Tom Ross: Banish the no powder blues
January 2, 2012
Steamboat Springs — When the Chinese New Year arrives on Jan. 23, it will be the year of the dragon. And that's fine with me, as long as the dragon's breath doesn't melt any of our precious snow.
Steamboat's two Alpine ski areas (let's not forget Howelsen Hill) have worked miracles this season with the little natural snow they have to work with. But it was difficult not to notice during the New Year's holiday that locals and visitors alike are finding some alternative forms of recreation to pursue.
Mike Albrecht, of Howelsen Ice Arena, said the sheet of indoor ice was a popular patch of winter on Saturday when the wind was blowing on Mount Werner.
"We were packed during the public skate on Saturday," Albrecht said. "Every pair of skates we have, from size 3 on up was out."
He estimated that in addition to the 250 people who bought skating passes, children ages 5 and under who skated for free, and season pass holders brought the total number of skaters to about 300.
Local movie theaters were also a big draw Saturday as people sought entertainment off the ski slopes.
If you arrived at the last minute to see the matinee showings of "War Horse," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol," "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," "We Bought a Zoo," or George Clooney in the "Descendants," you might have been out of luck.
There was free recreation to be had Sunday, when the winds had quieted down, and there was a parade of strollers on the Yampa River Core Trail. New Year's Day was a good day for bird watching, with an unusual amount of waterfowl hanging around the valley.
I passed a small pack of road cyclists on U.S. Highway 40 on my way to Howelsen Hill to give the skate skiing there a try for the first time this winter after enjoying the Steamboat Ski Touring Center throughout December. And there was ample evidence to be seen in the tracks in the snow that mountain bikers still are cruising up Blackmer Drive. Cycling season never ends, right?
The snow guns have been parked in the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena at Howelsen as the city-owned ski area prepares for a double event Jan. 13 and 14 when the University of Colorado ski team hosts the CU Invite here. On those same days, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club hosts a Junior Olympic qualifier that will throw top junior skiers in with outstanding collegiate skiers for skate and classic races. Talk about stepping up your game!
Even better than the super fast skiing conditions at Howelsen on Sunday was the amount of activity taking place at the magic carpet ski lifts. That's where a flock of young Steamboat parents were introducing Steamboat's next generation of skiers to the sport in a super safe environment.
The smallest magic carpet is my favorite because it allows you to watch 4-year-olds like Charlie Wright gain confidence and self-reliance with every run down the tiny ski slope.
Alpine skiing is definitely Steamboat's No. 1 draw in January, but there's never a shortage of healthy diversions in Ski Town USA.
Maybe I'll ride my bike to the hot springs this afternoon and soak away them old no powder blues.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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