Waiting for the Melt at Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club
Unless you were hiding under a rock (wouldn’t have been a terrible idea), you probably noticed that the Rockies — and other mountain ranges in the West — were absolutely smothered in snow during the unforgettable winter of 2022/23. Skiers loved it. Golfers? Not so much. In fact, in some places — thanks to record or near-record level snowfall totals — golfers are still wondering if green grass and flickering flags will ever return.
The beautiful Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club in Steamboat Springs, Colo., is one Troon facility that definitely wasn’t short on “white stuff” this winter. And as of the start of May, they’re still completely buried.
“This is officially the second snowiest winter in Steamboat’s history,” said Graham McDaniel, the club’s superintendent. “We received 448 inches of snow. The record was in 2007/08 when we received 489. I guess we could still get there!”
Obviously, huge snow accumulations mean late starts to the golf season. In 2011, after another huge snowpack as well as late-spring storms, the course, which sits at 7,000 feet, didn’t open until May 27. That was the latest opening in the club’s history.
“The problem this year,” said McDaniel, who has documented the massive snowpack with dozens of photos and videos throughout the winter, “is the fact that our April was unseasonably cold. We broke records for low temperatures and not much snow melt occurred. For example, on April 20 this year the morning temperature at the course was just 8 degrees. Historically, it should be 25 degrees.”
Although the course is shooting for an opening around Memorial Day, it’s totally dependent on the melt. And, of course, with the significant snowpack and cold temperatures, McDaniel’s crew has been hampered when it comes to doing their normal spring duties.
“Snow mold, voles, and the development of ice layers during the melt/thaw cycles are the biggest challenges we face in terms of the excessive snow,” said McDaniel, who has worked at Rollingstone Ranch for the past 17 years. “But this spring we’ve also struggled getting the cart paths, greens, and tees cleared of snow, which is a key task this time of year.”
Of course, for McDaniel, there is one significant benefit to all of the snow. “I like to ski,” he said. “One year I skied in Rabbit Ears Pass, which is just 15 minutes outside of Steamboat Springs, on July 4. And, the way it’s going this year, I may not have to put my skis away at all.”