Winter Carnival starts soon (Feb 6-10)! National Geographic Traveler and Good Morning America rates Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival in the Top 10 Winter Carnivals in the World!!! Don’t worry about getting bored because these 4 days are jam-packed with a variety of activities everyone can enjoy, such as, ski jumping competitions, the Diamond Hitch parade (which features our High School band performing on skis!), street events, and the Night Extravaganza at Howelsen Hill which includes a brilliant fireworks display and the famous Lighted Man, among much much more! You don’t want to miss out on one of Steamboat’s longest and greatest traditions…come join the fun!
According to The Colorado Springs Business Journal ski visits across the state of Colorado are down 11.5% so far this season, compared to the same period last year. The Journal sites the lack of snow and late openings for many Colorado resorts as major factors in the drop of skier traffic.
“First period is largely fueled by in-state visitors, and an unseasonably warm October and November kept many Coloradans from tallying lots of ski days” said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, a nonprofit industry group that represents several of the state’s largest ski resorts. “Snow did not arrive in earnest until mid-December.”
Despite the slow start, ski areas saw a strong holiday period with conditions more in line with an average year. The New Year started with storms, which bodes well for the rest of the season, she said.
“There is some real buoyancy in the indicators for the months ahead. February and March hotel bookings are pacing ahead of last year by 3.5 percent and 8.6 percent respectively,” Mills said. “Carnival and Easter are well-timed for ski visitation this year and Colorado’s traditional snowier months lie ahead.”.
Steamboat Springs evokes an era when cattle ranchers roamed its streets and locals preferred Stetsons to ski vests. But in recent years, Steamboat has sought to shed a bit of its family-friendly image as a cowboy theme park and embrace its inner Breckenridge. The town, nestled along the Yampa River in northwest Colorado, has installed an array of new après-ski bars, haute cuisine restaurants and late-night haunts, as well as upscale lodgings, like One Steamboat Place, that can rival anything at Vail or Aspen. The centerpiece of Steamboat’s face-lift, which coincides with the resort’s 50th anniversary, is a redeveloped promenade at the base of its gondola, with a heated walkway, a musical stage and a three-tiered ice castle. Families still flock to Steamboat for its dude ranches and hot springs. But after the children are put to bed, its downtown comes alive with an impressive night life and innovative culinary scene. “It’s still a cowboy ski town,” said Gerry Verdoner, bar manager of Sweetwater Grill. “But now there’s more balance.”
In the past two years I have covered the fast evolving world of season ski passes, which are a game changer for ski travelers. This trend just keeps getting better.
The main players I have profiled here are Vail Resorts with its Epic Pass, now good at 13 major resorts across Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, Michigan and Minnesota, plus partners in Austria and Switzerland. The other major option is The Mountain Collective, a package of discounted lift tickets across several independent powerhouse resorts including Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson, Alta, Snowbird, Whistler/Blackcomb, Mammoth and Alpine Meadows/Squaw Valley. There are also more niche regional products such as Utah’s Ski Salt Lake Super Pass and Colorado’s Rocky Mountain SuperPass.
So what’s the newest wrinkle in the world of ski season passes? Well at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, whose season pass already includes limited free skiing at Okemo in Vermont and Sunapee in New Hampshire, the town’s Nordic Inn has upped the ante considerably with an entirely new concept, combining a traditional season pass with 10 flexible nights of bed and breakfast lodging. This means you can make up to two 5-day trips to Crested Butte to use the pass and each time have a place to stay at no additional charge. Or you can break the ten days up however you want for multiple visits at any time from Nov. 20, 2013 through April 6, 2014, with no blackout dates, and extra days are available as an add-on at a 40% discount. If your schedule is flexible you can chase storms and come just for fresh powder. At the same time, Crested Butte Mountain Resort just lowered its regular adult season pass prices by more than 40 percent, just $599 for a full-season adult ski pass with no blackout dates.
The 11.4 million mark, while an increase over the dismal and dry 2011-12 season, is the third-slowest season in the past decade, and the annual increase falls well below the national spike of 11 percent.
Colorado Ski Country USA, the trade group that represents 21 of the state’s 25 ski areas, reported 6.4 million skier visits in 2012-13, an increase of 3.8 percent, or 235,000 skier visits, over 2011-12. Vail Resorts’ four Colorado ski areas — Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek — saw about 5 million skier visits.
Colorado’s 2012-13 season started slowly, with weak snow and local skiers staying home. Storms in late December and late spring fueled a rebound in visitation. But it wasn’t enough to pull the state closer to the 12 million-skier-visit benchmark it reached in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011.
Declining skier visits does not necessarily correlate to decreasing revenues, as evidenced by ski areas that saw increased revenues in 2011-12, which saw record declines in visitation.
You know what I love about Steamboat? It can be the lazy man’s mountain town. You can lounge in their hot springs, float down their river or cool your feet off as you admire their waterfalls. (You can also, of course, hike, bike, climb, ski and/or snowboard the mountains.)
For me, Steamboat has the remote feeling everyone loves about Telluride, the pace of a small town that has no interest in overzealous developers and a beauty that can and does hold its own. Unlike many sought after mountain towns around the world, Steamboat still has a main street that staves off the t-shirt shops, small bungalows with Hondas in the driveway and people with a ready and easy smile.
David’s friends from Spain were traveling around Colorado. They had seen Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, Telluride, Ouray and Crested Butte. We had to make sure they saw another of Colorado’s gems before leaving and told them we must meet in Steamboat.
Vail Resorts announced today an unprecedented partnership with Verbier, Switzerland, that will enhance the already incredible value of Vail Resorts’ Epic Season Pass, providing three days of free access to the Verbier ski resort, including Les 4 Vallees, the largest ski area in Switzerland, for new and renewing 2012-2013 Epic Season Pass holders. In addition to unlimited, unrestricted skiing and riding at eight world-class mountain resorts in the United States, Epic Pass holders will now have the opportunity to extend their winter to Europe and experience four additional premier mountain resorts including the illustrious Verbier resort, as well as Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon, Switzerland. The “Four Valleys” ski area boasts breathtaking views of the Rhone Valley and the infamous Matterhorn, and extend to the Valais and Bernese Alps, culminating in the largest ski area in Switzerland.
“Vail Resorts Epic Season Pass holders already receive an incredible experience with unlimited, unrestricted access to Vail Resorts’ seven world-class resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, as well as Arapahoe Basin, but we wanted to give them even more benefits by offering Epic Season Pass holders three free days of skiing at the legendary Verbier ski resort, including Les 4 Vallees in Switzerland,” said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Vail Resorts.
In what sounds like good news for ski resorts eager to start making snow, the National Weather Service is forecasting a strong cold front to drop out of Canada mid-week, with overnight lows dropping into the teens and 20s starting Wednesday night.
That’s plenty cold to fire up the snow guns, which have already been moved into position at Arapahoe Basin and Loveland, the two resorts that traditionally compete for opening day honors. Starting Wednesday, nighttime lows should stay well below freezing, especially at the higher elevations.
A similar weather pattern prevailed last year, with a significant snowfall dusting the higher terrain around the Continental Divide Oct. 8. Arapahoe Basin opened a few days later, on Oct. 12.
Tuesday looks to be the nicest day of the week if you like sunny and warm weather, with highs climbing into to 60s. By Wednesday, highs will only reach the mid 50s as cooler air rushes down from central Canada. At this point, there looks to be just enough moisture with the system to trigger a few showers that could change over to snow down to valley levels Wednesday night and into Thursday.
With a little bit of snow on the ground and Scholarship Day at the Steamboat Ski Area less than a week away, thoughts of the upcoming ski season and, after a winter like last year, snow levels have begun to consume the brains of many of us who have chosen to make our homes here in Steamboat Springs. I even got excited and wrote a blog about our first expected snow of the season back in early October. An article published this morning in the Steamboat Today titled Uncertainty in short-term, long-term forecasts for Steamboat Springs attempts to bring some answers. According to the article, the long term forecast is presenting some problems for meteorologists attempting to predict just what kind of winter Northwest Colorado has in store.
The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is now calling for a winter unaffected by either the El Nino or La Nina weather patterns. Instead of the El Nino pattern that earlier forecasts had predicted for the coming winter which typically brings less than favorable snow conditions to Northwest Colorado, the ENSO-neutral conditions which are now predicted for the area create more trouble for forecasters attempting to tell how us how much snow we will be able to look forward to.
The Steamboat Ski Area has seen both its best winter ever (1996-1997, 447.75 inches) and its worst winter ever (1980-1981, 133.25 inches) during ENSO-neutral seasons. The Climate Prediction Center also shows quite a bit of uncertainty for the area’s three month outlook with nearly an equal chance of below average, average and above average precipitation for the region. That makes it nearly impossible for forecasters to predict what’s in store for us this year.
For those of you hoping for a winter of epic snow proportions, it might not be a bad idea to do a little snow dance or two in an attempt to sway the snow gods. One thing’s for certain…As the days grow shorter and the air gets colder, we’ll see soon enough one way or another what the winter will bring.
Last year the Forest Service introduced a new rule in its ski-area permitting process that required ski areas to transfer some water rights to the federal government, arguing the water should stay connected to the publicly owned land. The Lakewood-based National Ski Areas Association — or NSAA — sued, calling the new permitting condition a federal takeover of private property that ski areas acquired legally through state water courts.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge William Martinez entertained oral arguments from both sides in a case that could decide the fate of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ski-area water rights.