Tom Ross: Skiing, a new July 4 tradition in Steamboat |

Tom Ross: Skiing, a new July 4 tradition in Steamboat

Tom Ross

— It's time to begin a new Independence weekend tradition — call it the July Nordic kickoff. All you need is a pair of battered cross-country or Telemark skis you don't care too much about.

After skiing in the vicinity of Walton Peak on Rabbit Ears Pass on Sunday afternoon, I'm confident that we can count on incorporating skiing into our three-day celebration of the Fourth of July.

Why would anyone go skiing on a summer day meant for picnics, ball games, parades and concerts? Because we can!

This is a history-making spring and summer in terms of snow, and the opportunity to indulge in legitimate skiing during the first week in July could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all we know.

Even if you don't typically go cross-country skiing, you should look for a pair of garage sale skis and boots just to give it a go. But you might prefer digging your Telemark skis and skins out of the gear closet so you can climb up some of the sun-cupped slopes and crank a few turns.

Hey, the snow ain't pretty this time of year, but it's darn sure solid.

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We got a late start Sunday afternoon and headed up the pass with our expectations in check.

I had to look at my instrument panel twice to confirm the temperature was 44 degrees. After we parked the car, I quickly pulled an anorak on over the tropical shirt I wore over a thin technical long-sleeved shirt. It sure didn't look or feel like June.

Despite the persistence of the snowpack, there have been very few mornings during the course of this protracted spring that have offered the optimum crust skiing that Nordies dream of. I hadn't been up on the pass since returning from Oregon in late May, and I was expecting the snowpack to be mushy and rotten.

I left my skate skis at home and instead brought along an antique pair of Fischer Europa 99s with fish scale bottoms, metal edges and a ridiculous amount of camber.

Well, the snow wasn't what I expected — I could have skated on the firm surface had I wanted to — but the Europa's weren't a bad call, either. The snow was dirty with dust blown in from either Moffat County or Utah. And it was littered with pine needles and cones.

The U.S. Forest Service has closed some of roads on Rabbit Ears that are free of snow and asks skiers to use designated trailheads for June skiing this year.

Snowcats entered parade

Historically, I've always measured the Fourth of July snowpack by conditions on Storm Peak. Most years, there is a slim strip of snow hanging on just to skiers' right of the Storm Peak Express.

If you've been hanging around Steamboat's Fourth of July parades for a couple of decades, you remember the good old days when Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. entered two or three of its snow grooming cats in the parade. They would stop at Eighth Street and execute a couple of ungainly pirouettes before Ski Corp. employees tossed snowballs at the crowd.

Heck, if we were ambitious enough this year, we could haul enough snow onto Lincoln Avenue for the Fourth of July to allow Steamboat's famous skiing band to take part.

Now that would be a first.

There was a cold wind blowing on Rabbit Ears on Sunday afternoon, and July 4 is only 14 days away. Do you know where your skinny skis are?

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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