Steamboat is, as the pitch line says, a “little further west” than most other Colorado resorts, and as a result enjoys an average annual snowfall of 350 inches of drier-than-average fluff. On most days you can expect to have room to enjoy the bounty: Steamboat spans a full mountain range: Mount Werner, Sunshine Peak, Storm Peak, Thunderhead Peak, Pioneer Ridge and Christie Peak, which together harbor enough variety for all but the most extreme downhillers. Corduroy groomers abound as do (usually) soft mogul runs and some of the West’s most ego-feeding glades, the well-spaced trees of Pioneer Ridge, Sunshine and Storm Peak. It all adds up to 2,965 acres with a vertical drop of 3,668 feet.
For novice and intermediate skiers, Steamboat’s gradual rise is a nice change from the many Western mountains that strain the neck muscles for those seeking a glimpse of the peak. The resort’s Snowsports School staff includes many former Olympians, and lesson levels range from first timers to experts. The resort also offers a First Tracks program, allowing early access to the gondola, as well as night skiing five nights a week on five trails with 1,100 vertical feet.
For families, Steamboat pioneered the kids-ski-free concept, and still offers it today for children under age 12, provided a parent buys an adult pass for five or more days. On the snow, the one-big-happy-family vibe continues, with free ski and ride mountain tours, nature tours, guided snowshoe tromps and the chance to take a run with former Olympians Billy Kidd (1964) and Nelson Carmichael (1992).
Aside from designated kids’ terrain and lifts, the resort has expanded its Kids' Vacation Center, a Western-themed facility outfitted to provide a positive experience for snowsport newbies and mini shredders alike.
This season Steamboat launches night skiing and riding on five trails covering 1,100 vertical feet of terrain, including the Lil’ Rodeo Terrain Park. And a nighttime kid’s adventure camp is crafted to handle everything while the parents head off for a little “me” time.
Off-slope activities further the storybook theme, with large-group sleigh rides through the Yampa Valley, an arts and crafts “gym” where visitors work out their inner bohemian, free concerts and cross-country ski trails. The coup de gras of après ski options is the Strawberry Park hot springs, a network of connected natural pools set in a mountainside a few miles outside town. It is a fitting diversion: The area’s mineral springs drew the first settler to the area in 1874. But the family motif meets its limits here, as the springs go clothing optional after dark.
The heart of town covers ten blocks but between that space and the mountain village Steamboat supports dozens of restaurants, bars and shops, in which you can expect to find a refreshing mix of funky old-time locals and wealthy newcomers who know a special place to relocate when they see one.
Steamboat has an airport, but flights are expensive, so most vacationers endure the three- to four-hour drive from Denver International Airport But if you do fly into Steamboat directly, there’s always a chance that bad weather will keep the hordes from making that drive, leaving the resort crowd-free. The only other slight on the place might be the lack of arresting mountain vistas, but most people come here in search of mellow, not radical. Besides, those in need of a vertiginous fix can head to Howelsen Hill, a short walk from downtown, to watch ski jumping at Colorado’s oldest continually operated ski area (established in 1915), which has sent more skiers to international competition than any other area in the North America.
This year also marks the first season for the resort’s new owners, a group that also owns 12 other North American ski resorts. Changes will likely be afoot in the coming years, but 2017 saw the introduction of the Outlaw Mountain Coaster as well as upgrades to the gondola.
STAY: The Steamboat Grand is a classic slope-side hotel, with 328 rooms and condos in an expansive building housing spa, outdoor heated pool, fitness center, restaurant, bar, coffee shop and more. A Steamboat institution, in the heart of the action.
DINE: The Laundry Kitchen and Cocktails, opened in 2012 in the 103-year-old brick edifice that once housed the Steamboat Laundry Dry Cleaning and Pressing, serves inspired (if somewhat pricey) dishes and very creative cocktails.