pm (and no sun). I should have stayed in, but I had some adjustments done on my boots overnight which I really wanted to test today; that they made a big improvement sort of made freezing my butt off worth it.

I did enjoy a hot chocolate when I got home, but the funny thing is I still feel like having a cold beer now.

Here's today's track. 4053 vertical ft (season total 44,603) in 45 minutes. Just enough to test the boots and no more!

Thursday, December 03, 2009


It was cold today, around -1F/-18C when I got out of bed this morning and still only 10F/-12C when I went out around 11:30 am.

On a day like today when the snow is less than good and it's that cold the only thing to do is ride the gondola. Which is what I did today (twice) and that was it. It was actually very nice inside the gondola with the sun out - a bit like sitting in a greenhouse.

Here's the track. 4,379 vertical ft (40,336 season total) in 46 minutes.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

First week

Once more, today was much like yesterday except colder, especially at mid-mountain (and it's forecast to be even colder tomorrow).

Here's today's track: 4,168 vertical ft (35,956 for the season to date) in 46 minutes.

To see how repetitive this week has been, look at the track for the week.

Fortunately it's forecast to snow for the next two days so hopefully there'll be some new terrain open by the weekend.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The same, but not

By all objective measures today was almost exactly the same as yesterday, but for some reason I skied much, much better and not surprisingly enjoyed it a whole lot more!

Here's today's track. Same runs but a few more repetitions for 8,254 vertical ft in one hour and 40 minutes and a season total of 31,789 vertical ft.

I rode the BC lift today with the president of the ski area who I know from other activities I've been involved in - it's a small town so even an anti-social geek like me knows a lot of people after five and a half years living here - who says the snow will come on December 12. I don't know if that's a promise or a prediction.