As I snuggled into bed last night, the weather report was warning “heavy snow” and “powerful winter storm.” I zonked out while wondering, “Will it be a  sweet dream or a fake news nightmare?” Turns out that this storm is the making of a dreamy fairy tale:  As of 5 a.m., Steamboat  gained 9” on the top of the mountain overnight, but there was nothing to shovel on my deck this morning!

Wet at the bottom. Snowy at the top!

Surprise! Pay no heed to Mother Nature’s wet sneeze on the valley floor.  Her tantrum should not divert your attention from Old Man Winter, who is puking snow up top. The Stormy One continues to pile on the inches right this instant:  another 6″ reported since 5 a.m. Steamboat  is skiing pure winter.

The snow is piling on!

I started my morning with a beloved lap under the Sunshine Lift Line.  That was my route to Rolex — a run that was deemed irresistible by a gang of old guys who were giggling so fiercely that it echoed over the valley as I was boarding Sundown Express. Clearly, I had to sample the goods. They were right, by the way.

Then I scooted over to Three O’Clock, another long run that gets bumped out as the season moves on. But in this early season with piles of new snow, it’s smooth sailing — and wholly untracked.

Caught my first ride on the new Elkhead Express. Speedy little devil! So fast that I had time for an extra lap. So I hit the top couple of pitches of White Out — another bastion of the Bump Gods that has yet to transform into a slope of sky-high moguls — and on down Norther.

Three O’Clock without the bumps. Yum.

The snow is a tad thick, with just enough moisture that it’s making for creamy turns. Ski the top — that’s where the goods are right now. It’s not the fluff that Steamboat is famous for, but it’s riding downright fabulous.  We’ve got deep tree wells emerging and tree trunks still trying to disappear, so don’t forget that many early-season hazards are still lurking .

Extending the fun after sunset: night skiing started last night. Keep an eye on the storm. Tonight might be a good get.

Tomorrow is  Audubon’s  Christmas Bird Count. This is a great way to spend time skiing around in nature, paying extra attention to our feathered friends and getting involved with citizen science. Steamboat’s bird sightings get added to a century of data — and a strong tradition of holiday season conservation, since the bird count started out as a way to convince folks to watch birds instead of hunt them. Birders on snowshoes and skis will be counting on the ski area and various places around the Yampa Valley.

On Sunday evening, Steamboat is kicking the holiday season into gear with fireworks and a torchlight parade. What can we say? Steamboat has an infinite passion for really big pyrotechnics. It’s a crazy kinda love. And rumor has it that Santa will be down there in Gondola Square with his real, live reindeer before the fireworks, too.

The winter storm warning remains in effect through tomorrow. Noosa has free yogurt at the base of the gondola. It’s a g’day indeed.

Gondola breakfast. Nom nom nom.

Happy holidays! We’re full-tilt winter!

Jennie Lay, Telemark skier

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