A perfect storm of snow delays lifts, draws huge crowds at Steamboat Resort

100-plus inches in January keeps pace for a record snowfall year

Shelby Reardon
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Skiers descend out of the fog on Buddy's Run on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 at Steamboat Resort.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT RESORT — With 21 inches of fresh powder recorded at mid-mountain through Sunday, Jan. 29, Steamboat Resort eclipsed the 300-inch mark for the season. That threshold isn’t annually noted, but was hit in March over the last four 300-inch seasons. 

The classic, fluffy snow drew thousands to the base area Saturday, Jan. 28, and the lines snaked across Steamboat Square and beyond for hours.

Due to avalanche mitigation in parts of the resort, some lifts opened later, so skiers and riders were limited in what terrain they could access early Saturday, adding to the crowding.

Four Points was scheduled to open at 10:30 a.m., while Storm Peak, Morningside and Bar UE also had delayed openings.

“When our team works on avalanche conditions, it doesn’t mean there are avalanche conditions in Storm Peak, Morningside and Bar UE area, but it does mean we are taking ski patrollers somewhere else,” said Loryn Duke, director of communications at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. “So that means we don’t have the resources to open the rest of the mountain.”

After work was completed, all three lifts opened by 10 a.m. and Four Points was turning shortly after 10:30 a.m. An IT outage also contributed to the delayed opening at Four Points.

Duke said avalanche work on the resort is normal after super snowy days, but thinks there has been more this year compared to past years, and for an obvious reason: tons of snow.

It’s been the second snowiest January on record looking at summit snowfall, which has been 165 inches, through Saturday, according to Duke. 

“That’s almost 14 feet just this month at the summit,” Duke said. “It’s the snowiest January since 1996 at the summit. That January we wound up with 259 inches.”

Through Sunday morning, 302 inches has fallen at mid-mountain this winter, 117 of those coming this month. That makes this January the snowiest in more than a decade, according to resort mid-mountain data dating back to 1980.

The last time 100 inches fell in the first month of the year was in 2009, in which 109 inches were recorded. January 2008 saw 129 inches of snow, which contributed to the resort’s current snowfall record.

Both years ended with more than 400 inches of snow, with the 2007-08 season’s 489 inches being the most ever recorded.

Another similarity between those winters and the 2022-23 season, is having back-to-back months with 100 inches of snow, which Steamboat Resort has seen in December and January.

With snow still forecasted through Monday, Jan. 30, this month could be one of the snowiest January ever at mid-mountain. The record of 216.5 inches set in 1996 will continue to hold, though.

“We obviously have a couple more days left in January,” Duke said. “So, we’ll see what that gets to.”

Deep snow safety

According to the National Association of Ski Areas, a deep snow, or tree well immersion accident, occurs when a skier or rider falls into an area of deep unconsolidated snow, becomes immobilized and suffocates. These deaths are referred to as snow immersion suffocation.

Here are tips for skier and boarders to follow when skiing in areas of deep powder around trees. The information was compiled from Steamboat Resort and Colorado Ski Country.

  • Often, a skier or snowboarder falls into the tree well headfirst.
  • You should avoid skiing or riding close to the base of trees if possible, especially in deep snow.
  • If you begin to fall into a tree well, try and grab onto the tree or a branch to prevent yourself from falling further into the tree well.
  • If you cannot prevent yourself from falling in, try to roll over and stay upright instead of head down as you fall.
  • Try to keep your arm above your head to create an air pocket. Use a rocking or wiggling motion to try and create more space and move toward an upright position.
  • Be aware of deep snow conditions, tree wells and other natural and man-made obstacles. Do not ski/ride too close to trees in deep or windblown snow conditions.
  • If skiing/riding in deep snow or near trees, stay with a partner and remain in visual contact.
  • Stay close enough to either pull or dig out your partner.
  • If your partner becomes immersed, first try to clear an airway, then call Steamboat Ski Patrol, 970-871-5911.

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