Mud Season Is The Best Season

Monday, May 23, 2011

Yes, you read that correctly; in my opinion, Mud Season is quite possibly the best season Steamboat has to offer. WHAT?! It’s true. According to Wikipedia, “[Mud Season] is regarded in some northeastern states within the United States as both a curse and a blessing because, although it is generally a messy time of year, it is an interlude between the standard tourist seasons.” Granted, Steamboat slows down and becomes the quiet town we all know and love between busy seasons, but most locals tend to leave town because of all the MUD.

Let me tell you a little known secret. The mud only exists on the popular trails, and if you don’t make the drastic jump of spending Mud Season in Moab, Fruita, or Boulder (all popular spring biking locations), you would realize how much Steamboat has to offer us during Mud season.

If you love skiing, Mud Season is your friend. If you love climbing, rafting or biking, Mud Season is your friend as well. If you love ALL of the above, Mud Season is your absolute BEST friend, because in one weekend, you can quite possibly do every single one of your favorite sports. Let’s be honest, during the summer and winter, we have to give up our off season sports, but not during the interlude between the two!

This weekend I had the weekend I’ve been waiting for all winter, and I was attempting to have a day of each of my favorite sports. Friday I took a group of friends down the Eagle River for a warm up to rafting season. I work part time for Bucking Rainbow Outfitters  on my weekends as a white water river guide (feel free to book a trip and request me!) and this weekend we were training future want-to-be guides. This always provides entertainment as you can imagine, so I had a very fun river day that wore me out quite a bit.

As though Friday didn’t wear me out enough, on Saturday a buddy and I drove to Quandary Peak, which is still covered in great powder at 14,265 feet, with the intention of having a great ski day (my second on a 14er). When we arrived, it was snowing heavily and was windy to boot, so we knew that our desire to ski the Cristo Couloir down the South face of the mountain would be a risky decision. We hiked it anyway when we realized the ridge line up still had great snow and would be a mellow but fun decent.

Our “mellow” day turned into a a knuckle gripping day when we were engulfed in a complete whiteout at the top.  We stood stationary for about 20 minutes in a position I have dubbed “The Scare Crow,” meaning our backs were turned to the wind with our arms straight out with ski poles firmly planted to avoid being blown over. The hope was that this gust of blindness would soon blow over. We couldn’t see anything, not even the rocks pictured below. With fits of Vertigo, one or both of us ended up laying on the ground, even though we had not attempted to go anywhere. This was a new experience for me; it actually felt like the snow was avalanching out from under us, and not being able to see anything, it was quite terrifying. Eventually, we decided this was not going to blow over and was probably a pocketed storm, and we had better start making our way SLOWLY down. We leap-frogged our way, side-slipping down a slope we could not see, careful to stay in the direction our compass told us and making sure we were not getting on anything steep so we wouldn’t cause anything to avalanche. Once we dropped 1,000 feet we were able to see a bit around us; nothing much but enough to realize we were not where we wanted to be. We ended up hiking back up a separate ridge to find the trail again, and thank goodness, some fellow hikers we had met at the summit. Having missed our ski from the upper bowl of Quandary, we purposefully went off route (knowing we’d have a slog of a hike back out) to the lower bowl and got some really great powder turns. Again, I’m amazed at the quality of snow Colorado is seeing this season.

Speaking of Quandary Peak, there’s a great article in the Denver Post about a blind man climbing Quandary in honor of the anniversary of his Climb of Everest. They chose a better climbing day on Quandary than we did; you can actually see the great views and the summit. Not to mention it’s an incredible story.  Read the Article.

The Clouds start rolling in… losing visibility

Finally! Some visibility in the lower bowl to make some powder turns!

If I had followed my weekend plans, I would have been rock climbing on Sunday. There’s amazing climbing in Rifle Mountain Park, and had my skiing and rafting not destroyed my early season muscles, I most certainly would have gone. Instead, I chose 4-wheeling, which is much less taxing on the muscles!

Steamboat’s Mud Season is fantastic with all of the options available to those who choose to stay and watch the aspens bud and the days become warm. Did I mention that the annual Carnival comes to Steamboat during Mud Season? Trust me, it’s for Kids only. (I’m only saying that because it is POSITIVELY a good time, and hopefully you’ll read that and decide not to go next year; shorter lines for me!) I went last night; I’m pretty sure it made me laugh even harder than rafting and skiing did.

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