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As of early March, Steamboat has received over 350 inches of snow, more than the resort received all of last year (and the year before), making it a banner season. The resort officially announced the extension of its season to April 16, and is on track for a record-breaking snowfall year. Since 1980, annual snowfall has only exceeded 400-inches eight times, with the snowiest season on record in 2007-08 with a total of 489-inches.

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

The answer is no. The more snow, the better when it comes to avalanche safety, says Kyle Lawton, Steamboat Ski Patrol. Lawton formerly ran the avalanche team and is also an avid backcountry skier. “The more snow accumulation, the better when it comes to a stable snowpack,” Lawton says.

At the ski area, avalanche safety is managed by the Ski Patrol on a daily basis to ensure snowpack in bounds is always stable. Lawton says Steamboat has favorable conditions when it comes to snow safety because of its geography and low angle terrain. “We don’t get a lot of wind on a daily basis, which is good because that can cause snow loading and heavy slabs that cause slides. We also don’t have a lot of terrain above treeline where terrain is more exposed to wind,” he says.

What risk does exist in-bounds is managed by throwing charges, explosives that cause a controlled slide before a skier can trigger one. But all this snow is a good thing when it comes to creating stability in the snow. “Ice and rain events can cause weak layers, but the deeper they’re buried in the snowpack, those weak layers get compressed and break down and are harder to trigger,” he says. “Still, we mitigate new snowfall to take care of it before it causes any problems, and it keeps coming. We’re over 350-inches at this point, so we really have to monitor things.”

While Ski Patrol is able to carefully monitor trails in bounds, side country (out of bounds terrain that is accessed through gates in the ski area) and backcountry terrain require an abundance of caution, even in favorable conditions. Lawton recommends always checking the snow reports on the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website (www.avalanche.state.co.us), carrying the proper equipment (probe, shovel, beacon) and going with partners who have experience.

Still, when there’s this much snow, it’s always a good idea to ski with a buddy to make sure everyone stays safe. Steamboat is famous for its incredible tree skiing, but the biggest hazard with a deep snowpack like this are tree wells, which can be deadly. “If you fall into a tree well you can get buried in smaller pockets of snow and it’s a lot harder than you think to get someone out,” Lawton says. In deeper snowpack it’s important to be aware of how you’re skiing in the trees and to avoid those bigger trees that have deeper wells where you get buried if you were to fall.

It’s important to be aware of potential hazards, but if you’re skiing in bounds, rest assured the Ski Patrol is doing everything they can to mitigate those risks and ensure that all that wonderful snow is there for everyone to enjoy—350 inches and counting—of pure bliss. //steamboat.com