Steamboat Springs For Michael Martin, the takeaway was excitement.
He was drawn over Rabbit Ears Pass and up along Colorado Highway 14 by a video posted on www.opensnow.com that showed deep powder and seemingly midwinter conditions.
And excitement is what he found while chasing a delightfully dark cloud that seemed to be planted above the Never Summer Range.
On Cameron Pass just north of Rocky Mountain National Park, Martin said, he found winter, and it was glorious.
“There are so many bad vibes coming from last winter,” he said. “One of the great things was coming straight from one of the best fall seasons I can remember, with perfect weather and great biking, to the best powder I’ve skied in October all within a week. It was just one of those amazing things.”
Martin is an instructor of ski business at Steamboat’s Colorado Mountain College campus when he’s not plowing backcountry powder, and he’s as avid a skier as Steamboat Springs shelters.
And he has an imagination, one that he applies to his passion.
He managed to ski 12 consecutive months without leaving Routt County starting in 2010 and ending in October 2011. To accomplish that feat, he studied the slopes and the sun, turning to shaded aspects and tight turns in the warm summer months.
No amount of plotting could navigate a way through the mess of a spring that was 2012, however. Sure, he managed to outlast the ski area, which survived to its Closing Day thanks only to industrious groomers. But even Martin didn’t ski past May.
“Even May was borderline,” he said, grumbling five months later. “You had to get up really high and really early before the sun got to it.”
So when Steamboat got blasted with a double whammy of snowstorms last week, he was chomping at the bit, and other residents found delight locally.
“It was as good as skiing in October can be,” Kerry Lofy said about a Saturday jaunt up Rabbit Ears Pass and a Sunday trip to Buffalo Pass.
For Lofy, the snow offered the chance to ride a few rails in the backcountry and test out his surgically repaired knees.
“On Rabbit Ears, I skinned in quite a ways just to hang out, get in shape and have a little touring session,” he said. “For Buff Pass, we brought the snowmobile. We were just messing around with some friends, getting the cobwebs off.”
Martin, though, was seeking something bigger, and he said he found it, inspired by a video of a beanie-clad snowboarder ripping down a deep powder slope with all the appropriate hoots, hollers and exhilarated curse words.
“They left it as vague as possible, but if you know what you’re looking at, you knew exactly where this guy was snowboarding,” Martin said.
So, he set off, and once he arrived, he found plenty of others whose ambition had been stoked by one snowboarder's 63-second-long, face-shot-filled run.
“The storm fronts have been hitting up on the divide, and it was just like night and day on Saturday,” he said. “I got up there, and it was full-on winter. I skied in snow the whole day. Up at the top of the summits, it was 40 inches deep where the wind had blown it in certain areas.”
There are some elements that should give skiers and riders caution, including those 40-inch stashes where the snow has been blown. All that snow with all that traffic on top of that soft ground can make for prime avalanches later this winter and even now.
“If there’s enough to ride, there’s enough to slide,” Martin recited.
That did little to dampen his autumn enthusiasm, though. Last season fell flat, but after one taste of 2012, Martin’s heart is pumping.
“Those were the best October turns I’ve ever had,” he said.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com