The ski area base at Steamboat Spring, Colorado. (Photo: Christopher Alan Selby/Alamy)
There is a lot to love about Steamboat Springs. For starters, it’s not just about skiing. This year-round community includes ranchers, restaurateurs, wellness gurus, and cowboys. There’s a bustling downtown filled with quaint shops selling things like cowboy boots, handcrafted jewelry, athletic gear, and over 2000 varieties of candy in one spot. You will find amazing restaurants, fun bars, and friendly locals eager to share their stories about finding their slice of nirvana (and why they would never live in a big city again).
If you love to ski, the mountain is second only to Vail in the number of ski runs in the state (clocking in at 165). Steamboat Resort is known for its varied terrain and tree-skiing (you are allowed to ski anywhere on the mountain unless it is roped off). Another bonus is that with the base elevation at just over 6500 feet, you might spare yourself the altitude sickness that comes at other Colorado resorts (IE Telluride’s base elevation is just under 9,000 feet).
If you’re ready to hop a flight to Hayden, here’s the lowdown on where to stay, eat, and what fun to get yourself into.
Related: When Did Skiing Get So Expensive? Here’s How to Save
WHERE TO STAY
The Highmark features spacious multi-room apartments with cozy furnishings and fireplaces, perfect for relaxing after a day on the slopes. (Photo: The Highmark)
The Stats: 23 apartment-style units just a five-minute walk from the gondola
The Rooms: The roomy one- to four-bedroom apartments feature full kitchens, terraces, gas fireplaces, washer/driers, and deep soaking Jacuzzi tubs. The style is sort of cowboy luxe — lots of oversized wood furniture upholstered in rich velvets and mohair. Think leather stools, heavy wood tables, beyond-comfortable beds, and paintings of bison and mountains. The units are bigger than most Manhattan apartments (about 1,500 square-feet for a three-bedroom)
The Perks: Staying here you get the perks of a condo, in terms of space and amenities (you’ll love having a washer/drier for ski clothes), and that home-away-from-home feeling. There is also a small indoor/outdoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center. The bonus is that you also have the service of a hotel with daily housekeeping, and an outstanding staff that will book everything from ski rentals, tickets, and lessons, to a dinner table at an under-the-radar favorite. They will also drive you pretty much anywhere including pickup and drop off at the airport. A small gourmet grocery and liquor store with prepared food downstairs makes grabbing a bite easy. You can also request to have your kitchen stocked before you arrive.
Who Its Best For: People who want a full-service mountain experience. You won’t be a slave to shuttle bus schedules or a line at the concierge here. The small size, means you have top-notch service whenever you need it. However, it’s a splurge. Rates start at $450, and in the high season climb much higher.
The Steamboat Grand
The Steamboat Grand surrounded by sweeping mountain views. (Photo: The Steamboat Grand/Facebook)
The Stats: 328 rooms right across the street from the Gondola.
The Rooms: One side of the hotel overlooks the mountain, while the other features sweeping vistas of the Yampa valley. The design is clean and basic and many of the rooms boast gas fireplaces. The condo and studio rooms all include small kitchens. There are a wide variety of layouts — you can opt for a room with two queens or make your way up to a five-bedroom penthouse apartment.
The Perks: The après ski scene for families is happening at the hotel’s large heated outdoor pool and hot tub. A complimentary shuttle can take you to the nearby market or to downtown leaving every half hour from 1 p.m. on, and every fifteen minutes in the evening. With two restaurants and instant access to the slope-side village finding a place to grab a drink or a bite is easy. An onsite spa and ski rental shop are both on the main floor.
Who Its Best For: People who want a great mountain location at a good price, without a lot of frills. While the standard rate for a deluxe king is about $300 a night, Expedia and many of the booking sites always feature good deals for the Steamboat Grand. For spring skiing, Expedia was (at the time of writing this article) offering starting rates at $179. With so many room layouts, this is a solid option for multigenerational families or larger groups who all have different needs, but want to stay together.
WHAT TO DO
Whether you prefer to stick to the trails or go backcountry, there’s plenty of skiing to be done at Steamboat. (Photo: Corbis)
With 165 downhill trails, Steamboat is second only to Vail in terms of ski runs in Colorado. It’s also known as a favorite for tree skiers — you’re allowed anywhere on the mountain that isn’t roped off. The mornings are crowded at the Gondola lift at the base, but with 11 mid-mountain lifts, once you get up, you’re not likely to face too big of a line again. Beginner skiers should note that most of the green trails are actually cat tracks, so they should expect to be spending most of their time on intermediate terrain (over 40 percent of the runs). The mountain can be a bit tricky to navigate however, requiring taking several lifts and a variety of runs to get to where you want to go. All trails ultimately end at the base lodge, however, making a big mountain feel less overwhelming.
Cross-country skiing in Steamboat Springs. (Photo: Steamboat Ski Touring Center/Facebook)
If you’re looking to get a little exercise without careening down the mountain, head over to this family run cross-country center. The Steamboat Ski Touring Center offers 10 kilometers of groomed trails less than five minutes from the downhill slopes. The easy trails are almost entirely flat and go around the golf course. The intermediate trails wind through the woods and a few houses. Choose from snowshoeing, skating, or cross country skiing. You can rent whatever equipment you need on the spot, and if you splurge on the $25 trial pass it includes lunch in their café.
Take a majestic sleigh ride through the snowy hillside at Saddleback Ranch. (Photo: TripAdvisor)
Sleigh Ride Dinner
There are several options for sleigh rides and dinners, but the most fun for families has to be Saddleback Ranch. The 8,000-acre, family-run working ranch is located about 30-minutes outside of town. Saddleback offers horseback riding, snowmobiling, and their popular dinners. In the evenings, guests can ride a horsedrawn sleigh or wagon through rolling hills up to a delicious dinner served by the Lacovetto family, decked out in cowboy hats and plaid shirts. After eating, guests from 3 to 93 can try their hand at calf-roping.
Snowshoeing is another great way to experience Steamboat Springs. (Photo: Getty Images)
The one-mile walk around the Steamboat Resort’s Vista nature trail is a gorgeous way to see the mountain without having to ski. At 9000-feet above sea level (you take the Gondola up) the views of the Yampa valley and Steamboat Springs are breathtaking. The affable Ambassador Mountain guides lead the tour, stopping to highlight the history of Steamboat and insider info about the region. Choose to do the daily 1 p.m. trek, or pair the tour with a gourmet lunch or dinner at Hazie’s on the mountain.
Take a break from the slopes and have a relaxing soak the local mineral-rich hot springs. (Photo: Strawberry Park Hot Springs)
Skip the crowded hot springs in town, and head up to these tranquil naturally heated pools surrounded by trees. During the day, you’ll see lots of families, but at night, under the stars it is apparently adults only and clothing optional. The combo of high mineral content and hot water are said to be therapeutic, increasing circulation, soothing sore muscles, and healing dry, chapped skin. There are several different pools heated at different temperatures — about 100 and 104 degrees. The two main pools are the most crowded, but a couple of smaller pools including one under a waterfall are better options for those who want a little personal space.
The newly revamped Rocky Mountain Spa at the Sheraton is a perfect oasis at the base of the mountain, offering pedicures, facials, and amazing massages. If you’re hoping to soothe sore muscles from skiing or hiking, head to the masseuse the locals rely on. Ali Boehm of Kneading Hands helms a staff of six expert therapists. Boehm also happens to be a certified herbalist that can recommend a tea of tonic for whatever ails you, from infertility to anxiety.
EAT AND DRINK
Enjoy specialty cocktails and great views on the deck at Arum Food & Wine. (Photo: Arum Food & Wine)
Foodies will love Steamboat’s restaurant scene. On the mountain, a coveted seat for everything from lunch to dinner to après ski, is the charming Truffle Pig. Don’t miss the newly opened Southern-inspired Low Country Kitchen in town. Arguably, one of the best restaurants in Steamboat is Aurum Food & Wine, with wines from its own Colorado vineyard and a delicious menu of farm-to-table fare. You can’t find a better spot for an evening cocktail than Aurum’s deck overlooking the Yampa river with outdoor fire pits. Finally, for a big night out, don’t miss the innovative Café Diva helmed by Chef Kate Rench.
For drinks, stop by The Barley featuring over 30 Colorado beers, along with some pretty amazing small-batch whiskeys, and cocktails. If you want to hang with the locals, definitely hit Sunpie’s Bistro for a stiff drink and some Southern-inspired comfort food.
Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad.
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