Of these four, three of them are on the MAX Pass. You know what that means? Road trip.
North Star #1: Steamboat
Ride the lifts on any day during ski season, and you’re sure to hear English in all of it’s permutations from Australian to British to American, along with many other languages.
Skiers and snowboarders from around the world converge upon Steamboat with good reason.
Steamboat is big, with 2,965 skiable acres divided into 56% easier and intermediate and 44% advanced and expert ski runs.
It’s a ski resort with lots of options and a mountain with many personalities.
Starting from the base, guests take either the Christie Peak Express partway up the mountain to the terrain parks, race courses, the Rough Rider Basin kids’ area or they take the gondola to the top of Thunderhead.
From the gondola station on Thunderhead, the mountain divides into two parts.
Ski to the right as you exit the gondola and find immaculately groomed slopes near the boundary of the resort. The skiing and riding becomes progressively harder as you move back toward the center of the mountain, with surprisingly long mogul runs and evermore glade skiing for all levels.
Ski left of the gondola and find much of the mountain’s advanced and expert terrain, including more glades, chutes and ungroomed terrain, along with marquee cruisers like Buddy’s Run.
At the end of the day, Steamboat’s breadth (and the gondola) make it easy to get off the mountain. If you’ve ever felt nervous about skiing down in a crowd, set that worry aside at Steamboat.
While those with strong legs and good skills ski down the face of Thunderhead, other options include downloading the gondola or taking one of two long, green runs that wind down the mountain and around to the base.
Finally, in addition to skiing and riding, there is plenty of other fun (including tubing, horseback riding, the Bridgestone Winter Driving School, nordic and snowshoe trails, along with two famous, yet very different, hot spring pool complexes) to keep visitors of all ages busy for at least a week.
Four Other Reasons to Love Steamboat
1. Altitude. The base village at Steamboat is the second lowest in Colorado at 6,900 feet above sea level. Only Howelsen Hill, the historic ski area in the town of Steamboat, is lower.
While the summit of Mount Werner is plenty high at 10,568, guests don’t sleep up there.
Instead, they rest their heads where oxygen is more abundant, acclimatizing to the altitude easier and more quickly than they would at higher elevations.
And lest you be concerned that this lower altitude might compromise the snow, set those fear aside. Steamboat is the northernmost Colorado resort with skiing from November into April and an average annual snowfall of 339”.
2. Attitude. Steamboat is an honest-to-goodness ranch town, where cowboys get their boots dirty and know a thing or two about cattle. Steamboat is also a haven for mountain sports (in both winter and summer), a real town of real people and families who thrive in the outdoors.
This means that puffy coats outnumber fur coats. It means that you can wash your car or stock your condo refrigerator from a real grocery store. If your kids forget their socks, swimming suits or their jeans (it’s happened to us!), you can buy these items in Steamboat without breaking the bank.
3. Athletes. Steamboat has a proud Olympic heritage, the home of more winter Olympians than any other U.S. ski area. Billy Kidd, a 1964 Olympic Silver Medalist and an ambassador for the resort offers tips and skis with guests most days at 1:00 p.m. at the top of Why Not.
And while Kidd has traded his famous cowboy hat for a ski helmet, he’s still the same friendly guy and great skier.
Nelson Carmichael, an Olympic Bronze Medalist, also calls Steamboat home. Carmichael offers free bump clinics on select Sundays near the Four Points Lodge.
If you’ve got a hankering to try ski racing, it’s just $1 per run at Steamboat (or $12 for the day if you want an official NASTAR time) in the gates near the Bashor lift.
To see future Olympians in action, check out the ski jumps on Howelsen Hill where you can also watch athletes training after school and practicing freestyle skiing under the lights.
Speaking of lights, Steamboat offers night skiing on the lower pitches of Mount Werner, Thursday through Sunday. Hours vary seasonally, so check the website.
And if you fly in, be sure to show your boarding pass at a ticket window the day of your arrival to night ski for free.
4. Après. No resort parties quite like Steamboat, with the action centered in Gondola Square. Look for kids flying through the air throwing flips on the bungee jump while their parents chill, listening to live music.
On most weekends, bands set up and beer tents appear from nowhere and outdoor tables, steps, benches and standing areas begin filling by 3:00 p.m.
Stick your skis and boards in the snow (or check them at the base) and join the party. It lasts for hours, especially on warmer days.
When You Go…
I drove from the west, but most visitors arrive either from DIA and Colorado’s Front Range cities or via the nearby Hayden airport. If you fly into Denver, you can rent a car or take a shuttle.
As for lodging, stay on the mountain or stay in town. We’ve done both and both are fun.
In my opinion, the advantage to staying in town is proximity to the Old Town Hot Springs with it’s kid-friendly water slides and climbing wall.
The advantage to staying on the mountain is the flexibility that comes with being able to walk or ski to the lifts.
Steamboat has a full range of restaurants, on-mountain dining events and grocery stores. You won’t go hungry.
For the best deal on the mountain, make a lunch reservation at Ragnar’s in the Rendezvous Lodge. A sit-down restaurant with Scandinavian flair, Ragnar’s is named after an early Steamboat ski jumper. The food is delicious at prices comparable to other cafeteria-style on-mountain lunch spots.
As for deals, Steamboat started their popular Kids and Grandkids Ski Free program back in 1982. Purchase an adult 5 or more day lift ticket and a child 12 and under can ski the same number of days for free.
Next MAX Pass stop for me? Winter Park.
- 24 Hours of Steamboat, Colorado, March 20, 2013.
- 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.
- Telemark Ski Racing Coming to Steamboat, Colorado, February 18, 2015.
- Get a Grip on Driving at Bridgestone Winter Driving School, October 29, 2014.
- Summer in Steamboat: Four Hooves, Two Wheels and Water (A Three Part Series About One Busy Weekend), July 7, 2014.
- Summer in Steamboat, Part Two: Bike Town, USA, July 10, 2014.
- Summer in Steamboat, Part Three: Water, Water, Everywhere, July 16, 2014.
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