By Joel Gratz, Founding Meteorologist Posted 1 month ago January 18, 2024
The following trip report was sponsored in partnership with Steamboat Resort.
Steamboat's terrain is hard to beat on a deep, fluffy powder day, and I want to share my recent experience to illuminate some of the best parts of the mountain.
Steamboat has two snow stake cameras so that we can all keep tabs on the snowfall in real-time.
The official snow stake camera is located at mid-mountain near the top of the Steamboat Gondola, and there is also a snow stake camera located at the summit near the top of the Wild Blue Gondola.
Based on the forecast for the morning of January 11, 2024, I was expecting the possibility of deep, fluffy snow totals.
Indeed, when I woke up early to check the camera, I saw that 10 inches of fluffy snow had accumulated since the left side of the snow stake was cleared the previous afternoon at 4 pm.
Also, I saw that the storm total snow stake on the right side had 6 inches of additional snow that fell during the previous day, and this would create a soft base with new fluffy snow on top, which is the perfect recipe for a bottomless powder day.
Not only did the snow stakes show that the morning would be full of powder, but the forecast showed that snow should continue through at least mid-morning, which meant that snow could pile up for another 6+ hours, leading to even deeper conditions.
I was sold that it would be a great day, so it was go time.
We arrived at the base of Steamboat just as the sun was beginning to rise, and we were able to park in the Upper Knoll Lot, which is free, but fills up pretty quickly on popular days. From here, it was just a few minutes walk to the base area.
Our backup plan was to park down at the Meadows Lot and then take the (pretty frequent) shuttle to the base area.
View Steamboat's parking maps here.
The First Tracks program allows you to gain access to the mountain starting at 8:00 am, which is 30 minutes before the start of regular hours. On a powder day, I believe that this is a worthwhile add-on purchase as those first few runs with few people around can make your day.
First Tracks starts at the Wild Blue Gondola, which zooms from the base to the summit of the Sundown / Sunshine area in about 13 minutes. The Sundown / Sunshine area is where riding is allowed during First Tracks, and the Wild Blue Gondola is the most direct path to this area of the mountain.
Get First Tracks tickets here.
Wild Blue Gondola
The Gondola opened during the 2023-2024, providing direct access from the base to the summit. Previously, to get to the summit area, you needed to ride the Steamboat Gondola and then another chairlift, so the Wild Blue Gondola cuts out one step of the journey.
There is a mid-station on the Gondola where you can exit to the Greenhorn Ranch learning area. While this is a wonderful location for kids and beginner skiers to find their ski/board legs, it was not our destination on a powder morning, so we stayed on the Wild Blue Gondola through the mid-station and rode until we reached the summit.
One other point before getting to the powder – you can download the Wild Blue Gondola, which is a handy option if it's toward the end of the day and/or you or your riding buddies/kids have tired legs.
Actually, one other point before getting to the powder – the Sunshine area has phenomenal lower-angle trails and tree runs that are especially fun for intermediate riders and kids as well. I cruised around this area a few days earlier with my six-year-old son and we had a blast skiing through the woods through 4-8 inches of new snow.
There are a few more nuggets of information about the Wild Blue Gondola here.
After exiting the Wild Blue Gondola and moving into the terrain that I wanted to ski, I took a moment to verify the snow measurement. Sure enough, my pole ruler showed about 15 inches of new, fluffy, cold snow.
With a mid-mountain base depth of 4-5 feet and a snowpack that was about average for early-to-mid January, I knew there was enough coverage below the new powder that I could let 'er rip.
I love the Sundown area as it provides about 1,800 vertical feet of fall-line riding with a mix of open runs and semi-open trees. It's a dream on a powder day.
We spent the first two hours of the morning in this zone, lapping the Sundown lift, hooting and hollering through the pow.
Below is an action gif of me skiing with the video by Jason W.
While I could go on and on about how much fun it is to ride in deep powder through glorious terrain, the smiles (and the powder beard) are the best way to tell the story.
While the powder adrenaline was coursing through my veins, I was battling a stomach bug this morning, so as the adrenaline wore off, I knew I needed to take a break inside to warm up, fuel up, and recharge.
We worked our way to the north, or skier's right, and enjoyed a few runs through Closets and Shadows before I retired to the (updated) Four Points Lodge. It was still relatively early in the day, so there were plenty of tables, and I grabbed a pack of energy chews and a lemonade and tried to dry out and warm up (there was snow in every piece of clothing thanks to the deep powder that morning).
Pony & Mahogany Ridge
After warming up at Four Points Lodge, we made our way farther to the north (skier's right) to explore the newly opened terrain called Mahogany Ridge. We first rode the Pony Express chairlift and then traversed to the right to explore the new terrain.
This is a wild place, with tall trees and a lot of snow.
Please ride with a partner back in this terrain as there are infinite ways to navigate the forest and it's best to have a buddy with you in case something goes wrong.
Amazingly, we found even more snow in this part of the mountain than we did during our morning powder fest, with nearly two feet of fluff guarded by the evergreen and aspen trees.
We took a few runs in this area, and while the snow quality was top-notch, our legs were getting a bit fried navigating some of the tighter sections, so we traversed back to the left, over toward the Pony Express, and then down to the base of the mountain to exchange high-fives and to grab a bite to eat for lunch.
Part of the reason why I became interested in mountain weather and snow forecasting was a surprisingly deep storm many years ago when forecasts called for a few inches of snow and Steamboat wound up measuring 48 inches in 48 hours.
Since then, I have returned to Steamboat many, many days, and some of the deepest snow I've ever skied was here at Steamboat.
It's a marvelous, snowy playground, and as of now in mid-January 2024, coverage is solid, snow quality is very good, and the piles of snow around town make it feel like a winter wonderland.
Thanks for reading, and I hope that you get to enjoy a powder day at Steamboat in the future!
Visit Steamboat.com for all lodging, event, and other ski-related information.
Snow Forecast & Report: Steamboat
Daily Snow Forecast: Steamboat
Download: OpenSnow App
This trip report was sponsored in partnership with Steamboat Resort.