May 8 should be a great day to make a memory, skiing on Rabbit Ears Pass
May 3, 2016
Steamboat Springs — The big question this coming Sunday will be whether to go backcountry skiing or fishing. That is, unless your mother is in town or you are married to somebody's mother. In which case, a little skiing to boost your appetite might be the safer plan. May 8 is Mother’s Day after all.
After skiing 7 to 8 inches of powder on Rabbit Ears Pass with a buddy April 30, I can confirm that skiing is in play this coming Mom's Day. The snow depth at the West Summit of Rabbit Ears May 3 was still 6 1/2 feet.
The little boy who still resides within me had a momentary urge this past Sunday to call my mother Beth Ross on the phone to share the news of our snowy adventure the day before. The spring flowers are in full bloom in Madison, Wisconsin, and a ski outing would sound exotic.
But we lost Beth on Dec. 28, 2015, so I just sent her a nonverbal message. It was Beth, who learned to ski on wooden skis in the Cascades as a student at the University of Oregon in the late 1940s, who helped to make sure I had a chance to learn to ski when I was in junior high school.
My friend and I weren't the first people to pull into the unplowed parking lot at the North Walton Peak Trailhead on Saturday, and we were glad of it. Sure, the presence of other skiers meant that somebody else got first tracks, but it also meant somebody else had broken trail to the peak.
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While we were putting climbing skins on our skis in the parking lot on Saturday, a car with out-of-state license plates pulled in and a couple of skiers climbed out.
"We're on our way back to Oregon," the woman said. "But we couldn't resist this!"
What a difference a year makes. My records confirm that by mid-April 2015 there were already bare patches of ground opening up on Rabbit Ears. If you had told me on Feb. 29 this year that we would still be skiing during the first week in May, I probably would have been skeptical.
The untracked snow on Walton Peak April 30 wasn't champagne, but it was legit powder. A report from Nordic touring skiers who hit the pass on Sunday confirmed that the wind had gotten to the snow overnight and conditions were variable. When it comes to May skiing, acting on impulse is a virtue.
It struck me that if that fresh snow had fallen on a solid base last October instead of on the last day of April 2016, there would have been many more people headed for Rabbit Ears. There’s nothing like the anticipation of a new ski season.
For a time, on Sunday, I found myself wondering if we could promote spring skiing on Rabbit Ears to people in the snow-starved Midwest. But no, by early May, even in the ski belt of Minnesota and Wisconsin, folks are playing golf and tending sprouting vegetable gardens.
So, my recommendation for Mother's Day 2016 is that you splurge on some spendy soft French cheese, smoked salmon, European olives, a good baguette and some lemon soda and head for Rabbit Ears. And when you return, share the adventure with your mother, whether you place a phone call or not.
Beth always packed a great picnic.