Runs you don't hit often enough at Steamboat Ski Area

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— Ask a longtime local for a favorite overlooked run at Steamboat Ski Area and you’re as likely to get a snowball as an answer. Secret spots are Steamboat gold and treated as such by those who know where they are.

Still, several of the town’s most regular skiers and snowboarders dared to offer up a few of their favorite spots. It’s not about out-of-bounds hikes or hidden glades — it's about good runs that you might be skiing right by.

Beginner

Swinger

To many, Steamboat’s green runs are simply highways to the base area or a lift. Longtime Steamboat instructor Bill Root said that’s why so many people ski right by Swinger, a green run near the Thunderhead Express chairlift.

“People will be skiing Main Drag or Boulevard and just head down to Thunderhead,” said Root, who taught skiing in Steamboat for 20 years. Now retired, he still uses his trips to the mountain to maintain his health.

Swinger connects from Main Drag down to the bottom of Giggle Gulch, just above Right-O-Way, the route back to the base of the gondola.

Intermediate

One O’Clock and Two O’Clock

High Noon is one of the most popular intermediate runs on the mountain, and it’s a great run to rip down, but skiers and snowboarders might regret burning by the two runs that break off High Noon: Two O’Clock and, a little further down the trail, One O’Clock.

“You can ski One O’Clock a little later in the day, and the groom might still be on it, and the snow will still be good because it doesn’t get utilized as much,” 100-day-a-year skier Rich Gibson said. “It’s a little out of the way and most people won’t do it.”

On the sunny side of the mountain, they can be a delight on cold days.

Flintlock

They call the southeastern portion of Steamboat Ski Area Wally World because of its plethora of blue runs but also because on busy days, making it down one of the most popular runs can feel about like shouldering the way through Walmart’s aisles at 5:30 p.m.

Flintlock cuts parallel to the often-packed Tomahawk, only it's set a bit more inside the boundaries, between Sunshine Lift Line and Quickdraw. It’s easy to miss, and plenty do, leaving it with a small fraction of the traffic seen on similar terrain in the area.

“You’ll find veteran instructors who use it quite a bit, but otherwise very few people ski it,” Root said. “It just isn’t right in front of their eyes, so people don’t explore.“

Advanced

Triangle 3

It can’t be a secret when there are tracks through it as soon as the snow starts falling, but Triangle 3, tucked under and next to the Bar-UE lift line, does a good job hosting its visitors and offering a little something for everybody.

The top section, starting between the unloading spot for Storm Peak Express and Bar-UE, is filled with pines, and they’re not too tight. It’s a bad target for beginners but manageable for advanced intermediates.

The middle section includes a short, steep pitch. Make about three good turns and you’re down, again weaving through loosely spaced trees to Calf Roper, a tame run that doubles as a road during the summer.

The last section, below Calf Roper, isn’t steep and dips through a forest of small pine trees, making for a fun playground for skiers of most abilities. Then catch Meadow Lane over to Buddy's Run.

There’s no trail sign directing skiers and snowboarders down, so that helps dissuade those not in the know.

Morningside flanks: Jump Start or Hot Cakes to Wake Up Call

Morningside Park, on the back side of Mount Werner, provides some of the most reliable powder. Try a loop that includes attacking the park from the far corners for something a bit different.

From the top of Sunshine Peak, head southeast, staying high along the beginner run Sundial. Jump Start and Hot Cakes break away to skier’s left. The top section can be steep, but the terrain usually can be as tough as someone wants. There are very difficult ways down but also exits for those who don't want to fly off a boulder.

It’s then a short distance to the Morningside lift. From the top of the lift, turn right, heading northeast toward the hike-to, double black runs, but duck to skier’s right and traverse as far as you can to Wake Up Call. Drop straight down for a challenge or lose elevation during the traverse to make the drop easier.

After the initial steeps, it’s lots of often ignored backcountry-esque dips and rolls that can be a ton of fun.

Heavenly Daze branches: Oops, Ted’s Ridge, Vertigo

The same way people tend to rocket down High Noon without stopping for the O’Clocks, people often blast by the runs branching off Heavenly Daze.

They all face north, allowing them to be cool and hold snow well.

Oops, the first cutoff, is an often-overlooked bumps run and an alternate route to Concentration and eventually the Thunderhead Express lift.

Ted’s Ridge is next door and is deceptively intimidating from the top.

Vertigo is right next to that and again offers a bit of steep before leveling out.

“Everybody overlooks Vertigo,” Gibson said. “It doesn't get a groom put on it. It’s an awesome run with a nice pitch to it.”

Off the Map

Walmart trees

Many a Steamboater have learned the art of tree skiing in the thickets that separate Tomahawk, Quickdraw and Flintlock.

“Those are a freaking riot for kids,” said Pete Van De Carr, who’s prowled those woods with his two sons, Oliver, 9, and Otis, 7.

Land of the Little People

The treed stretch runs from the top of Rolex down to Elkhead and Sundown. It’s not for the beginner, or even the intermediate. It’s a popular locals retreat, however.

“It’s stepper than most of Steamboat, but we don’t really have steep terrain,” Van De Carr said. “It’s super tight trees, so you can’t blast through it like Shadows or Twilight. It’s very appropriately named. You have to make yourself small in there.”

As true as people’s reluctance to give up their sweet spots is their likelihood of coming up with different answers. That’s easy to explain. Steamboat Ski Area has 165 trails and 2,965 acres, but it has millions of experiences, and every trail can be different for every person. Feel free to explore some of the under-utilized trails, but at least one Mount Werner regular said the reluctance to give up the secrets isn’t all about hoarding the best spots.

“I try to watch where people go,” Van De Carr said. “The best places on the mountain are where people aren’t. My best recommendation is to go figure it out on your own. Go out there and discover. That’s where my heart lies.”

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

Comments

David Moore 1 year, 9 months ago

In my heyday of skiing, almost all of those were where I and my buddies hung out, off the beaten path and away from the out of control tourists. Land of the little people and the closet were all time favorites. Cool article, brought back many happy memories, one almost tragic one, and a yearning to get back into the sport. This time though, one board instead of two. If they didn't want my left arm to do it.......

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rhys jones 1 year, 9 months ago

I could write an article entitled "Runs I Ski Too Much" but then I'd have to tell you what they are.

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john bailey 1 year, 9 months ago

david, they only charge you an arm? i'd say your getting off cheap..... i could tell you of better runs, but then you'd have to travel.Rhys, you still using the old alf engens?

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Dave Tegtmeyer 1 year, 9 months ago

Joel your source for the naming Sunshine Bowl as "Wally World is incorrect. The true reference is to "Walley World". Sunshine Bowl opened just after the movie National Lampoon's Vacation came out. It was a family friendly area and the families that skied the area were refered to as Griswolds.

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Bill Fetcher 1 year, 9 months ago

Continuing the Wally World story, to many skiers/riders the term "bowl" brings to mind Vail's extensive back-bowls. Compared to Vail's offerings Sunshine Bowl is a disappointment, much as the Griswolds would discover when they find the Walley (with an 'e') World amusement park closed for routine maintenance. For many years the upper lift shack for the South Peak Lift was the designated "Wally World Headquarters." The sign in the window has since been removed. A brief timeline: National Lampoon's "Vacation" was released in 1983; Sunshine Bowl and the South Peak triple-chair opened in 1984. The Sunshine fixed-grip triple-chair ("the lift to nowhere, the lift from hell") was installed in 1985. It was replaced by the present high-speed quad in 2006.

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Bill Fetcher 1 year, 9 months ago

I have fond memories of Swinger back before the 1965 Thunderhead expansion when Main Drag, Swinger and Right 'O' Way formed the ski area boundary. There were no merging trails and little or no traffic. We kids liked to race as fast as possible from the top of Christie to the base on these runs. I can't recommend this doing this now for obvious safety reasons. Because Swinger is so overlooked it's now used as a site for lessons.

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rhys jones 1 year, 9 months ago

John -- I upgraded years ago to Rossi Viper 205's, a good all-mountain ski. They can get sideways when they have to, or go as fast as you want. They're still teaching me new tricks, not vice versa.

Reminds me of a French joke:

Q: What's the difference between a man of 40 and a man of 60?

A: 20 years of experience.

I think the "Wally World" association originated on Flintlock (? ain't been over there lately) all those consecutive whoop-te-doos, where with a little speed (now verboten) one could attain air off of each. It was really a carnival-ish feeling. Like a ride you'd pay for. I do believe that run spawned the inspiration for the name.

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