The Holidays are in full swing, and the trails are in great shape to send 2018 off as a decent start to the ski season. While a couple of wind events sprinkled some evergreen needles and cones over the trails like pine-scented confetti that put a little hesitation into your glide, there was enough freshly fallen flakes after the wind had subsided to cover them up, and allow for smooth sliding, at least for the time being. Exposed areas showed a little thinning of the snowpack as the air currents carried loose top layers into the trees, where coverage was generally more even, and remained soft and loose, as opposed to the soft slabs and drifts that formed in the more open areas. The best snow can generally be found below tree-line in moderately dense stands of trees where the force of the wind was diminished.
Trail-breaking is not too taxing, as long as the right equipment has been selected, with a wide ski of 10 centimeters underfoot or more performing well in unbroken snow. Narrower metal edged XC skis are no match for the powder and sugar mix found in most off-track areas. Modern snowshoes with their smaller surface area are also sinking into the supporting mid-layer when used beyond the previously packed tracks. Hollow pockets can be found around logs and rocks, causing the winter traveler to mire down momentarily. Moose and elk are frequenting the trails with what appears to be an uptick to take advantage of the easier travel. Consistent cold morning temperatures have kept the packed trails firm, and more resistant to post-holing. Creeks are freezing over more consistently, but snow depths have not yet deeply buried boulders and logs to form strong snow bridges and make travel along them easy. With the holiday guests in town, we can expect the trails to become more packed and wider, with tendrils exploring further and further outward until the next snow or wind buries evidence of previous passage, allowing the process to start all over again. As of this writing, we seem to have been in a bit of a donut hole, with Steamboat and Summit county chocking up some healthy snow totals from the passing waves of moisture. There are no big numbers predicted for our mountains in the coming weeks, but we do have some chances to keep adding up slowly with 1-3” snows to keep things fresh. Who knows, we have been known to have these modest offerings turn into unexpected bona-fide powder days.
That’s the word on the trail,