Tom Ross: Where did mud season go? |

Tom Ross: Where did mud season go?

Tom Ross

— On April 4, 2011, I pronounced that "Sprinter is here!" It was a recognition that spring was busting out all over the valley a year ago, but winter still was hanging on tight in the mountains above.

What a difference a year and 20 days make.

On April 24, 2012, I'm stepping up to pronounce that Sprummer is here! The lower mountainsides around town resemble the middle of May, but doesn't it feel like summer outdoors?

Officially, Steamboat is in the midst of mud season. But fans of mud have to make a significant effort to find a patch of the gooey stuff in this strange April. The skiing has all but fallen apart and mountain bike trails already are drying up. It's not right.

A neighbor pulled into his driveway Saturday with ski equipment in evidence and told me he and some buddies had hiked on foot to the saddle of Vagabond — you guessed it, the road wasn't muddy. Next, they put their skis on and skinned up to Storm Peak to make some turns. Ironically, it turned out that the best snow conditions they found were on the lower mountain on the Concentration trail.

Two more friends made the hike to the Mad Creek Barn and, amazingly, the trail was mud-free. They even pulled a couple of brook trout from the creek, which still should have snow — maybe even ice — on its banks.

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What's wrong with this picture?

It was on May 1, 2011, that a small regiment of local hardcores skinned up from the parking lot near the Thunderhead Express to ski about 9 inches of fresh powder. The standing snow on Buffalo Pass was 200 inches deep on May 4 and the bronze bust of Buddy Werner on Storm Peak barely peeked out of the snowpack.

But that was then, and this is now. And this ain't mud season.

After some spring-cleaning chores Saturday (we bathed 27 window screens in an ammonia bath, brushed them gingerly and rinsed them off), we eagerly changed into our bike shorts.

On the way to a loop through the Fish Creek Trail, we swung by the base of the ski area to see if the snow had melted off Burgess Creek. There's a little snow hanging on at the base of the Christie Peak Express, but the very bottom of the ski area is appropriately muddy.

Then again, the remnants of the snowpack are attributable to manmade snow and even a little bit that was trucked in from Howelsen Hill for the Cardboard Classic and Splashdown Pond Skim the previous weekend.

Does that mean the mud on the lowest slopes this mud season is manmade mud?

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

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