It was (and still is) an amazing snow season, one of those you can tell tall stories about to your grandkids surrounding the fireplace. But the crown of the worst storm of the many definitely goes to the one that dropped a blanket of white from Aspen to Chicago. It marked the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in Colorado, with some of the worst winter winds recorded.
What a better day to do a road trip? I collected my friends in Vail Valley, from which you can drive directly to Steamboat without going over the famously finicky Rabbit’s Ear’s Pass, and we decided to have a good time in the blizzard. To be fair to us, it wasn’t exactly that we planned to be in a blizzard: we simply had heard there was a storm system coming, the season was ending, and we wanted to all go to Steamboat. Changing the day invariably meant the trip was going to fall apart, so Bomb Cyclone it was.
First, the drive. We left relatively early, around 8a. On a normal day, that would have gotten us into Steamboat (the resort) around 9:30a. That wasn’t to be. I wasn’t driving (since I don’t drink and hence am the Eternally Designated Driver on the way back) but I could feel how the magnificent car was at times lost. The roads were worse than slick, they were treacherous.
To get to Steamboat from Vail, you take I70 to Wolcott, where you briefly join US6 (which parallels I70 much of the way). Then you take CO 131 North until you hit US40 (the main route from Denver) just before town. Unlike the US40 route, that requires navigating the perils of Rabbit’s Ear’s Pass, CO 131 is fairly flat and navigable. Some of it is in valleys that protect you from the snow, and until you get to the plain of the Grouse Creek views are not expansive.
It is clear that US40 is the main entrance to town and the Denver crowd the money maker for the resort. The poor two-lane CO131 gives way to something approaching freeway standards and you quickly get into the main drag to the resort, Mt Werner Road (Mt Werner obviously being the main summit).
I checked parking online before we left, so I knew there was a small free lot near the base, another one farther down, and a shuttle lot even farther away. My homies didn’t want to shuttle in and the close lot was already full at 10:30, the miserable time we made it into the resort. So we parked at the gondola lot, right by the shops. The covered parking was gone, the rooftop was empty. Price was $30, and you pay via an app.
From the lot to the gondola was an easy stroll, comparable to what you’d do in Vail from the Village Parking structure. The place looked more modern than most resorts, who try to go for the Old World Feel. We quickly found the entrance to the gondola and stood in line. Thankfully, that area was covered and enclosed. While the blizzard was starting to heat up outside (or is it, cool down?), we were chatting merrily in the warm enclosure. The lift line moved very fast, thanks to an impressively zippy lift. You could see the cabin accelerate and it felt like you could easily feel nauseous just looking at it.