Steamboat Springs Look outside. It's no wonder Steamboat Springs High School's spring sports teams escaped the Yampa Valley for preseason training.
Practicing indoors and out of town is nothing new for the Sailors. But with more than 33 feet of snow falling on Mount Werner this winter, it's uncertain when Steamboat's soccer, baseball, lacrosse, tennis and track and field teams will see -- let alone practice or play on -- the grass at Dudley Field, Emerald Park and the high school.
Baseball coach Dave Roy took the Sailors to Tucson, Ariz., from Feb. 20 to 25 during the school district's annual Blues Break.
"We went down and enjoyed the sun and had great facilities," Roy said. "We worked pretty hard -- from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day. It helps when you do that. The disappointment is you go back into the gym; but these kids are working hard."
The boys lacrosse team and the girls soccer team went to Grand Junction for an early-season training session. The soccer team also went to Denver for preseason scrimmages in an effort to practice on real fields before games start to count in the standings.
Steamboat athletes who participate in spring sports accept the inclement weather conditions because there is no choice.
"It's been an absolutely fantastic snow year," soccer coach Rob Bohlmann said. "You can't curse the snow. It's part of our livelihood -- for all of us, to a certain extent. For us, it's a great training tool in that we learn to deal with less-than-perfect conditions."
Not only is the weather less than ideal, but so are the practice schedules. Steamboat Springs High School has two gyms and a track that circles Kelly Meek Gymnasium. Gym time is divided among the boys and girls lacrosse, baseball, soccer and track and field teams.
"We had a meeting prior to the start of the season to hash it out," Bohlmann said. "For year to year you have to factor in basketball and their playoff run. The first week or two weeks, there is so much pressure."
The girls tennis team practices indoors at The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, which completed its renovations just in time for the season. Players will use the outdoor hard courts when they are clear of snow.
Track and field coach Andy Reust has found a valuable training tool that can be used in all weather conditions: the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center pool.
Usually used by injured athletes, the lap pool has become a home for the Sailors several times a week.
"It's an aerobic workout so they don't take the pounding," he said. "We just do it two days a week."
The team trains outdoors on hills on the other days, but the school's track still is covered in snow, and there are no plans to clear its lanes before Mother Nature runs her course.
Track athletes who compete in the field events are most affected by the area's long winters because they are unable to throw or train on surfaces similar to the ones they will face at meets.
"We are doing the best we can, getting approaches," Reust said about the team's jumpers.
A potential solution for practicing outdoors in the spring is a field with an all-weather playing surface. There's been talk about installing one in Steamboat, but no action has been taken. Battle Mountain High School in Eagle-Vail uses an outdoor all-weather field in Edwards. Eagle County hasn't received as much snow as Steamboat, but temperatures and conditions still are not ideal for outdoor sports along the Interstate 70 corridor.
"This time of year, once temperatures start rising, the recycled tire ingrained into the turf really retains the heat," Bohlmann said about the Edwards facility. "They had a fully cleared field from opening day.
"They are putting in a second field because of the demand. We have to get there. We've got to get there soon."
Inclement weather has forced the cancellation of Steamboat's first track meet and the postponement of Steamboat's first Western Slope League soccer game. No make-up dates have been announced.