A couple inches of fresh snow two nights ago beefed up a nice palette for a fresh groom on the big mountain. This was a welcome addition to the current streak of warm, dry weather. It’s fun, spring-like cruising up there.

But sometimes, you crave something different. T-shirt weather inspired me to take on a two-sport day on the valley floor. With the chirp of birds in the air and blue skies everywhere, I headed out for a heart-pumping 4k cross-country ski followed by a fat bike loop around the Haymaker Nordic center.

There’s even a dog-friendly loop at Haymaker.

You can see Haymaker from the ski area. It’s a gorgeous stretch of open space next to the Yampa River. In the summer, it’s an Audubon-approved golf course. In the winter, it’s a maze of perfectly groomed trails custom-tailored for skate skiing, classic Nordic, and now, fat tire bike cruising.

Winding among the cottonwoods and willows along the Yampa River

If you crave silence, serenity and an alternative view on the Yampa Valley’s majesty, including an uninhibited gaze back the ski area, Nordic skiing at Haymaker is a rewarding way to get your nature fix. Take it slow and leisurely, or get your sweat on. No one’s judging your pace. No expertise is required. The beauty out there is an equal-opportunity engagement.

Wildlife tracks and well-groomed cross-country trails in the middle of the Yampa Valley

Skate over the fresh corduroy or put your classic skis in the grooves to glide through the meadows. No big ups or downs out there. This is relaxed, casual skiing—your own time at your own pace. During the day, your skis will cross the shadowy footsteps of elk, snowshoe hare and fox who beat you to the trail. Frankly, it’s a gorgeous place to be.

Slide and glide: classic skis in the track at Haymaker.

And if you’ve been wanting to try a fat bike—the hippest new thing on snow—but you aren’t interested in climbing straight up Emerald Mountain, Haymaker is an idyllic place to experiment.

Fat tires on the trail

With fat bikes for rent on site and a separate, gently rolling bike trail winding in and around the ski trails, you can experience the fun of fat biking without the agony of an uphill.

Designated fat bike trails at Haymaker

Haymaker opens at 9 am. With the current weather pattern, cooler nights mean conditions will be fastest when the snow is firmest, first thing in the morning. As the sun rises and temperatures climb, the snow gets a little softer and stickier. The water content slows you down—helpful perhaps for anyone new to Nordic skiing. The sweet spot is probably 10-1, but late day with a blazing sun and blue skies certainly isn’t revealing any drawbacks.

The sunny side of Steamboat, peeking out of the snowy expanse at Haymaker

Before you jump into full-tilt bluegrass this weekend, here’s a hot tip for some Wednesday night fun. Infinitely creative photographer Jordan Matter has been in Steamboat this week, enjoying a bit of vacation and shooting a bunch of new images. Matter created the New York Times bestselling book Dancers Among Us, and the artful new collection Dancers After Dark. Steamboat stars in some super cool appearances in both of Matter’s books – our iconic barns, the river, aspens in Strawberry Park and even the Space Station sign are all paired with extraordinarily limber, high-flying dancers. He’s giving a free talk and slideshow about his photo shoots and their backstories at 6:30 pm Wednesday, downtown at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Enjoy this wee spot of spring, Steamboat. Sounds like we’re getting a sweet new dump of pow at the end of the week!

Jennie Lay, Telemark skier

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