Steamboat Springs I still remember it sitting under the Christmas tree: a Snurfer complete with a grab rope on its tip and metal staples for traction. Once our unwrapping decimation was complete, my five siblings and I raced it outside to the hilly yard of our home in Boulder and started schussing down the hill.
Sometimes we’d land in the juniper bush, other times we’d biff on the sidewalk, and occasionally we’d make it all the way into the street. When we tired of the Snurfer, we’d pack the same hill out and build jumps, banks and more to saucer, tube and toboggan down. We rode that hill on pretty much everything but the backboards we should have had on hand.
In short, we had more fun in our backyard than we did at most resorts and other locations catering to kids, able to entertain ourselves for hours on end just a snowball’s throw from our cupboard’s Swiss Miss hot chocolate packets with mini-marshmallows.
Here in Steamboat Springs — coincidentally the home of Snurfer inventor Sherman Poppen, whose snowboard predecessor is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution — this wintertime backyard fun is even easier. More hills, more snow and a colder clime mean locals can build rails, ice rinks and even waterfalls for ice climbing all within a few steps of their slippers waiting in the mudroom.
Whether Steamboat locals pursue this passion more than people in other towns, I’m not sure. All I know is that come winter, on a typical Sunday afternoon or even weekday night, you’ll find as many people enjoying ramped-up amenities in their own backyards as you will at other more-traditional locations.
And it’s not just sledding, rosy-cheeked practitioners of which can be found in winter towns the world over. We’re talking rails, ramps, jumps, boxes and more on homemade ski hills (one of which even has its own rope tow); backyard ice rinks, complete with homemade Zambonis, that are dialed-in enough to host bantam practices; multi-neighbor bobsled courses that careen across five property lines; and even a frozen water tower with a top rope anchor for ice climbing.
Maybe it’s something in our water. Maybe it’s just the breed of person who decides to call the Yampa Valley home. Maybe it’s the need to have recreation even closer at all times than it already is in this winter wonderland of ours. Whatever the reason, we herald these homespun antics on page 26.
So when driving through Backyard Fun Town USA (sorry, no marketing committee yet), don’t be surprised to see somersaulting sledders, skiers throwing mute grabs and the occasional hockey puck flying over makeshift boards as you pass from neighborhood to neighborhood.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Snurfer rail to grind ...