Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing in Steamboat Springs

I love snow. It sparkles in the sun, gets under clothing and into boots if you fall into it, pinches your cheeks and nose with frosty bites and makes them rosy. It brings blissful joy to the eyes of the beholder, beautifying the earth and the trees in winter. It transforms into bubbling creeks under the sun in spring, reminding us of the transitional nature of life.

Our trip to Steamboat Spring in Colorado for snowshoeing and cross country skiing was a long awaited road trip. This small city is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and is a very popular destination for professional snowboarders, skiers and all kinds of snow aficionados. In fact, Steamboat Springs is a birthplace of many skiers and snowboarders, some of whom participated in and even won Olympic Games. In order to get to this winter resort city, we had to drive through winding roads, with sharp curves, in Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado State Forest, and Routt National Forest.The road first followed the Cache La Poudre River. Occasionally, the swift water of the river broke through the icy surface. Then, after driving through the narrow Poudre River Canyon we reached Cameron Pass at 10,276 feet. We enjoyed stunning views of snowy mountains and fir trees covered with snow all the way up and drove down to the plateau, which was also covered with snow.

Suddenly we saw a large herd of animals. They were quite far away and there were no signs of humans around, so we decided that these animals must be buffaloes. We pulled to the side of the road, took a few lucky shots and happily pulled back onto the road. We were surprised by a sign on the other side of the highway, which said: “Evans Cattle Company.”

When we were driving through Rabbit Ears Pass a snowy haze covered the mountains and it looked pretty somber. We did not have a chance to see the rock formations in the shape of rabbit’s ears. A blizzard was making white, snowy swirls over the surface of the snow packed road and it made our drive riskier.

Upon arrival to Nordic Lodge we were greeted with overwhelming friendliness and were treated with the same kind and easygoing attitude all the time we spent at the hotel. Hot chocolate after a long day spent on the snowy slope was a treat.

The city of Steamboat Springs has a special ambiance. It looked very pretty, illuminated with lights. The statues of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and Mark Twain with Huckleberry Finn were placed on benches as if they were waiting for somebody to take their picture. It is possible to meet a famous skier or a snowboarder on the streets. We saw athletes from the U.S. Ski Team. Steamboat Ski Resort and Howelsen Ski Area are good places for snowboarding and downhill skiing. Howelsen Hill was just across the main street and the rapids of the Yampa River. Daredevil skiers were racing down the steepest hill I’ve ever seen. The best view of them was from the bridge across the Yampa River.

We were planning to go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center the next morning. However, we changed our mind after talking to a local snowshoe enthusiast, who gave us a map of the area and pointed out a couple of trails.

Skiing uphill was rigorous and rewarding, with awesome views and photo opportunities on the top. The trail was pretty steep and had lots of twists and turns. The higher I skied, the more I became concerned about how I would ski downhill. I asked fellow skiers who passed me and they showed me a “snowplow” technique, which was very helpful sometimes. However, I had to fall three times just to slow down. I also tried the almost forgotten technique of stepping and changing weight from one ski to another, while navigating the steep curves downhill.  However, with lots of adrenaline, cold air blowing in my face and a tune from a James Bond movie playing in my mind, I continued my trip downhill. I was afraid to run somebody over so I shouted out to hikers, who were hiking uphill, that I am dangerous because I am a novice. Two guys warned me in return that there will be steeper and curvy turns ahead. I took off my skies and just walked until I reached more level terrain.

It was fun though to slide downhill, when air whistles in your ears and trees and bushes are passed by quickly.   Keeping on the trail was very exciting.

There are more trails in the area and I took a less trodden one with less elevation gain. Skiing back was also exciting because I could not stay on the trail. I began skiing down though untouched white powder, making my own track. I didn’t see what was behind a hill. It was a slide into the unknown with a fall into snow in the end.

My husband, Terry, did snowshoeing and spotted a coyote and a blue jay close to the groomed trail.

I don’t know what it is about snow, but it gives me a sense of euphoria as if I had returned to my childhood.

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