Steamboat

Steamboat, Colorado

Written by Greg and Heather Burke

Looking for snow? Steamboat gets it, upwards of 390 inches of typically dry light Colorado snow. Scenery? Steamboat has that too - beautiful Rocky Mountain peaks and the unspoiled Yampa Valley that stretches out below the slopes. Extensive ski terrain, sure - almost 3,000-acres of well groomed big wide trails, beautiful aspen grove glades, and a few bump runs for fun. A fun après ski town? Steamboat Springs is among the best for authentic western ski towns with a great local vibe and plenty to do après ski from shopping and bar hopping to visiting the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Steamboat also has a convenient slopeside village with everything in walking distance to your lodging, the lifts, restaurants, and lessons. There's a reason Steamboat is Colorado’s award-winning family resort. Steamboat has great deals like kids fly free and rent free equipment with paying parents, often beautiful western blue sky and sunshine, and they trademark their snow as “Champagne Powder.”

Getting to Steamboat you can fly into Hayden Airport (more like an airstrip amid a snow-covered prairie surrounded by the Rocky Mountains) and take a 22-mile shuttle to Steamboat Springs, or fly into Denver and drive the three hours. 

We recommend staying at The Steamboat Grand, the bellhops are super nice at the immense 4-star hotel. Modeled after its sister Grand hotels at eastern resorts, but – grander, rising seven stories including a wilderness themed lobby of waterfalls cascading over redwood logs and stones. Ask for a slope view condo suite with a fireplace, the decor is Rocky Mountain elegance with leather couches, tiles, and woodwork.

The Steamboat Grand is a short walk to the resort’s Gondola Square, where you board and launch 2,200-vertical feet to mid-mountain with magnificent valley and mountain vistas along the way. I had heard that Steamboat was tame, family-friendly fall line, and our first runs down Heavenly Daze and High Noon were ego pleasers. Steamboat's snow and frosted aspen trees are spectacular. 

You are in for a surprise at how sprawling Steamboat is, 3,668’ vertical, 165 trails encompassing six peaks, and forests of glades. Steamboat’s Maverick is the longest halfpipe on the continent. Whoever told me Steamboat is tame was simply off base (and clearly never ventured off-piste). With Mt Werner's 10,568’ summit elevation and 3,000 acres, you need a week to roam this western resort, the third largest in Colorado. 

So that you don’t lose your posse in all this snow-covered space, Steamboat offers “Mountain Tours” - and you can ski in a free clinic with Billy Kidd, 1964 Olympic silver medalist. Kidd grew up skiing Stowe but converted to cowboy hat wearing and Colorado skiing in 1970 – he’s been the director of skiing at Steamboat ever since (his free clinic is at 1 pm almost every day). It was a treat to meet Billy (another reason to go to Steamboat). During photos, we told him we were from back East. Kidd said, “Skiing the Eastern hard pack is great if you want to race in the Olympics and win a Gold medal, but if you want sunshine and great powder snow, you should ski Steamboat.” 

Billy gave everyone tips on how to win a Gold medal; he talked about coming within a fraction of a second of Gold in Innsbruck Austria. Kidd said that Steamboat has produced more Olympic skiers than any ski area, 79 and counting, hence the nickname Ski Town USA. “The whole town of Steamboat supports our Olympic tradition,” said Kidd. “Everyone turns out for our Olympic send off ceremony and we light an Olympic torch in town that burns throughout the games.”

Olympic bronze medalist Nelson Carmichael hosts a free bumps clinic at Steamboat, but we chickened out when we saw the monster moguls on Nelson’s Run. The ‘Boat has plenty of bump runs, but we prefer glades (we named our daughter Aspen). Here's the Steamboat secret: “the goods are in the woods.” Steamboat has acres of beautifully-spaced, silvery Aspen groves drenched with delightfully light snow, in every pitch from passive off the Sunshine Express quad, to perfect in Shadows, and precipitous in Christmas Tree Bowl off the summit. 

All this skiing and Rocky Mountain altitude work up a rancher-size appetite. Steamboat’s on-mountain dining carves a notch above usual ski area fare. Rendezvous Saddle Lodge serves a sumptuous lunch at Ragnar’s after a few runs on the face of the clock - High Noon to 1-3 o'clock. In the evening, you can take a sleigh here for a gourmet five-course dinner. Hazie’s at the top of the gondola also serves superb cuisine topped with sweeping views of the slopes, the town, and the surrounding mountain ranges, for lunch daily, and dinner by gondola certain nights. 

Storm Mountain was the original name of Steamboat, appropriate given that the 10,372’ Storm Peak has its own weather (generally snowy), and its own weather station. Storm Peak was renamed Mt. Werner for Buddy Werner, local Olympian who died in a Swiss avalanche in 1964. 

Intrawest manages Steamboat, nearby Winter Park, Stratton and Tremblant on the East Coast. 

The name Steamboat Springs dates back to 1865 when fur trappers passing through heard a sound like a steamboat – turns out it was the fizz and gurgle of hot springs. There are 150 geothermal springs in Steamboat, yet another reason to visit this cool – or hot - spot. 

We took an afternoon off from riding the Pony Express quad (a favorite stash) to soak in the incredible natural mineral spring baths at Strawberry Park Hot Springs. This is après ski absolute, with steamy waterfalls and pools at 104-degrees, plus polar plunges to refresh you. The serene setting and masonry design of these springs is awe-inspiring and the soak is super at $15 per adult, $5 for kids. At night, things heat up, when the springs are adults-only, suits optional (or so we heard). For après ski on the mountain, Slopeside is a great ski in ski out bar, with music, a huge outdoor space in the afternoon sun, casual pub fare and drinks. 

There's night skiing at Steamboat too, Thursday - Monday. We sooner recommend First Tracks, which load you on the gondola at 8:00 am ahead of the public, for exclusive access to Sunshine and South Peak well ahead of the rest - a $39 price tag (with a lift ticket) - on a powder day = priceless.

During our week out west, another reason to go to Steamboat became evident – the people: pleasant raccoon-tanned locals, vibrant vacationers, even friendly cowboys in this authentic ranchers’ settlement. 

Steamboat’s downtown (a free 3-mile shuttle from the mountain) has frontier town flavor, flavorful restaurants from Mexican cantinas Irish pubs to Italian bistros, and cowboy coffee cafes. Mahogany Ridge has a great après ski happy hour menu, Carl's is a cool casual place to dine too. There aren’t so many furry boutiques like Vail or Aspen, but there isn’t the swanky ski town attitude either. There are just enough shops and native boutiques - be sure to go to Lee's; you can buy your guy the Steamboat-essential cowboy lid.

We have skied our share of western resorts. Steamboat ranked high, the brilliant blue-sky scenery is sensational, the skiing is wide-ranging, and the folks are genuine in nicknamed “Ski Town USA.” Steamboat is ideal for fall line families, or for ski writers considering a switch to ski bumming (the thought crossed my mind one crystal clear bluebird powder day). Did I mention the snow? You should go.  

Elevation

Base
6900 feet
Base
Summit
10568 feet
Summit
Vertical Drop
3668 feet
Vertical Drop

Lifts

Gondola & Tram
1
Gondola & Tram
High Speed Six
1
High Speed Six
High Speed Quads
5
High Speed Quads
Quad Chair
1
Quad Chair
Triple Chairs
6
Triple Chairs
Double Chairs
2
Double Chairs
Surface Lifts
2
Surface Lifts

Terrain

Beginner Runs
14 %
Beginner Runs
Intermediate Runs
42 %
Intermediate Runs
Advanced Runs
44 %
Advanced Runs
Expert Runs
0 %
Expert Runs
Total Runs
165
Total Runs
Terrain Parks
5
Terrain Parks
Longest Run
3 miles
Longest Run
Skiable Terrain
2965 acres
Skiable Terrain
Snowmaking Area
375 acres
Snowmaking Area

Opening and closing dates

Season Open Date Close Date
2017/2018 11/24/2017 (estimated) 04/13/2018 (estimated)
2016/2017 11/23/2016 04/16/2017
2015/2016 11/21/2015 04/10/2016
2014/2015 11/26/2014 04/12/2015

Lift ticket and season pass prices

Category Age restrictions Price (USD unless otherwise stated)
Adult 18 - 69 $145
Child 5 & under $10
Child 6 - 12 $90
Child 13 - 17 $135
Senior 70 - 99 $125
Season Pass
(Steamboat Season Pass)
$1,499

Overall Rating

4.5 / 5 based on 60 reviews
Zach Okruhlik

Steamboat provided slopes of plenty of different difficulties allowing myself to work my way to more and more difficult of slopes. I will definitely be coming back here in the future.

Posted on Nov 12, 2017
Brad Mills

Snow disappears quick here, If its been dry a few days watch out for hazards. The runs out are narrow and pack up. The chutes are good, backside of the mountain is decent trees but short runs and a single slow lift. Overall not as good as winterpark or copper, if you are on a superpass its not worth the trek out to steamboat.

Posted on Nov 11, 2017
Jenny Donahue

Loved Steamboat for the runs and everything else! We were there as a group only once but fell in love with it and would love to go back if prices are attractive. Thanks!

Posted on Nov 08, 2017
Hunter zacher

I love steamboat! I lived there for many years, and I can say there is no other powder like it! The back country is also amazing and it's a huge mountain!please help me win this, I truly love boarding and would use the crap out of it:)❄⛷

Posted on Nov 07, 2017
Noah

Steamboat is incredible! Definitely better than hitting resorts in summit county that are way overcrowded. Love visiting the town of Steamboat and it’s fun even if there isn’t any new Fresh snow!

Posted on Nov 06, 2017
Andrew Olander

I've been around the block here in Steamboat. Started off working for the resort but quickly learned it isn't worth it. Employee housing is now 3 people sharing a small room. An outdated gondola from the 70s isn't worth the price of the ride. And even though Steamboat's located all the way up here in the middle of nowhere we still receive massive crowds on weekends/ holidays. The town however has been something I can't get away from. "The Yampa Valley Curse" they call it. Through these times when our town is flooded with tourists, we flock to the hidden gems out of bounds. It goes so much further than the resort. I'm reminded daily that you can spend a lifetime here and not even scratch the surface.

Posted on Nov 11, 2017
Alec A Brooks

Great ski town and terrain. Love the tree skiing options! Always seem to have good weather - sunny skies and deep snow. Little bit of a hike from Denver, but that also means there aren't as many people on the slopes.

Posted on Nov 09, 2017
Scott W.

Steamboat has some of the best snow around and probably the best tree doing in the US. Not the most advanced trails but enough to keep you busy with the tree runs.

Posted on Nov 07, 2017
Bryan B

I love the small mountain town feel of steamboat! Fun little downtown with a ton of good restaurants. The best part is the main attraction though, the beautiful mountain with prestine champagne powder that you get to enjoy through aspen groves is a backcountry skiers dream.

Posted on Nov 07, 2017
Jeffrey Jones

My wife and I first visited Steamboat in 1995 when we were first married and both thought, "if we ever have kids, we will bring them here to learn to ski!" 23 years and four daughters later- we made good on that idea. Steamboat is a fabulous place to make memories for a lifetime.

Posted on Nov 06, 2017