We continue our winter tour of the world's best ski slopes with a stop in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. As he did on safari in Kenya, Fathom contributor James Sturz considers the scene in koans, the paradoxes Buddhist monks ponder to achieve enlightenment.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado – As one of Colorado's oldest ski towns, Steamboat Springs is the anti-Aspen. Its main street was designed for driving cattle, and the cowboys here are the real McCoy.
But with some 3,000 skiable acres, Steamboat Springs is also officially "Ski Town U.S.A." and owner of the trademark Champagne Powder — the fizzy, low-density kind of fluff that tickles your nose and makes both adult and adolescent skiers swoon. The town's slopes have sent more athletes to the Winter Olympics than any other in North America. Which is to say it's not a bad place for a ski weekend. Here's what I learned on a visit this winter while contemplating the ski-in, ski-out approach to life.
Skiing is to winter what pineapples are to Hawaii, what NASA is to the moon.
Or what Steamboat Springs is to the Olympics: 14 athletes heading to Sochi, but not in ice dancing or curling.
With my balaclava and goggles, only the strip of skin beneath my nose is cold. I long for a bushy mustache.
My nose is a leaky faucet. My legs are pistons of high-caliber macaroni. Just boil them with a little salt.
It's all downhill from here.
The slednecks better keep away from the Coors.
My snowmobile better keep away from the ravine.
If a tree falls in the forest but you can't hear it because you're wearing a helmet, does it still make a sound?
Steamboat Springs has the only high-school marching band in the world that performs on skis. The timpani sounds like an avalanche, like the glacier-wrenching heartbreak of a tenth-grade crush.
French fur trappers thought a nearby spring sounded like a chugging steamboat, so that's how they named the town. The Grand Tetons should have been sufficient warning to keep the French on a shorter leash.
"Welcome to my office," everyone who works on the mountain says.
A "powder clause" means you don't have to show up for work if there's fresh snow, unless you work on the mountain. Ironically.
A snow machine instead of a shredder.
Obey the signage. Follow the rules.
The commute is manageable.
Sleigh rides, ice fishing, dog sledding, snow biking and tubing are winter sports. Massage is a year-round sport. Eating is a year-round sport, too.