Sunday, August 27, 2006

Seasonal change always brings mixed feelings

UPDATE: We have also been getting an incredible amount of rain over the past 6 weeks(for Steamboat). Last year was a big jump up from any of the last 5 or 6 years and it was followed by a fantastic winter. Here's a Champagne Powder toast to a repeat of last years incredible snow conditions. It snowed 70 out of 100 days last season from the Sunday after Thanksgiving and you could often find knee deep powder in the trees on a 4 inch over-night snow report. While my sentiments haven't changed I am much more excited for skiing than when I first wrote this at the beginning of the month.

The fields in the valley and the ski runs on Mt Werner are starting to show some brown, the raspberries up on some of my favorite mountain biking trails are getting ripe, the breezes are a little cooler, and animals start to prepare of winter.

This is the time of the year that I realize there are only about 3 months of good mountain biking left, 2 months to camp with the kids, less than a month before Alden starts school again and less than 4 months left until ski season. The change of seasons here always brings out a bit of dissonance in my mind. Summer is absolutely fantastic but it always hurts a bit to let spring skiing slip away. Fall beckons with it's perfect weather, beautiful vistas, great fly-fishing and the first snow in September that reminds us we are in a ski town. It always feels like summer has gone by too fast and we need more time to get in all of our favorite things.

In the fall I am still trying to finish all of the summer basics that you need to get in each year as a local here. At the same time winter occupies more and more of my thoughts. Fall is so special that I can't forget to get out for hiking, biking & photo ops in the endless large and small vistas of the changing aspen leaves. Fall is also the time of anticipation in a ski town where locals look to an infinite variety of signs for clues to what the coming winter holds. One of my personal favorites is overhearing the 80 year old ranchers who are closest to the land talking about how they haven't seen X, Y & Z since 1977 and it's going to be a ... winter just like then. Last fall they talked about a big winter and they were right. I can't wait to hear what they have to say this year.

Winter is the reason I first came to Steamboat Springs, a time that my young son bursts in to wake me up saying "Daddy, its a POWDER DAY". I hope that he never stops doing that. He is already talking about skiing this year with me and how he won't need the harness. It is a time that I can fly down the slopes on a magic carpet of powder through my favorite frosted columns of aspens holding up the deep blue sky or providing the contrast I need to see when it is dumping snow. It is a time to decide which skis would be perfect that day, get the kids out on bluebird days with candy in your pockets and the irrepressible hope that they will love skiing as much as you. You meet people on the lifts from here and there and always seem to have something in common or a good friend from there. Talk on the lifts with other locals/friends focuses on comparing notes, speculating which of the many exposures, subtle folds or breaks in the trees on the mountain holds the best snow based on infinite weather variables, time of day, skier traffic and other important factors I'm not prepared to share until I know you better ;) You give enough to establish credibility but always hold back your best secrets. If they have the right look you casually follow to see where they are skiing in case there is something you have missed by habit, hubris or omission. You can never let you ego keep you from finding even more great powder stashes you know.

The days start to get longer and spring skiing is now at hand. The winter has shaped your legs and the soft snow makes you feel like a hero in the bumps but the end of the season is coming fast so you make an extra effort to get out on the slopes into the backcountry before the winter goodness is gone. A good dose of POWDER DAYS thrown in the to warming mix of spring lets you get that indescribable mix of adrenaline and absolute content that only a powder day at the end of the season can provide. Next comes spring which is right after the extra season we have here which is spring skiing in case you thought I was talking about spring above. Skiing on Mt Werner has ended but many people keep hiking or snowmobiling to their favorite runs. Even in a big snow year the valley has mostly melted and the fields glimmer with a layer of snowmelt coming down from above.

This is about the only time I long to get out of town, usually for a mountain bike trip that I have been thinking about since our extra season, spring skiing. Life in Steamboat has come full circle.

The picture above was taken by a good friend Eddie Byrne last fall after most of the leaves had dropped. We were mountain biking up the Valley View trail to the top of Thunderhead.

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