Mud Season Survival Guide: Swing for a daily double in mud season
April 15, 2017
Steamboat Springs — Mud season isn't known for the most appealing weather pattern that Steamboat Springs has to offer, but for those who stick it out, it's the off-season that provides some of the most special recreational opportunities of the year. Let's call this phenomenon the “Daily Double."
The fact that Steamboat Ski Resort has stopped spinning the chairlifts doesn't mean you can't continue skiing in the mountains surrounding town. Quite the contrary, April and May present the opportunity to pursue two, normally incongruous sports in a single day.
For example, it's perfectly doable to head up Rabbit Ears Pass in the morning with your Nordic touring or skate skis, to enjoy the "go anywhere sensation" of skiing on the crust, then follow up with a second sport. The photos you capture after skiing in the morning, and catching a trout from the Yampa River in the afternoon, will resonate on Facebook with friends and family who have the misfortune to live at lower elevations.
Use some imagination. You could combine skiing on the pass with cycling, and you could unwind with a swim in the Old Town Hot Springs to complete your personal triathlon. The golf courses in the Yampa Valley have opened early this year, and it's not every year you can include skiing and golf in a daily double.
You can combine any sport you love with a float through the town section of the Yampa River in a rubber raft (don't forget a personal flotation device). Whitewater and tennis anyone?
Few people in Steamboat understand the opportunity for a daily double better than Bill Philip and his skiing buddy Greg "Berkie" Burkholder.
"The first week of April I skied on (Rabbit Ears) pass five days," Philip said. "We routinely have good skiing into May, and we always ski at least one day in June, just to say we did."
Still, rising early in order to be on the pass by 7:30 a.m. to ensure the morning snow doesn't turn the delicate crust to mush before you arrive, requires a leap of faith.
"Berkie's quote is, 'You won't know, until you go,'" Philip said.
The joy of crust skiing is catching the snow just when the sun has barely softened the top quarter of an inch to allow one's skis to barely bite into the crust.
"It's like God's Zamboni," Philip said.
By later in the spring, he expects the lower elevation mountain bike trails to have dried up sufficiently to be ridden without causing damage. That's when he will swing for the daily double.
"I don't do much road biking, but by the middle of May, you can easily ski in the morning and bike in the afternoon."