Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs sits at an elevation of over 7500 ft., which means three things: 1) it snows a lot there; 2) it’s cold there; and 3) you get winded rolling over in bed there. Thin air aside, the cold and snow made the town a real hit in my book. Unlike most “wintry” destinations I’ve visited, the snow in Steamboat doesn’t turn dirty and slushy within a few hours of falling. It snows so frequently that any dirty snow is hidden by a fresh new layer of sparkling snowflakes within a few days, and with temperatures during our stay struggling to rise above single digits for daytime highs, it was much too cold for slush. Instead, vehicle traffic downtown merely packed the falling snow into a soft, crunchy layer of white criss-crossed by winter tire tread tracks.

The skiing was quite agreeable. A scruffy local plumber we rode a lift with said it was a bad snow year so far. Thomas questioned that assertion after he dropped into a stand of evergreens in search of powder and found himself stuck in a creek bed chest deep in fluffy snow. Bad snow year or not, we made the most of the snow Steamboat had to offer. We pointed our skis and snowboards down glades, gullies, and groomers in almost every corner of the expansive resort. Here are a few stats the three of us compiled: Broken bones – 0. Trees skied into – 4. Bananas squished in pockets – 1. Total air achieved by Thomas – 5 inches.

We ate at a woodsy BBQ joint one evening called the Steamboat Smokehouse or something likewise Thoreau-esque. Thomas and I ordered an item off the menu called “Wings of Death”. The wings were fine – a bit spicy – but what was a little disconcerting was the wings’ line on the itemized receipt. Beneath “Brisket… $12.95” and “Lemonade… $1.95” was “Death… $7.95”. It’s kind of unfair to charge for the inevitable. I left a healthier-than-normal tip in hopes of persuading the waiter to put in a good word with his management on my behalf to stave off the Reaper for a few more years yet.

While cruising a windy two-lane highway across the creek from downtown Steamboat Springs, we drove into a snow-filled ditch. In our defense, there was no indication there was a ditch beyond the white line. There was no indication there was a white line at all. Given the solid white blanket of snow across the entire valley, there was really no indication there was a road there either, except cars kept passing us moving in the opposite direction so we put two and two together. Ignorant to the topography beneath the snow, we drifted too far right and drove right into the invisible ditch. It was AWESOME. You know that scene on Empire Strikes Back where Luke crash lands his fighter on the ice planet Hoth and snow explodes up into his window with the impact? It was like that, except Mark’s Lexus can’t fly and it has no mounted laser guns.

A grizzly fellow with a tow truck responded to Mark’s cell phone call. He expertly pulled the car from the snow bank and equally expertly charged Mark 90 bucks. Mark pointed out he had been quoted 70 bucks on the phone. The grizzly fellow phoned his associate, inquired whether he had indeed quoted Mark 70 bucks, then used creative language to ensure his associate would no longer quote prices over the phone to customers. The associate’s gaffe saved Mark $20, but we still drove away suspecting the tow truck companies of Steamboat make a killing all winter long. Not more than a mile or two further up the road, we passed another gaping hole in the ditch where another car had lodged itself and, doubtless, forked over 90 bucks to be pulled free. We hypothesized the tow truck companies get together for a weekend during the summer, heft their shovels out to that windy road, and dig that ditch nice and deep and as close to the white line as possible so business stays brisk all winter long.