What’s Steamboat’s Approach to Grooming?
With the holidays fast approaching, Steamboat Ski Resort continues to open terrain as Mother Nature continues to do her job to fill in our base. While each year is different, with some years seeing plenty of early season snow, and others getting off to a slower start, our Mountain Operations teams put in the work to get our favorite trails skiing the way we know and love. Whether it be cranking snow guns to help add to the base, marking hazards, or nightly grooming, an incredible effort goes into getting our mountain ready each season. For a behind the scenes look at how the mountain stays in the best condition possible, we sat down with our Director of Slope Maintenance, Jake Ingle, and discussed a few practices that the slope maintenance team employs to keep your favorite trails riding their best all season long.
Q: What is the general philosophy behind grooming at Steamboat?
A: We pride ourselves on quality over quantity and strive to put out a high-quality grooming product as opposed to higher volume. Our team is comprised of a veteran crew operating three winch cats and seven beast cats, which allow for us to cover a lot of terrain.
Q: This week last year we had a base of almost 50 inches and were 100% open, where does that compare to where we are this year?
A: So far this season, we’ve had 90 inches of snow and are sitting on a 25-inch base. So that means that a lot of our natural snow trails, especially in the Sunshine pod including favorites like One O’clock, Two O’clock, Rolex, Flintlock and Quickdraw can’t necessarily be groomed until we have a more substantial base. We need about 10 inches of additional base depth to be able to comfortably groom those runs daily.
Q: What can occur because of over-grooming?
A: Well, what that extra little bit of base does is get us out over the rocks and allows for continual grooming on the snow surface. Currently, we’re encountering rocks while grooming a lot of these areas and it is tough on our equipment. The more negative effect our equipment sees from grooming in these conditions, the less they will be capable of producing a high-quality product moving forward. We take a ton of pride in the grooming and snowmaking at Steamboat and want to ensure the highest quality product for our guests. That being said, we’re really excited with how upper and lower High Noon are riding this year due to us positioning 35 new SMI snowmaking guns in the area. The high quality of snow and coverage in the trail for this time of the year is really noticeable.
With these measures being taken, our Mountain Operations teams continue to open new terrain at breakneck speed. Our teams are experts on how to get the most that they can out of the conditions and snow we have, and although some runs haven’t been able to be groomed as frequently as normal, the amount and condition of terrain open is a testament to the multifaceted work they do to keep the ski area in tip top shape. With snow in the forecast and great skiing and riding conditions across a wide variety of open terrain, we will continue to watch the 2023/24 take shape. Until then, think snow!
by Jackson Grabill
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