Steamboat Springs, Colorado has rightly earned its popular alias “Ski Town USA.” From the group of local ranchers who first dreamed of a ski area on Storm Mountain to the multitude of Olympic athletes who have thrived here, Steamboat embodies its heritage. Originally inhabited by the Yampatika Utes, the Yampa River Valley was formally settled by the aforementioned ranchers in the early 1900s and the area continues to draw settlers and visitors from all walks of life. Three hours northwest of Denver and accessible via direct flights into the Steamboat/Hayden airport, Steamboat is a must for skiers but will pack plenty of appeal for fans of other winter sports, too.
5…Ski on champagne powder
If incredible, dry powder is your thing, Steamboat won’t disappoint. Complementing all the white fluffy stuff are magnificent aspen glades where a skier or snowboarder will be able to float amongst towering trees -- famous runs bear the cryptic names “Shadows” and “Closets.” Pros love it here, but there’s a wide mix of terrain that’ll entice all skill levels and skiing clinics are available. Rental facilities are located at the base of the area and there are plenty of lodging and dining choices in the mountain village as well as within the town of Steamboat Springs.
4…Cross country ski on Olympic training grounds
In the heart of Steamboat you’ll find Howelsen Hill, the training facility for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club as well many Olympic teams. Founded by Carl Howelsen in 1913, the local ski hill is the oldest continually operated ski area in Colorado, at one time consisting of just one Nordic jump. Since its humble beginnings the hill has grown into one of the leading training facilities in the world for young athletes. Facilities include alpine skiing, (multiple) Nordic jumps, mogul and aerial arenas, half pipe, terrain park features, and even tubing.
Howelsen is ideal if you want to enjoy the beautiful groomed, Nordic tracks --real ones -- through the open meadows, which overlook the Yampa River. Beginner, intermediate and advanced trails are all accessible from the base area; tickets are available for purchase and equipment is offered from various rental shops in downtown Steamboat Springs.
3…Take a snowshoe tour on Mt. Werner
If you need a day off skis, give serious thought to slipping on snowshoes. The Steamboat Ski Resort enables daily snowshoe tours from the top of the gondola, giving you an entirely different perspective of the natural mountain setting. A guided tour presents both an informative and animated 2 to 4 mile trek through the slopes and aspen groves, and local resort ambassadors will share personal insights and bits of history about the Yampa River Valley. And if you’re lucky you might spot an elk, fox, or porcupine along the way.
For beginners or those who have already overdone it there’s also a less intense jaunt through the woods, a one mile loop with breathtaking views of the valley and Mt. Werner. Tours are available daily. The snowshoeing here is appropriate for all ages and both snowshoes and tickets are available from the resort; reserve as far in advance as possible for these popular tours.
2…Winter drivers wanted
Who doesn’t want to learn how to drift around an icy corner or accelerate out of a hairpin turn? Okay, if that doesn’t sound like you, how about a pleasurable refresher on how to drive safely on a snow packed road? The Bridgestone Winter Driving School has group classes as well as private lessons for those interested in honing their winter driving skills. Professional Rally and Drifting drivers such as Lea Croteau and Tanner Foust offer their expertise both on the track and in the classroom. Classes are a well-thought-through balance of safety and performance and participant ages have ranged from 15-82. Located just outside of Steamboat, shuttle services are provided to and from the track. Lunch is included for most sessions as well as DVDs and photos for purchase.
1…Soak in a hot spring
Even if you haven’t run yourself ragged, who doesn’t love a soak in a hot spring? A favorite among locals and visitors, the river-fed Strawberry Park natural hot springs give way to pools built with river rock, sand and flagstone. Surrounded by snowcapped trees, towering aspens, and local peaks, you might easily forget about your sore muscles and the rest of your worries, too. That said, be careful getting here: During the winter, the three mile journey up to the springs is best left to appropriate tours as the roads require four-wheel drive. Also, while the pools are family friendly, those with children need to arrive before dusk. Clothing becomes optional after the sun sets.