Summer in Steamboat: Four Hooves, Two Wheels and Water (A Three Part Series About One Busy Weekend)

horseback howelsen hill

Horseback riding on historic Howelsen Hill in the heart of Steamboat.

brave ski mom logoI love Steamboat in summer.

So it won’t be any surprise that when we visited for a weekend in mid-June that we had a terrific time.

Simply put, there is no other mountain town (that I know of) that has so much going on for families of every age.

Activities for Kids, Big and Small

Eleven years ago, our family first experienced Steamboat in the summer. One son had just finished Kindergarten and the other was a toddler. Our week-long visit was eye-opening and happily memorable.

This summer, the Kindergartener is a high school senior, while the toddler is a sophomore. Our two Steamboat experiences are virtual bookends of their childhood, which gives me a perfect opportunity compare the activities for kids from toddlers to teens.

Four Hooves

Although skiing and winter sports have been important components of life in Steamboat since the town’s founding in 1874, farming and ranching underpin the community to this day.

For visitors, it’s easy to partake of the old West heritage, especially if you spend time at Howelsen Hill, Colorado’s oldest ski area and town’s summer heart. At Howelsen Hill, you’ll find a fun, fast alpine slide, horseback riding, professional rodeo and a free summer concert series.

Get Your Rodeo On

The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series is unique among mountain rodeos. In it’s 111th year, its been a professional event since 1989, attracting  top competitors seeking  to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

calf roping steamboat pro rodeo

One calf, all roped up, in the team event.

Events range from bull riding and bareback riding to calf roping and barrel racing. Each rodeo is a two-night affair, with winners announced on Saturday. And while other communities in Colorado have one-night or weekend pro events, Steamboat hosts 10 weekends of pro rodeo, all summer long.

bull steamboat rodeo

The rock stars of the animal world, pro rodeo animals travel from event to event with their handlers.

For Big Kids: Just about the only people in the stands without boots and hats, we were clearly visitors, but that made it all the more fun. Western hospitality is genuine and we quickly made friends with a local 80-year-old farrier, the proud father of the 1996 National Steer Wrestling Champion.

Prior to the competition, we enjoyed a huge, homemade BBQ dinner, and my boys can attest to the high quality of the brownie sundaes available all evening.

steamboat rodeo bbq

A plate heaped with BBQ brisket at the rodeo.

The athletes — human, equine and bovine — impressed our boys, who would definitely go back. One sone even won a prize in the stadium Frisbee toss, a fundraiser for the nonprofit association that keeps the rodeo running (we’re giving the prize away below!).

For Little Kids: If you’ve got kids under 12, the Steamboat Rodeo is even more fun. Kids ages 6-12 participate in the Calf Scramble, while children 5 and under compete in the Ram Scramble.

The format is the same for both events: The kids gather in the arena and chase a calf or ram. The first child to grab the ribbon from the animal’s tail is the winner, receiving a belt buckle and gift certificate.

Both scrambles are “all come” with no limit on the number of participants and no need to sign up in advance.

calf scramble steamboat rodeo

Some calf scramble action at the Steamboat Pro Rodeo.

Peaceful Trail Rides With Sombrero Stables

If you don’t have the skills to ride a rodeo animal (and really, who does?), you can still get on horseback for a trail ride up Howelsen Hill with Sombrero Stables. These horses are big, calm and easy – and possibly greedy. After orienting us to western reining (pull right to go right, pull left to go left) we were told the only “rule”: Don’t let the horses eat the grass.

sombrero stables howelsen hill

Howelsen Hill is where the action is — from horseback riding with Sombrero Stables to the Howler Alpine Slide.

Easier said than done, we thoroughly enjoyed our ride with Will, a Wyoming-bred cowboy and rancher in his early 20s.

The ride was beautiful, through the forest along a dirt path lined with wildflowers, breaking into meadows with long views. Ski geek that I am, I enjoyed the novelty of passing ski trails and trail signs on horseback.

horseback steamboat

My son and Will, on the trail.


For Big Kids: Given the right animal, anyone can ride. Despite our lack of boots and hats, we immediately felt comfortable, and, with Will’s blessing, even nudged our mounts into a slow gallop. A one hour ride is only $35 and takes you well up on the mountain.

For Little Kids: Sombrero Stables welcomes riders of all ages from 2 to at least 80. Although the littlest cowpokes will have to ride with mom or dad, trail riding is a safe, fun family affair.

mount werner colorado

A view of Mount Werner and Steamboat Resort.

And when the ride is over? The Howler Alpine slide is right next door. Just try and keep your kids away from that.

I’m pretty sure it can’t be done.

howler alpine slide steamboat

Gondola Pass Giveaway

My son won a one-day, summer gondola pass at the Rodeo. Since we already had passes, I’m happy to give it away to a family headed up to Steamboat this summer.

If that’s you, please leave a comment! A winner will be randomly chosen on July 10th.

Next: Steamboat on Two Wheels 

steamboat colorado bike park

Looking ahead through the turn and showing perfect form on Rustler Ridge.

More on Steamboat:

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  1. Valerie says

    Hey, I’d love to win the one day Steamboat Gondola pass that you & your son are graciously giving away!