I handed my pass to the ticket checker and promptly heard, “Mt. Bachelor?” Oh, I must have grabbed my old pass. I dug out the new one (for mountains actually located in Colorado!) and tried again. “After you ski today,” he said, “you’ll never want to go back to Bachelor.”
This was already my second day on the mountain at Steamboat Springs, and I knew what he meant. “I know, you’re right,” I said, and walked through the gate, handed my snowboard to the attendant who would load it into the racks attached to the gondola doors, and stepped inside the chalet.
On a warm, cozy ride to the top, one looks out over the snowy mountaintops, down below to the frosted buildings of smalltown Steamboat glistening in the sun, and around to a nonstop panoramic view of some of Rocky Mountains’ best.
At the top, the gondola slows, just enough for all six passengers to exit, grab our gear and walk out to the snow. From there, we have an option of at least six runs, or two catwalks leading to lifts that will carry us even higher. After visiting with a Steamboat native two days prior, I learned that once you’re up top, it’s best to stay up top. The gondola should be a one time thing, so as not to have to remove your board(s) completely each time. And, with the amount of lifts and runs to choose from, why would one want to go down and wait in line all over again with the masses here for Spring Break?
I never did count the lifts or the runs, because that would take too long and, frankly, what’s the point? That first day shocked me for the sheer size of the mountain (it’s far from Colorado’s largest), and I realized just how small my little Oregon mountains are. I love Mt. Bachelor. Don’t get me wrong. Bend is home, just about, and I love the proximity of all things outdoors. But Steamboat is like a smaller Bend, with a bigger, rideable mountain. Mountains, actually. Plural. One can traverse several mountainsides, chase the sun from morning until afternoon, and still never run out of places to stop and gape at the scenery.
Both days were filled with dramatic, grey clouds hovering above, but the sun shone through in rays of golden fans, and the snow – the snow! – was a brilliant layer of powder atop a sheet of packed snow and ice; perfect for a boarder like me, who isn’t yet good enough to plow through a few feet of powder, or confident enough to skate over sheer ice.
After the mountain on that first day, my friend and I headed up to Strawberry Hot Springs, just outside the town. We changed into our suits inside a teepee, and climbed into the pools of varying temperatures of hot, shying away from the river running just below, full of melted snow. It was just what our tired bodies needed after a day on the slopes, rejuvenating and scenic and warm.
I fell in love with Steamboat from the mountaintop, but the town itself is quaint. On Sunday, my friend and I shopped the one main street, stopping for chocolate truffles and caramel patties at the local candy store, admiring work from local artists and trying on clothes from various vendors, before I plopped into a chair and got lost in a book.
It was just the perfect amount of relaxation and adventure I needed on this first weekend of Spring Break. Needless to say, I’ll be back.