As winter enthusiasts, we all eagerly anticipate those pristine days on the slopes, carving through fresh Champagne Powder© Snow powder and soaking in the breathtaking views. However, Mother Nature reminds us that sometimes weather patterns are unpredictable. To shed light on how wind impacts our skiing experience, we sat down with Jake Ingle, the Director of Slope Maintenance at Steamboat Ski Resort, to discuss the nuances of managing high winds and lift closures.

Q: Why do winds close some lifts and not others?

A: “Depending on the direction of the wind and the lift orientation, certain lifts can be affected more than others. The Steamboat Gondola, for instance, is particularly susceptible to south winds by the snowmaking control and east wind at the top.”

Q: Is there a specific sustained wind mph that would close our lifts?

A: “When winds reach around 35 miles per hour (mph), we typically start slowing down lifts, but the threshold can vary depending on the lift orientation and other factors.”

Q: What’s the difference between sustained vs. gusts?

A: “Sustained wind refers to the average speed over a period of time, usually measured within a ten-minute window. On the other hand, gusts are sudden bursts of wind that occur instantaneously.”

Q: How come it’s not windy down in the base/town?

A: “Our base area sits nestled in the valley and is shielded by the mountain from the upper atmosphere winds. It’s not uncommon for it to feel serene in the valley while encountering blustery conditions up on the mountain.”

Q: Why are skiers/riders allowed and not foot passengers?

A: “Skiers have the option to ski down if a lift or gondola is closed due to winds, whereas foot passengers risk being stranded at the top without a means of descent. Rescuing foot passengers often requires the use of a cabin cat or other specialized equipment, which can be logistically challenging. The people cats do help us download guests but most of the time we download Thunderhead lift. We usually try to download later in the day so it doesn’t impact the uphill traffic on Thunderhead, as it more than likely is our only way up the mountain.”

Q: Why is the gondola position over the Control building more impacted with winds?

A: “It is at a high point that crests over the ridge. The wind causes a ton of communication cable swing in this area.”

Q: Does a different wind direction impact Wild blue?  

A: “Wind from the south has the biggest factor on the span over sunset.”

Navigating wind-related closures is an inherent aspect of mountain life, reminding us to respect and adapt to the forces of nature. While it may be disappointing to see lifts temporarily halted, safety remains the top priority for both guests and staff at Steamboat Ski Resort. So, next time you find yourself waiting out a windy day, take solace in the knowledge that our dedicated team is diligently monitoring conditions to ensure your mountain experience is both exhilarating and safe.