Mountain snow below 'average'

Ski area spokesman: It's the experience that counts

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— The sun has made only infrequent appearances in February, but all of those clouds haven't produced much snow, and Steamboat will have to experience a very snowy March and April just to have an average winter snowfall.

Still, skiers were encountering pleasant conditions on the slopes at Steamboat this week.

"I skied Whiteout a lot of times and the bumps were soft," Tim Hoff said Thursday. "We had great early season snow, drought in the middle and now, it's been good again."

Hoff goes up on the mountain and both skis and snowboards. He may not have known it, but the bumps he was skiing on the black diamond trail Whiteout were shaped with almost exactly 100 inches of fewer snow than the mountain had received last year at this date.

Thus far Steamboat has received 204 inches of snow at mid-mountain November through February. Last year, Steamboat had received 302 inches by the end of February. The 10-year average for snowfall at Steamboat during the course of an entire winter is 332.18 inches and the 20-year average is 306.13 inches.

"The numbers say 'average,'" ski area spokesman Mike lane said Thursday. "But the skiing experience is definitely above average."

Lane said Steamboat counted 49 inches of snow at mid-mountain during February and 63 inches at the summit. The mid-mountain snow total was just two inches more than fell on Mount Werner in January, and that was perceived as a dry month.

Lane theorized that frequent small snowstorms helped keep the ski trails fresh throughout February.

"We had a lot of nickel and dime stuff here and there," Lane said. "That and cold temperatures at night have definitely helped us."

Steamboat's mid-mountain base of 60 inches on Thursday ranked it second in the state for major destination resorts behind Winter Park, where the base is 66 inches. Vail was reporting 46 inches at mid-mountain and Aspen 39 inches.

Steamboat received a six-inch snowfall of wet snow last week, and Lane said it was the right kind of snow at the right time.

"The groomers are able to work with the wet snow better," Lane said.

Steamboat skiers were spoiled by the back-to-back winters of 1995/96 and 1996/97, when the ski area counted 441.25 and 447.75 inches of snow, respectively. The latter was the highest total in 20 years.

Steamboat still needs to receive 100 inches of snow in the next six weeks to have a statistical average winter.

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