Gratitude and Snowcats
As the 2021-2022 ski season in Steamboat Springs is coming to a close with only four days left, I reflect with deep gratitude all that Steamboat has to offer not only myself, but my family, friends and those that come to visit our beautiful valley, town and mountains.
Steamboat is a special place for many, and certainly for my family. I grew up in a wonderful small town in the mountains of North Carolina called Blowing Rock, where I learned to ski on much smaller slopes. Those small North Carolina slopes taught me to ski and snowboard, and created a passion that ultimately led me to Steamboat Springs for “just one winter.” Well, that “just one winter” turned into the past 16 years, and as I raise my kids in this amazing valley, the feeling of gratitude is endless.
As I ventured up on the mountain this morning, despite the cold winds, despite the gray skies, despite the early morning firm snow conditions, I continued to reflect with gratitude all that Steamboat adds to my life. No ski day is exactly the same, and there is beauty in all of it. This morning, the views of the Flattops were a little more prominent and stunning, given the clouds overhead. While the snow was firm and needed to be kissed by the sun, the mountain was almost empty, and I was grateful for the solitude. Cold temperatures overnight dressed trees at the summit in a beautiful morning frost, creating a more scenic experience higher up on the mountain. As long as you look for them, silver linings are almost always there!
In the end, I feel grateful that I am able to ski and snowboard in beautiful Steamboat Springs day in and day out. As we wrap up this ski season, there are many people that work hard to give skiers and riders the best conditions possible. Ski Patrol works tirelessly to keep us all safe, lift operators make sure that we can access the mountain each and every day, operations keeps us all running (or skiing I should say) and the snowcat drivers work magic every single day and night from the start of the season to the close. While I have gratitude for all, I was able to ride along in a snowcat grooming the slopes recently, and would like to highlight that crew before those impressive machines are put to rest.
I have two boys, ages 6 and 8. When my older son was 3, I had the opportunity to take him on a ride-along in a snowcat, and as you can imagine, it was beyond special and memorable. Just recently, I was able to take my younger son on a ride-along the night before his construction-themed birthday party. Needless to say, he is crazy about trucks and vehicles, so introducing him to an operable snowcat was icing on his birthday cake.
Steamboat’s snowcat drivers are the ones who ultimately control the snow conditions that I blog about every Wednesday, of course with the help of Mother Nature. They are the ones who create that smooth, velvety, ripply corduroy that our ski legs love so much, and that my camera has developed a special relationship with.
My friend has been driving a snowcat at Steamboat Resort for 20 years (24 years total as a snowcat driver), and the best part is that he still loves coming to work each afternoon or night just as much, if not more, than he did in the beginning. His “office” is a 500 horsepower beast of a machine with a stunning sunset most evenings. It is a job he feels grateful to have, and a job that skiers and riders most certainly should be grateful for – I know I am!
Steamboat has 16 snowcat operators that keep our mountain in tip-top shape. They know and understand snow conditions better than all of us, and have tricks up their sleeves to make seamlessly smooth corduroy. The “swing shift” comes on just as skiers and riders are done skiing at 4 PM, and works into the night until 2 AM. The so-called “graveyard shift” operates snowcats from 10 PM until 8 AM the next morning. On any given afternoon/night at Steamboat Resort, there are 9-11 snowcat drivers grooming the slopes, making velvety smooth corduroy while the rest of us are sleeping. Undoubtedly they are a tough and talented crew who often make my job blogging about snow conditions easy. Hats off to Steamboat’s snowcat operators and thank you for all that you do!
With only four days left in the ski season, spring skiing is among us and there a few tips you need to know. The best time to start skiing or riding is around 11 AM, when the sun has had a chance to warm up the slopes. If the temperatures get really warm (50’s or even 60’s), the snow can get quite sticky and grabby by 2 PM or sometimes earlier (if you have any knee issues, be extra cautious in those conditions). Closing Weekend is always a fun one, but also a time to ski and ride with care so you and those around you will have a great day on the mountain!
Erin Campbell, Alpine Skier & Snowboarder