Streams in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area are still running cold and clear with melting snow, and wildflowers continue to bloom unusually late in the summer.

Photo by Tom Ross

Streams in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area are still running cold and clear with melting snow, and wildflowers continue to bloom unusually late in the summer.

Tom Ross: Catch a chill in Steamboat


Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or

Find more columns by Tom here.

— When I stood up from the campfire Saturday night it was to dig a fleece vest out of my pack so I could put it on over my fleece turtleneck.

The waning half moon hadn’t come over the horizon, but the sky was bright and a chill breeze was pouring off the top of the Flat Tops. My thoughts drifted to the millions of Americans holed-up in their air-conditioned houses in cities like Houston and Phoenix.

The forecast high for Houston today calls for 101 degrees and a heat index rating of as high as 107 degrees. There’s a 20 percent chance of showers. Do ya think it’s going to be humid in Houston today? The overnight low will be in the range of 78 degrees. I guess it could be worse.

Steamboat’s forecast high of 83 degrees today is just five degrees warmer than the overnight low in Houston.

Dallas set an all-time record this summer for really hot overnight lows. After a 40-day string of afternoons that saw the daily high eclipse 100 degrees (two short of the record set in 1980), Dallas saw a morning last week when the temperature did not dip below 86 degrees Fahrenheit. That was an all-time record.

What we couldn’t figure out as we casually stomped on the orange embers that leapt out of the campfire Saturday night was: “With the heat wave in the American Southwest, how is it possible there were any empty hotel rooms and condos in Steamboat this summer?”

I know — it’s the economy, and the marketing professionals who manage Steamboat’s hotels and vacation condominiums are competing on rates in a terrifically competitive environment. But Houston is a city of 2 million souls (6 million in the greater metro area). Aren’t there enough well-heeled sweltering people there to book Steamboat solid for the summer?

Call me naïve. It’s just that we have it so good in Routt County.

I got up from the bumpy log I was sitting on at the campfire and went to the creek to retrieve a can of Miller High Life in an effort to improve my thinking problem. The stream must have been flowing out of one of the big snow banks up in the ramparts of the Flat Tops because the beer can was so cold I could hardly bear to hold it in my hand.

It was the only can of beer we afforded ourselves for the trip, so I shared it with my hiking buddy.

I wasn’t a marketing major, but I’ve spent enough time talking to marketing vice presidents over the past two decades that I figure I could fake it for a week or 10 days. And the question on my mind today is, “Do the people sweating through their shirts in Scottsdale, Dallas, New Orleans and Tampa this summer realize that it gets down to the mid-40s every night in August in Steamboat Springs?”

Y’all come! Bring your laptops. You can work remotely from your condo. It will take your boss at least four days to notice you are missing. You can chill out in the literal sense of the word.

What we need is a Steamboat version of that fantasy world Coors Light TV commercial that takes place in a commuter railroad car packed with 30 gorgeous people. You know the one — the commercial where the dude pops the top on a Silver Bullet and instantly transforms the rail car into a party-down version of the inside of a freezer that needs defrosting.

Come to Steamboat. Get on the soul train. Spend money. Bring your sweaters. Catch a chill.

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


rhys jones 5 years, 8 months ago

I had similar thoughts, as I sat at a picnic table in a virtually deserted Howelsen on Saturday afternoon. There were tubers in the river, bikers around town, and people strolling the Art Walk, but there was nobody in the park, save a couple teenage bikers on the ramps. Those kids are even better than I am on a bike, dang it, even after durn near 50 years' practice. Of course, I never begged trouble, went down enough as it is. My scars have scars. I will address yvb's bike/health concerns in another forum.

And I digress. School starts early in a lot of places, surely impacting our tourist base about now. But even yet, maybe there's ANOTHER reason the crowds from Heatsville are thin...

After a season or so residing in the heat full-time, your body actually adjusts to it. Half my family lives in Arizona, and I have spent extended stretches there occasionally, as recently as last winter, and it happened AGAIN. By the time I moved back in May, I was already adjusted to 100 degrees; it was still winter here, in comparison. and I caught a cold!! Bought a couple of heavy jackets for next winter, too. Yeah, chill.

All I'm saying is, there's a good chance most of them stopped somewhere else first, somewhere a bit more temperate. The Yampa Valley IS a bit of an icebox, compared to the rest of the country, any time of year. Nor unwelcome, this time of year, to those of us adjusted. When you're from down there, this is positively COLD. I've heard the comment on the bus before, "I'm from the Arctic Circle, and this place is colder than that." Not that we don't see some AZ visitors, but all in all, they find their heat comforting, and our cold threatening.

Maybe we're just too cool.


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