A Traveler’s Guide to Steamboat Springs, Colorado
One of America’s favorite ski destinations, the Rockies’ quintessential “Ski Town, USA” is kicking things up a notch this season.
While it might be tempting to stay cuddled up indoors for the next eight to 10 weeks, Colorado’s Steamboat Springs has some other options for you to consider this winter. As if its legendary powder and well-earned reputation as the Rockies’ quintessential “Ski Town, USA” weren’t enough of a draw for skiers and boarders, $200 million worth of upgrades to the mountain and base area are set to take Steamboat to the next level this season. New features include a state-of-the-art 10-person gondola; a revamped ski school for beginners; and a completely transformed base area with an après-ski plaza, food hall, live-music stage, and ice-skating rink.
Much has changed since the ski area first opened in 1963 with just a few trails: Steamboat now boasts 170 trails across six peaks and 2,900-plus acres of terrain with 17 lifts and four terrain parks. But three constants remain: the ample “champagne” powder (named because it’s so light and dry); wide, gladed trails that cater to all skill levels; and a sincere commitment to making the area a family destination. It was the first mountain resort in the United States to let kids ski for free, and they still do today. Insider tip: Head right for the Sunshine Express lift in the morning, where you’ll find well-groomed blues and greens with soft snow and no lines.
If skiing’s not quite your thing, there are plenty of other diversions here to vanquish the winter doldrums. The Haymaker Nordic Center offers a snowshoeing excursion where you can enjoy the mountain scenery at a more leisurely pace and get a glimpse of what life was like for early pioneers here. For more thrills, Thunderstruck Adventures provides the ultimate snowmobiling experience, allowing you to cruise through serene, snowy meadows and backcountry trails on a private mountain. Or you could always rise above it all on a hot-air-balloon ride with Wild West Balloon Adventures.
Just a few minutes from town, the Strawberry Park Hot Springs is the place to go for a unique and relaxing mountain experience, featuring five cascading pools of varying temps in a gorgeous setting. Each ascending grotto is slightly warmer than the next, but the temperature is always above a toasty 102 degrees. Just be sure to make reservations in advance.
Located in an early-20th-century building that was once the town laundromat, Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails is a must-try. The eclectic tapas-style eatery offers a bit of everything, from bison carpaccio and Vietnamese barbecue pork to smoked-brisket tacos and pow pow shrimp. A rotating array of original happy-hour cocktails, meanwhile, promises to melt away the cold; we highly recommend the habanero-bourbon-infused “Chicken Dance”—two glasses, and you’ll learn why it’s called that. Looking for elevated kid-friendly grub? Mazzola’s is the ideal family spot, serving up pizza and pasta since 1971. Start with the garlic shrimp or Sicilian mussels before moving on to the butternut-squash ravioli or a pie like the “Mothership,” with pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, olives, ricotta, and pineapple. For something sweet afterward, stop by the Homesteader for toffee and truffles. And don’t worry about calories: You’ll burn it all off on the mountain.
One of the oldest mercantile stores in the Rockies, FM Light & Sons is an excellent spot to find a souvenir, with hundreds of hats, boots, and belts with authentic western flavor from which to choose.
Just steps away from the mountain base, the Steamboat Grand features 328 spacious rooms ranging from traditional studios to condo-style suites and penthouses. On-site amenities include the cozy Cabin restaurant and a massive 85,000-gallon heated pool with two large hot tubs that showcase stunning glimpses of the Yampa Valley.
From February 3 through March 26, you can hop on JetBlue’s direct flight from Logan to Steamboat Springs. Any other time, Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest Airlines all offer nonstop service to Denver. From there, Steamboat Springs is an hourlong flight or an easy and scenic three-hour drive through the Yampa Valley.
First published in the print edition of the January 2023 issue as “Boston Traveler: Steamboat Springs, Colorado.”