Steamboat Springs, Colorado- beloved destination to many all over the world, cherished home to a lucky few. Locals around here are proud to call themselves such, yet, as in most idyllic mountain towns, much of Steamboat's community is comprised of individuals who originally hailed from somewhere else. They arrived in the Yampa Valley however long ago, not as babies but full-grown adults, with the intention of making their dreams a reality. Chat with any given local on a ride up the Storm Peak Lift on a powder day and you're about as likely to hear them say they grew up in New York, San Diego, Australia, or Jamaica as right here in Routt County. But since nativity doesn't determine local status in a town like this it begs the question: what does?
Is it length of tenure as a resident? Is it driving a mid size SUV with a dog in the front seat and a ski rack on the roof and/or a bike rack on the rear? Is it a garage full of outdoor gear that collectively cost more than your mortgage?
I like to think the coveted title of "local" in Steamboat is earned through a series of rites of passage. These might include tubing down the Yampa or backpacking through the Mount Zirkel Wilderness or dipping off the groomers into the trees in search of freshies or biking the continental divide or completing a season-long quest to hit up every apres happy hour in town. Certainly, though, one essential step towards becoming a real local is skinning up the mountain.
After arriving in this town just over a year ago one thing has become clear to me: until you start proving your enthusiasm for fresh tracks by strapping on a headlamp in the pre-dawn hours to walk uphill on skis, you will never achieve peak Steamboat.
As you might imagine, this is simultaneously sweaty and cold work. That means that a good layering system is essential to your health and happiness when it comes to alpine touring. Luckily, we have (almost) every component of a good AT layering system right here at BAP! Here is a step by step guide to staying comfortable- temperature-wise, that is- whilst you enjoy this incredibly strenuous activity.
1) Be Bold, Start Cold
You've heard the saying, and in no situation is the advice more warranted than when you are skinning up the ski hill on a frigid morning. I don't care what the thermometer says, you are going to be generating plenty of body heat as you propel yourself up Heavenly Daze. The last thing you want to do is get super sweaty and wind up soaking wet once you get to the top. I would recommend wearing just your Smartwool baselayers (and ski socks) to start. Grab some mid-weight, naturally moisture wicking and heat retaining merino wool duds for top and bottom and just trust that once you start moving you will be warm in no time.
2) But Get the Right Synthetic Layer In Case You Can't
Trust me, I get it, I'm a weenie myself. Half the time I cannot follow my own advice to start cold, so it's important to have a layer in your kit that shines as a temperature regulator. The women's Gem Lake and the men's Dome Peak pullovers from Big Agnes are perfectly suited to this task. The stretchy and breathable back panel wicks away moisture and allows excess heat to escape as you work up your body temperature. And in case you should wind up keeping this garment on long after your sweat glands have opened the flood gates, the synthetic insulation will retain its heat even if it gets wet.
3) Bring Out the Big Guns When You Reach the Top
Congratulations! You've made it! And now that you have stopped moving for more than 60 seconds, you will probably notice that you are absolutely freezing! Now is the time to pull out your women's Tiago or men's Chilton down sweater or even your mid-weight down Hole in the Wall or Shovelhead jacket. These lightweight and packable garments will have been resting comfortably in your pack the whole way up and are now ready to do their job of trapping your body heat in between fluffy feathers. Whip out your down jacket as soon as the chill starts to bite and it should hopefully take the edge off in no time.
4) Don't Forget to Accessorize
Remember to keep your hands, ears, and neck warm too! Be sure and pack a BAP hat, Smartwool neck gaiter, and gloves from Toko, Outdoor Research, or Flylow. You may forget about those things on your way up, but you will certainly be glad you brought them when it is time to come back down.
5) Lastly, Stay Nourished and Hydrated!
Technically this isn't part of a layering system but for cryin' out loud, drink water! Keep your collapsible water bottle from Hydrapak right in your pocket to keep the contents from freezing. Toss some Honey Stinger energy chews in there too for when you inevitably need a boost for the final push.
Throw a pair of snowpants in that pack and I'd say you're good to go. Now get out there and know the joy that is cruising an untouched line with legs of jelly, just like a real Steamboat local!