Spirit of the west in Steamboat Springs
In the northwest corner of Colorado, in a valley surrounded by ranchland, you’ll find the mountain town of Steamboat Springs. The spirit of the west is still alive and well and you can spend your days skiing in a world-class resort, riding horseback through the aspen trees, or soaking in mineral hot springs native to the region.
The base of Steamboat is located at 2,103m, so it is forgiving to those sensitive to altitude. High levels of service and genuine hospitality are deeply engrained in the culture of the town. Locals are friendly and eager to share their special home with travellers from near and far. Light and fluffy Champagne Powder® snow, trademarked for the way it tickles your nose as you ski through it, falls in abundance in the winter months and provides incredible conditions on the slopes. So much so that this town has more winter Olympians than any other in North America — 96 and counting.
During your visit, learn to ski moguls with Olympic bronze medallist Nelson Carmichael or take a run with silver medallist Billy Kidd, who is also the director of skiing. If you don’t catch an Olympian on the ski slopes, it is not uncommon to rub elbows at the grocery store or bump into them in the lift queues.
Kids here learn to ski shortly after they begin walking — which translates to a very family-friendly ski resort. Navigating the base of the ski area with kids in tow can be daunting but Steamboat provides Little Red Wagons for carrying skis, snowboards, or even tired little ones. Steamboat pioneered the first Kids Ski Free programme more than 30 years ago and still provides free skiing to kids under 12 when a parent (or grandparent) buys a five-or-more-day adult lift ticket.
A beginners’ magic carpet lift is easily accessible right at the base of the resort opposite the Kids Vacation Centre ski school. Enroll your kids into ski school and at the end of each day, every child will receive a report card detailing their day, their strengths and areas of improvement. Day care is also available at the Kids Vacation Centre for parents that want to enjoy the slopes or explore the town and the surrounding area.
Kids enrolled in ski school are connected through the MountainWatch system which allows parents to track their on-mountain activity after their lesson. While there are numerous family facilities across the resort, little skiers and snowboarders can get a taste of the Wild West in Rough Rider Basin complete with small terrain features, a log cabin playhouse and picnic area as well as its own lift. Once kids have progressed past the beginner runs, take a tree run with them through the Sunshine Family Trail safely nestled in the trees in the Sunshine Bowl. If you didn’t get enough action during the day, head back up the hill for night skiing and take in the views of a twinkling downtown Steamboat, lit up in the dark.
Well known for its off-slope activities, there is plenty to choose from when you fancy taking a break from skiing. Let your body recover with a soak in the charming and rustic Strawberry Park Hot Springs, whisk your way through the forest on a sled pulled by dogs, take the free bus to shop along main street downtown or pick up a cowboy hat at FM Light & Sons. Don’t miss your chance to take a ride on the longest mountain coaster in North America, descending 400 vertical feet after climbing up the mountainside. This attraction is open year-round, providing thrills in the summer heat and crisp winter air.
The whole family can enjoy a sleigh ride through the snowy, rolling hills followed by a decadent meal or take the gondola up the mountain and ride in a heated snowcat to a romantic mountaintop dinner for two — there are no shortage of unique dining options in Steamboat.
In the evening, take your pick from one of the many apartments (condos), hotel rooms or holiday rentals to rest your head. One great option for accommodation is the Steamboat Grand, just steps away from the ski resort base, with the added bonus of a ski valet to transport your gear to and from the slopes.
Most accommodation is on room-only basis, so refuel at more than 100 bars and restaurants located between the base of the ski resort and downtown Steamboat.
Steamboat Springs: The lowdown
Resort height: Vertical drop 1,118m; Steamboat Village 2,103m; Summit height 3,221m
Driving time from Denver: 3hr10 (177 miles)
Nearest airport: Hayden/Steamboat Springs, HDN (30 miles away, also known as Yampa Valley Regional Airport) offer flights from 14 US cities and direct shuttles from Denver airport.
Kids Ski/Rent Free: with every adult skiing five days or more, one child aged 12 or under skis free and enjoys free equipment rental
Lessons: Steamboat offers a wide variety of lessons, including full-day private lessons for up to five people
Extended childcare: Daycare is available at the Kids Vacation Centre