Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Ski and Snowboard in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
- 2. Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
- 3. Sleigh ride dinner at Haymaker
- 4. Take a dip in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs
- 5. Soar Through the Sky on a Scenic Gondola Ride
- 6. Lead a Dog Sled Team
- 7. Shop for Cowboy Gear
- 8. Chow Down in Steamboat Springs
- 9. Celebrate the Season at the Steamboat Winter Carnival
- Where to stay: The Steamboat Grand
- Transportation Tips for Steamboat Springs, CO
Nestled in Yampa Valley in northwest Colorado, Steamboat Springs is a family-friendly ski resort with year-round activities. Known as Ski Town U.S.A., Steamboat has produced 98 winter Olympians, more than any other town in North America. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, families can enjoy an array of activities that include sleigh rides and hot springs. About a three hour drive from Denver, Steamboat is also accessible by nonstop air service from seven major U.S. airports.
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9 Fun Things to Do in Steamboat Springs in Winter
Timing my visit for the annual Winter Carnival in February, I arrived in time for Steamboat Springs’ biggest snowstorm. As an avid skier from Southern California, I was thrilled to experience champagne powder, so-called for the ski area’s light fluffy snow.
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From Los Angeles, it’s a direct two-hour flight to Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden, Colorado. From there, a 30-minute shuttle ride brought me to The Steamboat Grand, about a five-minute walk to the slopes. During my visit, I explored the town’s western heritage and discovered many things to do in Steamboat Springs in winter.
1. Ski and Snowboard in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
An eight-passenger gondola debuted for the 2019-2020 season at Steamboat Springs, Colorado, swiftly delivering skiers and snowboarders to Thunderhead Lodge. In addition, Steamboat has 18 lifts providing access to 169 trails. Kari, a California transplant and my guide/instructor for the day, suggested we ski the trails on the right side of the mountain first.
With a fresh snowfall the day before and sunny skies my first day there, conditions were perfect. We skied on wide, groomed trails adorned with stately, snow-laden aspens, stopping occasionally to take photos.
TravelingMom tip: Download the Steamboat Ski & Resort app for information about trails, dining, snow report and more.
For lunch, we ate at Four Points Lodge, one of three on-mountain restaurants. (If you prefer a quick lunch, consider Taco Beast, a roving snowcat. However, it’s not always open.) Lunch options at Four Points are deliciously diverse, from Asian Noodle Bowls and salads to grilled sandwiches and burgers. At 9,716 feet elevation, the views of the Yampa Valley are stunning. After lunch, we skied the left side of the mountain, where trails lead back down to the base.
At the bottom, guests can enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and Champagne Powder donut holes served at the Steamboat Covered Wagon.
When buying lift tickets, consider adding First Tracks, which allows you early access to certain parts of the mountain. Steamboat also offers night skiing.
TravelingMom Tip: It’s a good idea to take a lesson or ski with a guide the first day at an unfamiliar resort.
2. Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Free Snowshoe tours for the whole family depart at 1 p.m. from Steamboat Sports at Gondola Square. The tour is about 90 minutes. Be sure to arrive by 12:30 p.m.
In addition, you can snowshoe at the Haymaker Nordic Center. Rent gear to glide, skate or snowshoe on nearly five miles of groomed trails for all levels. A Trail Access Ticket is required. The Nordic Center offers Classic ski group lessons and rental equipment for all ages and abilities.
In addition, the Steamboat Ski Touring Center offers about nine miles of groomed trails for Nordic skiing and about six miles for snowshoeing. Trails meander across meadows, into Aspen groves, and along Fish Creek. Trail tickets are required to access the trails. Lessons are offered daily along with rental equipment.
3. Sleigh ride dinner at Haymaker
A sleigh ride and dinner is a fun way to experience Steamboat’s western heritage with the whole family. From The Steamboat Grand, a shuttle picked us up for the short ride to the Haymaker clubhouse for appetizers and drinks at the cash or no-host bar. We ordered hot toddies for the 25-minute sleigh ride through snowy fields. Two beautiful draft horses pulled the sleigh as the setting sun painted the sky in hues of blue, peach and lavender.
Back at the clubhouse, we enjoyed a three-course dinner, which included tomato soup, a crisp salad, entree, and dessert. Dinner choices include rib-eye steak, lamb, chicken, trout and vegetables. I opted for the grilled beef, served with mushrooms, whipped potatoes, charred onion, and port wine sauce. My steak was tender, and since the portions were big, I brought my leftovers back to my room. The 2020 Sleigh ride dinner price: $89 adults, $39 youth, $15 kids ages 5 and younger.
4. Take a dip in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Located about 30 minutes from Steamboat Resort, the natural hot springs feel so good on a chilly snow day. Open year-round, there’s one cold pool (no thank you) and three hot pools that vary in temp from 101 to 104 degrees. I put my towel and clothes on a bench inside a hut. There are also lounge chairs around the pools to leave your stuff while soaking in the hot springs. An added bonus is the minerals in the water make your skin really smooth.
Although the hot springs are open to the public, the roads require a four-wheel drive, especially for winter driving. Sweet Pea Shuttle provides round-trip transportation from condos and hotels to the hot springs. My driver, Dave, said people used to skinny dip in the hot springs when he first moved to Steamboat about 40 years ago.
TravelingMom Tip: If you go in winter, be sure to wear sturdy shoes for walking on icy patches.
5. Soar Through the Sky on a Scenic Gondola Ride
Even if you don’t ski you can still enjoy a gondola ride up Mount Werner. The gondola stops at Thunderhead Lodge, a good spot for lunch with a view for the whole family. Gondola tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for ages 5 – 12, and free for ages 4 and younger. Your gondola ride ticket includes $10 off your order at Hazie’s food and beverage outlet in Thunderhead Lodge.
6. Lead a Dog Sled Team
Mush your own dog team is a half-day adventure along a scenic 12.5-mile backcountry trail. For this adventure, two people are assigned per sled. One person is the musher, the other is a passenger. Halfway through the two switches. Kids weighing under 80 pounds will have the option to stand on the sled and help drive with an adult.
7. Shop for Cowboy Gear
For a leisurely outing, spend a few hours in Downtown Steamboat Springs. Shops and restaurants adorn the pretty town. Worth visiting is the historic FM Light & Sons, a western store founded in 1905. If you’re shopping for cowboy hats or boots, this is the place. Across the street is the Homesteader, a shop that makes yummy truffles and toffee.
Flowing through downtown is the scenic Yampa River. In summer, locals raft along the pristine 250-mile long river that flows from the Rocky Mountains. In winter, snowy banks embrace the river.
Downtown also has many diverse restaurants and bars, making it the happening place for day and evening activities.
8. Chow Down in Steamboat Springs
Mambo Italiano was packed the night we ate dinner there. So reservations are definitely recommended for this popular Italian restaurant serving generous portions of pasta, pizzas and various entrees. In close proximity to Howelsen Hill Ski Area, Mambo Italiano is a good place for dinner before watching the Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza.
Creekside Cafe was busy when we got there for breakfast at about 9 a.m. We had a friendly server and a delicious breakfast. I had a toasted croissant stuffed with two eggs, cheese and sausage. My friend had the Patterson Barn Burner. The homemade biscuit is sandwiched with bacon, cheddar, and two eggs along with a side of sausage gravy.
Salt & Lime is a contemporary Mexican restaurant with a unique menu and tasty (and strong) margaritas. I enjoyed my al pastor tacos with a side of cauliflower hash with cashew salsa (recommended by the bartender).
Steamboat Whiskey Company serves craft cocktails and is a cozy place to mingle with locals.
9. Celebrate the Season at the Steamboat Winter Carnival
Steamboat Springs prides itself on its unique Winter Carnival, which features various events over five days. The Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza is a highlight. Bundled up, I joined locals at the historic Howelsen Hill, the oldest ski area in continuous use in Colorado. In fact, Howelsen Hill has the largest and most complete natural ski jumping complex in North America.
Winter Carnival’s Lighting the Flame event features athletes skiing down the mountain in the dark, lit by flares and LED lights. In addition, jumpers soar through a fiery hoop. It’s quite the show! But the main attraction is the Lighted Man, who skies down Howelsen Hill shooting fireworks from his pyrotechnic suit. The event ends with a fireworks show, touted as the largest in the world.
The next day’s events took place along snow-covered Lincoln Avenue in Downtown Steamboat Springs. Races include street slalom, skijoring (skier pulled by a horse!), ring and spear, donkey jump and the adult shovel race. The annual donkey jump features children on skis and snowboards being pulled behind horses. At a ramp, the kids release the rope and jump to see who lands the farthest. Another event highlight is the Steamboat Springs High School Ski band. While playing instruments, the teens glide on skis along Lincoln Avenue.
Where to stay: The Steamboat Grand
Upon arriving (hungry) to The Steamboat Grand at about 10 p.m., I went straight to The Cabin, a restaurant and bar. They were closing soon, but I was able to order a glass of wine and dinner at the bar before settling into my room.
My second-floor studio was very comfortable and had a large window with snowy mountain views. Amenities included a king bed, kitchen, and sitting area. Perfect for my four nights in Steamboat. The Steamboat Grand also has 1- to 4-bedroom condos available, a super option for traveling families.
Facing Mount Werner, The Steamboat Grand is a short walk to the gondola, ski rental shops, a market, and restaurants. I rented my skis from Steamboat Sports located in the slope-side Sheraton.
The Grand’s complimentary shuttle makes it easy to reach downtown. Departing about every 30 minutes, the shuttle drops off within walking distance of many restaurants and shopping areas in town. For return pick up service, call the shuttle number on your room key.
With a late departure on my last day at Steamboat, I skied in the morning and got a day pass for the hotel’s pools, whirlpools, sauna, steam room, and gym facilities. To reserve your stay at the Steamboat Grand, click here.
Transportation Tips for Steamboat Springs, CO
Located in the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, Go Alpine shuttle provides transportation to and from Steamboat Springs. The shuttle service stops at various hotels and condos. Once you’re at the Steamboat Ski Resort, you don’t need a car to get around. Various town shuttles are available.