Leaving home for Steamboat on a snowy Saturday, we didn’t have a tight agenda, just a few vague plans and good snow tires. Our goal was not to experience all that Steamboat offers for winter fun (that would take a week at least), but to get to the resort before noon and make powder turns.
We did that, and amazingly, without ever feeling rushed or stressed, we did a whole lot more. Here’s our 24 hours of Steamboat.
Make a Plan
Steamboat is a big mountain. With just shy of 3,000 acres of terrain and a vertical rise of 3,668 feet over six different peaks, wise skiers, who hope to make the most of their time, make a plan.
Rather than crisscrossing back and forth across the mountains, we think it’s best to choose one or two lifts and ski them for a few hours. Then, choose another section of the resort and explore it.
All but two lifts, Preview and Rough Rider (which are beginner only) access intermediate terrain, which makes up 42% of the runs. While only 14% of Steamboat’s terrain is rated green, there are long, fun runs from many points on the mountain, making it a fun resort for skiers of all levels. Advanced skiers have all of the peaks at their disposal, from fast groomers and bump runs to tight glades and steep chutes.
Moguls and Trees
With only an afternoon to ski on Saturday, we moved as quickly as possible from Thunderhead to the Storm Peak Express. Storm Peak is served by two lifts and is a good place to practice moguls, find powder stashes in the trees, or rip down Buddy’s Run, a classic blue groomer, named for local son and Olympian Bud Werner.
Directly across from the top of the Storm Peak Express is a gate to Morningside. Although gates at ski resorts usually control access to extreme terrain, Morningside is a gentle, intermediate bowl, steeper at the top than at the bottom. It’s perfect for families looking for adventure.
Chute and Glades
The Morningside lift rises up out of the bowl to the resort’s highest point. If you ski across from the top of the lift, you’ll find gates to a set of serious chutes and the tight trees of Christmas Tree Bowl.
Enter the gate and after cruising over small, soft moguls, the chutes drop out from under you, but only for 4-5 turns. At the bottom, the terrain evens out, with powder fields and trees to explore as you make your way back to the Storm Peak lift.
Want to hit the chutes again? Go up Storm Peak, drop into Morningside, ride back up, ski, repeat.
Start on the Sunny Side
Sunday dawned cold and blue. Taking the gondola up, we chased day’s first rays to the Sunshine Express. This area gets morning sun and has lots of blue and green terrain. It’s no secret that this is a great place to start the day at Steamboat.
Because Steamboat is so big, you can always find solitude somewhere on the mountain. From the top of the Sunshine Express, you can explore the Sundown Express area or drop back into Morningside, through some really fun trees. From there, it’s back up to the top of the mountain where you can explore more double black terrain, head back to Storm Peak or over to the black diamond delights of Pony Express.
We opted for more chute laps. While we’ve had a very fun ski season, low snowfall has kept us from some of our favorite steeps. And as my older son put it after our first afternoon at Steamboat, “It’s really nice to be back on extreme terrain.”
Indeed, it was really nice to be back at Steamboat.
But That’s Only Nine Hours
So what else did we do?
Dance, Baby, Dance
Steamboat ski resort celebrates 50 years this winter. Through April 14, there is live music and a party in the village on Saturday afternoons. We caught the Young Dubliners on our visit. For a list of other Bud Light Rocks the Boat Concerts, click here.
Splish, Splash, Ahhhh….
After an afternoon of skiing and music, we headed for Old Town Hot Springs. Directly across from the iconic Rabbit Ears Motel (where we stayed and got discounted pool tickets), the pool is fairly sedate and civilized. But, my-oh-my, does that water feel good. And if you’ve got too much energy (or you’re a kid) there are two water slides, a climbing wall in the pool and a lap pool.
Western Food and Fun
Next it was time for our night on the town, Steamboat Style. Like many resorts, Steamboat has evening on-mountain dining. For families, the a good option is the Western BBQ in the Thunderhead Lodge. We were expecting a western chuck wagon menu, you know, cornbread, beans and ribs. We were wrong.
Steamboat’s Western BBQ is less down home than up market. Baked trout, roasted turkey, prime rib and, yes, ribs, were just a few of the entrée options. While there were baked beans, they were baked with French fried onions and definitely did not come straight from a can. With fresh chowder, a salad bar with options well beyond greens and veggies, and multiple fresh side dishes, this was “western” food with a gourmet twist, family friendly and unique enough to keep both picky kids and discriminating (which is just nice way of saying picky) adults happy. And lest I forget, there was a glorious dessert buffet with caramel apple pie, ice cream sundaes and more, as well as full bar service.
The views of the valley as darkness descended were spectacular. At 7:00 p.m., Sundog, a local country western band started up some great music and fun for the kids.
Dance with a stick horse anyone? Balance a spoon on your nose? Sure, it sounds hokey (and we did the hokey-pokey) but as we rode the gondola down, even our jaded teens agreed that 1) the band was terrific and 2) the evening was fun. As for my husband, he was still raving about the food.
Castles Made of Ice
Because our boys go to bed later than we do, we visited the Steamboat Ice Castles after dinner. Visible from the gondola, the Ice Castles are the creation of several “ice architects.” These artists “farm” icicles throughout the winter, creating them on fencing and then stacking and molding them into a stable, lattice design. The base of the multi-room castle is up to 200 inches thick and some of the walls are well over two stories high.
Lit from within by LED lights, the Ice Castles are magical.
The Ice Castles are open until the end of March. Don’t miss them! And while they are definitely a “don’t touch” zone (just think what would happen if everyone broke off an icicle), children and adults will be entranced by their beauty.
- Family Skiing at Steamboat: Make a Plan to Have Fun, January 13, 2011.
- Why My Family Loves Skiing at Steamboat Springs, Colorado, September 28, 2010.
- Billy Kidd is My Hero, November 3, 2010.
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