Steamboat Springs Are we supposed to act like we’ve been here before? We would, if we could remember.
Sure, we’ve skied 8-plus inches of powder before. In fact, we’ve skied that amount plus 19 inches in one morning last February.
But here in Steamboat, our memories are short.
For the past four weeks, it felt like it hadn’t snowed since the last Ice Age.
And on Tuesday morning, the taste of the last agonizing month was washed away with those first few cups of coffee at 6:30 a.m. The brown start to December was a distant memory by those first waves and winks from friends in the gondola maze at 7:30 a.m.
Objectively, maybe it wasn’t enough snow to warrant full-out sprints to the top of Rudi’s Run.
But no matter how much I tried to contain myself, I ran, too.
The snow situation still is such that the mountain has artificial snow clouds arcing into massive piles before our eyes. There were four lifts open serving 17 trails Tuesday — representing just 5 percent of the total acreage of the ski area.
But with those perfectly dry and smooth natural snowflakes layered so gently over a groomed surface, we forgot. A few slashes of metal cutting through snow and everything else — the long summer, the image of a brown Yampa Valley — disappeared in a puff of cold smoke.
I arrived at the base of the gondola just after 7:30, 10th in the singles line. In my fourth year here, I’m starting to recognize the faces that collect around me. That alone made me smile.
By the time the doors opened at 8:15 a.m., more than 100 other skiers and riders had gathered, and a loud voice yelled “Game on!” as we loaded a stationary gondola.
Next to me in the car was a teenage boy who revealed about halfway up the ride that this was his second run of the day.
He had starting hiking to the top of Christie Peak Express at 4 a.m. and a few hours later was one of the first in line for lift-served turns.
At least one of the little groms in my gondola car was supposed to be in school at that very moment.
It wasn’t the deepest snow we’d skied, but at that moment it sure felt like it. That light pressure on the shins, the bobbing cadence that became more comfortable with every turn — it felt like the first time all over again.
For some, this will be a memorable day. One of my lift-mates had just relocated from Vermont, making this his first powder day in Steamboat Springs. Tuesday was what he was waiting for.
For most of the skiers and riders in the valley, we’ll forget this morning the moment the ski area announces a 12-inch powder day and we start the cycle all over again.
So those first few sweeping turns down a nearly untracked and pristinely smooth Rainbow with whooping strangers by my side — I’ll probably forget them and replace them with some new memories of another powder day.
But as I awkwardly ran down the metal stairs toward waiting fresh tracks like a kid tromping down the stairs on Christmas morning, I did remember the most important thing, which is that there’s nothing wrong with forgetting everything for those few moments when we’re sliding on snow.
Steamboat skiing: Dec. 11, 2012
Skiers and snowboarders enjoyed fresh snow at Steamboat Ski Area on Tuesday.