Alex Sullivan, left, and Kerry Lofy unload a snowmobile Sunday at Dry Lake Campground.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Alex Sullivan, left, and Kerry Lofy unload a snowmobile Sunday at Dry Lake Campground.

Snow helps Steamboat residents start backcountry ski season

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Buff Pass beckoning

Steamboat riders head up to Buffalo Pass on Sunday for some early season riding after a winter storm dumped some snow on the area.

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Just what lay ahead, she didn’t know.

A weekend of snow blanketed Steamboat Springs, and on Sunday, when winter’s first real storm finally began to let up, locals did as they always do, crawling from their warm homes, stomping through the powder and heading for the high country.

That’s why Lindsay Nixon came here, moving with husband Scott from a decidedly different kind of dream home — they spent the past year living on the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean Sea — to live a decidedly different kind of dream.

They came to snowboard, and encouraged by the weekend’s powder dump, they drove up to the Dry Lake parking lot and, with friend Matt Gorevan, began their season, hiking up into the Buffalo Pass backcountry.

“This is our first trip this season,” said Lindsay Nixon, an experienced boarder.

The group wasn’t alone Sunday. Pickups filled with eager skiers and snowboarders and laden down with snowmobile-toting trailers made their way up a snow-packed Routt County Road 38. They slowed to a crawl when they came to pass one another on the messy avenue that left several vehicles in the ditch, but they continued on to start the season.

Even the region’s veterans weren’t sure what to expect. For most, Sunday marked the first push into their favorite playground. Road construction limited early season access to the pass’s higher reaches, and users couldn’t hit the slopes until snow filled in at the lower elevations.

“There was enough to slide around,” said Todd Dills, who joined his wife, Sarah Dills, and dog Chama for a cross-country skiing tour on Buff Pass. “I heard reports last week that there was over a foot at Dry Lake, but there’s maybe a foot. It’s still pretty bony. We were definitely sliding over rocks. It’s a little early for my taste to be going to make turns, but (cross-country skiing) was OK.”

Local backcountry skier Kerry Lofy hit Rabbit Ears Pass on Saturday after spending two days earlier in the week trying to nurse his snowmobiles out of their summer slumber. He said severe winds had blown the powder off the top there, but he was more optimistic about Sunday on Buff Pass.

“We’ll see,” he said, firing up a snowmobile.

He later reported he and friend Alex Sullivan had encountered more harsh winds, but the snow was 14 inches deep with drifts of three feet.

“It was OK,” he said. “It will make for a good base.”

The Nixons and Gorevan were as unsure as everyone else about the conditions, and, new to the area, more so in many regards. Where were the best slopes? What would be possible to hike to? Was the snow even deep enough?

It didn’t really matter, and as the trio stepped off, they did so with a spring in their step and grins on their faces, echoing a sentiment that rang clear after the season’s first respectable snowstorm had let up.

“We just can’t wait any longer,” Lindsay Nixon said.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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