Mountview from Steamboat Springs
After two enjoyable days at Copper Mountain, day 3 took us to Steamboat Springs. We drove into Silverthorne up route 9 and connect to route 40 into Steamboat. The drive took us about 2 hours on a clear day. If you have never drove through Colorado, I highly recommend it. If you do, you’ll get a sense of the vastness of the west. We had a beautiful clear drive and I felt I could see for hundreds of miles. We passed through numerous ranches and deserted areas and saw plenty of wildlife along the way.
As we drove into Steamboat Springs (also just known as Steamboat), the first thing we noticed is that this is not a small town. It has a decent sized population (over 12,000). There were lots of houses and just about any business or store you could need. It includes all of the typical chain stores, hotels, and restaurants many people are accustomed to. After seeing a bit of the town, I wondered is why is this place called “Steamboat”? Granted there is a small river, but a steamboat can’t come here. It turns out the reason is that trappers would hear a chugging sound like a steamboat coming down the river. The sound was actually coming from the hot spring. It was eventually decided to call the town after the spring, “Steamboat Springs”.
Gondola Base at Steamboat Springs
The downtown area is unique and is known for having a down-to-earth western vibe. Plenty of small shops and independent restaurants. One place I would highly recommend is a restaurant called Low Country Kitchen. The restaurant was started by a couple who are replicating some of the food you would find in the south. Our meal included buttermilk fried chicken (the specialty), biscuits, fried green tomatoes, and finished off with pecan pie. Everything was tasty. If you go, be sure to make a reservation. The place is popular and will pack up.
Base at Steamboat Springs
When you get to the mountain, there are various places to park. The free parking is away from the main base area but is easy to get to with shuttle buses or a gondola ride from parking. Once you get to the base, you’ll find a number of eating areas, rental stores, and shops. The base area also has two large hotels: a Sheraton and the Steamboat Grand.
The mountain at Steamboat is divided into various sections. Once you are at the base, you have access to 4 different lifts. Three of the lifts take you up the bottom section which includes some short blacks and some beginner trails. If you want to access the bulk of the trails, you need to take the gondola which will take you to the mid-mountain and to the Thunderhead Lodge. From here you can go to most any ski area.
Glades at Steamboat Springs
The mountain has 165 trails across 2,965 acres. Although there are beginner trails, it is mostly at the bottom of the mountain. The majority of the trails are intermediate and up. In my opinion, this is a mountain that is perfect for the advanced-intermediate skier and those who love glades. Once you look at the mountain, you’ll notice that there is this natural separation of the trees as though this mountain were naturally made for glade skiing. Throughout the mountain, there are countless areas where you can dip in and out of the trees.
Top of Morningside
My favorite area had to be Morningside. We went up and down the Morningside lift for a long time and every run was a lot of fun. If you look at the map, you will only see a few trails. But, with the separation of the trees, you can go through the glades and find a new path every time you go down. Even without having a fresh snowfall, you can venture out and find areas that have haven’t been skied on in days. Off the top of the Morningside lift, many people like to take a hike up and get access to some of the double-black extreme trails that Steamboat offers including Christmas Tree Bowl, Chute 3 and other extreme trails.
View of Sunshine Peak
The Pony Express lift gives expert skiers and advance-intermediates a wide selection of trails to choose from along with the ability to traverse through the trees. Whether you are looking for steeps or bumps, this is an area you can hang out at for a while. Plus, the area is a little out of the way and you will find short lift lines that will keep you going non-stop as long as you want.
Wide runs with glades on the side
If you are looking to more intermediate and easier blacks, there are a couple of areas I would recommend. Storm Peak can be accessed by 2 different lifts (Storm Peak Express and Bar-UE). From the top, you have a choice of the Storm Peak trail or Buddy’s Run that are wide and fun. At the bottom, you can link into about 8 different runs that can match what you are looking for. Sunshine Peak is the other area where you will find a ton of blues and blacks that can keep you going for a long time without ever having to do the same run twice. The Sunshine Express lift will take you to a lot of intermediate runs if you are looking to give your legs a break from the expert runs.
Lunch time at Thunderhead Lodge
If you are on the mountain for lunch time, you’ll find 3 excellent places: Four Points Lodge, Thunderhead Lodge, and Rendezvous Saddle Lodge. Each place offers amazing views. But, for that reason, each place will be busy. So you may want to plan your lunch before or after the lunchtime crowd. The one thing you can be certain of is that you can plan to spend $20 or more dollars per lunch. It’s not cheap. But, it is good. Whether you go for a pasta dish, pizza, pho, or a sandwich, everything that my group and I ate, tasted great and filled us up. These areas also have outdoor seating and are great places for an afternoon drink.
I'll be back!
After two days of skiing, I can say that Steamboat is one of my favorite resorts that I have ever been to. This is a mountain that I was eager to visit for two reasons. First, it’s known for its Champagne Powder. Secondly, it’s known as “Ski Town, USA” because it is home to more Olympians that any other mountain in the U.S. Although we never got to see some fresh champagne powder and get to surf through the glades on it, it was thoroughly enjoyable. The large number of trails and the variety they offer make it a place that is hard to get tired of. I can easily see spending a full week here and taking advantage of not only the skiing but also the other activities that are offered at Steamboat. Also, with the large town, you’ll be able to easily get anything you need or want. I’m sure I’ll be back.