As much as I love the excitement of showing up early at the Steamboat gondola in anticipation of an epic powder day, there are days when I rise to bluebird skies and look forward to perfectly groomed corduroy on largely empty slopes.
Steamboat First Tracks program
The Steamboat First Tracks program allows for early boarding between 8:00 and 8:15 a.m. with exclusive access to the Sundown Express lift and the wide variety of terrain that it serves. When big storms come through and a double-digit snow report is posted, powder hounds start lining up as early as 7:15 to get the first freshies and the lift line can often fill the early morning maze. While the positive energy of the crowd is great it can get a little frenetic. Conversely on a perfect sunny morning one can casually saunter up to the First Tracks entry and walk right on to a gondola car with just a friend or two to comfortably buckle up your boots and do an easy hamstring stretch on the way up to Thunderhead.
…on a perfect sunny morning one can casually saunter up to the First Tracks entry and walk right on to a gondola car…
On these days I take a casual warm up on Spur Run while looking down at the Yampa Valley and reminding myself how lucky I am to have lived here for over thirty years and marvel at how undeveloped the south valley has remained. Arriving at the top of Sundown Express I have to decide which run of untracked cord fits the day’s mood. Some days High Noon calls my name for a few high-speed GS turns. Other days the One O’clock or Two O’clock runs, each progressively steeper, begs for my attention. Of course, habit dictates that I take a peek at the grooming sheet on the way up the gondy to see if one of the black expert runs, Rolex, Westside or Three O’clock happened to get rolled he night before in which case they always seem to jump to the top of the list. Once in a while if I’m feeling particularly mellow I’ll choose to ski the gentle Sunshine lift line or play in a little leftover powder off of Tomahawk with virtually no one around. In today’s high paced world feeling like you have the mountain to yourself for a little while still seems very special.
Getting ahead of the crowd does require a season or dally First Tracks pass but virtually every time I go it seems worth it – and though my inner ski bum voice is a little embarrassed to admit it, as much on groomer days as on powder days. So get out there early and feel the ridges of untracked corduroy compress beneath your feet as you roll your skis or board on edge and listen to the happy purring sound that breaks the silence of the still morning air. First Tracks in Steamboat is not to be missed.