Photo by John F. Russell
Snowboarder Dustin Eldridge and skier Jeremy Gray dive through the powder under the Sundown Express lift Friday afternoon. The latest storm helped Steamboat Ski Area surpass last season's total snowfall.
Updated February 16, 2013 at 1:49 p.m.
Steamboat Springs Editor's note: The number of passengers who arrived Friday at Yampa Valley Regional Airport has been corrected.
With two months left to go in the 2012-13 ski season, Steamboat Ski Area already has received more snow than it did during the 2011-12 season.
The ski area reported 5 inches of new snow Friday morning, bringing the season total to 228.5 inches, which is one-half inch more than the total with which the ski area closed the previous season April 15, 2012.
With nearly 60 days left in the season and a snowy end to February in the forecast, Steamboat could be looking at an average snowfall year.
Steamboat Ski Area spokesman Mike Lane said the snow conditions have been deep, and getting deeper, all week.
“Steamboat’s always known for good snow,” he said. “It always comes. Last year was an anomaly, and I think people have been really enjoying the powder this week. We’ve gotten a couple inches here and there, and you forget how that really adds up. It’s been 2 feet of snow in the last seven days.”
The current conditions were a far-off dream in early December, when warm, dry weather postponed snowmaking and anxiety about a 2011-12 repeat was running high.
But good things come to those who wait, and a series of storms at the end of December brought relief and powder smiles to the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area.
Then came another downturn on the roller coaster of this season: nearly four weeks of dry, sunny and frigid weather. But one monster storm brought about 4 feet of snow at the end of January and another round of relief. On-and-off February snow has kept the momentum going, and Steamboat is sitting comfortably with a 59-inch base and the entire mountain open for riding.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service anticipate the snow to continue with a fast-moving storm Sunday night and an even bigger system arriving Wednesday.
“There’s a big ridge in the eastern Pacific,” National Weather Service forecaster Dennis Phillips said. “That leads to a big trough over the western U.S., so all the storms are pretty much going to … keep dropping down into the western U.S. The models have been really consistent for a midweek storm and seems like it will favor pretty much everybody.”
The recent snow came with perfect timing for Steamboat as one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year kicks into gear.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s lodging barometer forecasts 95 percent of available pillows in Steamboat lodging properties will be full Saturday night with downtown lodging 100 percent full.
The forecast is up from last year’s lodging numbers, when 91 percent of lodging properties were full.
Steamboat’s not alone in this trend, according to the Mountain Travel Research Program.
A Friday news release from the organization reported January occupancy at western resorts was up 6.5 percent compared with January 2012 and that bookings for the next six months are up 7.9 percent. MTRiP measures occupancy and booking based on data from 260 property management companies across western states.
Word certainly is getting around that Steamboat has some of the best snow in Colorado.
Flights into Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Friday were 99 percent full with 961 arriving passengers.
“I think we’re enjoying some of the best ski conditions in the state,” Lane said. "You’re still finding pockets of knee-deep powder in places off of Pony (Express), and it’s been fantastic. I think people know Steamboat’s got the snow. For a holiday weekend, it should be a fun time up here.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com