Family Fun/Activity Sampler!
Rare is a town more family friendly than Steamboat in the wintertime. From skiing to sledding and tubing, TV and iPhones will be the last things on your children’s minds after a visit to the Yampa Valley. The biggest problem? Fitting it all in after your time on the slopes.
Sometimes it’s fun to careen downhill without the control. For that, it doesn’t get any better than renting tubes downtown at Howelsen Hill (970-879-0695, sswsc.org), with proceeds benefitting the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Ride up the Magic Carpet and tube to your heart’s content near the base of the Nordic jumps, before retiring to the Howelsen lodge for hot chocolate and warm cookies. Fifteen miles out of town, careen down Saddleback Ranch’s Yee-Haw Tubing Hill (970-879-3711, saddlebackranch.com), complete with a state-of-the-art tube-tow lift system, and warm up in the Longhorn Warming Lodge with a hot drink from the concession stand. They even offer transport to and from the transit center on Mount Werner Circle. To sled on your own, BYOS to the hill in front of the church just west of town in Steamboat II, or head to Blackmere Drive on Emerald Mountain.
Named in honor of Carl Howelsen, a Norwegian who settled in Steamboat in the early 1900s and introduced its residents to skiing and ski jumping, city-owned Howelsen Hill is the oldest, continually operating ski hill in Colorado. It offers a chairlift, poma and magic carpet for the kids; a winter tubing operation; a complete array of sanctioned Nordic jumps (the largest, most complete natural ski-jumping complex in North America); and miles and miles of groomed cross country skiing trails. It’s also home to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, a nonprofit program that trains hundreds of children and teens each year in competitive skiing and snowboarding. To date, the club has helped 89 athletes make Olympic appearances, more than any other town in North America. Info: (970) 879-4300.
Combine sledding and dogs and you have the perfect family winter adventure — especially when you get to drive your own team. The Yampa Valley offers one of the best places to run your own dog team in the country. Trips are offered through two outfitters in town — Grizzle-T Kennels and Snow Buddy Dog Sled Tours — either west of town or south of town near Stagecoach Reservoir and in the Flat Tops mountains. Many of the dogs you’ll drive — most of them Alaskan or Siberian huskies, built for distance — have competed in the Iditarod. Learn how to drive your own team, settling into the perfect trotting speed of 8 to 10 mph, or sit in the sled and enjoy the ride. Kids can also learn to drive a team, with an adult behind them for safety. Two hints: If a rabbit crosses the trail, hold on; and prepare to ride the brake on the return ride home. Grizzle T: 970-870-1782, steamboatdogsledding.com; Snow Buddy: 970- 291-1114, snowbuddydogsledtours.com.
For tots and teens who like to tumble, Excel Gymnastics off Shield Drive at the west end of town offers a full array of gymnastics classes for kids and hosts open gyms for the public (oftentimes at night, making it double as a great babysitter) where anyone can flip, tumble, jump and spin to their heart’s content. The gym is equipped with uneven bars, rings, balance beams, trampolines and the ever-popular foam pit. Info: 970-879-3467; http://www.879-egos.com.
Kids’ Adventure Club
For a little me time, let Steamboat Ski Area take care of your kids. The Kids’ Vacation Center lets your kids have as much fun as you will. Mini-Campers (3- and 4-year-olds) are provided with fun activities including short hikes, arts and crafts, outdoor games and water sports; Yampa Campers (5-year-olds) add Strings in the Mountain concerts, kayaking, tennis and more; Routt Scouts (2nd- and 3rd-graders) take field trips to Steamboat Lake, the Craig Wave Pool, Stagecoach Reservoir, Alpine slide and more; and Pioneers (4th-graders through 12-year-olds) enjoy kayaking, mountain biking, team-building activities and more. Info: http://www.steamboat.com.
Reward your kids with a visit to Fuzzywig’s Candy Factory at 845 Lincoln Ave., where gummy worms, fudge and more can help entice your brood to continue their outdoor adventures, or Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop at 601 Lincoln Ave. downtown in the Alpenglow building.
The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs (970-879-8400; steamboat10s.net) offers six cushioned indoor hard courts near the base of the ski area, adjacent to the Meadows Parking Lot, to keep your lobs, serves and ground strokes going all winter long. Work out on your own with a ball machine, knock the ball around with a friend for fun or take a lesson from a seasoned pro.
Work out your kinks from the bumps at a variety of yoga and Pilates studios across town. Open to everyone from seasoned yogis to barely-touch-your-toes newbies, Steamboat offers nearly 20 such studios in town to help work out your kinks from the slopes. Favorites include Old Town Hot Springs (970-879-1828, oldtownhotsprings.org), the Yoga Center of Steamboat (970-870-1522, yogacenterofsteamboat.com) or Steamboat Pilates Yoga & Fitness (970-879-6788, steamboatpilatesandfitness.com). Each center offers classes for all levels while exploring different yoga styles so can stay limber, stretched and strong during your summer visit.
Hot air balloon
For the best bird’s-eye view of the Yampa Valley you can get, take an early morning ride on a hot air balloon. Wild West Balloon Adventures (970-879-7219; wildwestballooning.com) offers balloon tours all winter long, complete with a Champagne toast afterward. Setting out in the early morning, the tours let you soar across the Yampa Valley, taking in breathtaking views of town and the mountain, including Mount Werner and its ski trails. That little ski jump you did on Mount Werner will never feel the same.
Ride the gondola
Even if you’re not a skier or snowboarder, riding the gondola is a great way to take in awe-inspiring views of the Yampa Valley and beyond. The gondola whisks you 2,000 vertical feet to the 9,000-foot-high top of Thunderhead Lodge. From there, you can take in the views while enjoying a great meal or drink inside the lodge. Thunderhead Lodge’s Western BBQs continue to be a big hit for families, and its popular sunset happy hours provide the best cocktail perch in town. “It’s one of my favorite activities in Steamboat and offers a breathtaking view of the valley and town,” says the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s Kara Stoller. Info: steamboat.com.
Howelsen Hill Ice Arena (970-879-4300; steamboatsprings.net/ice) features an Olympic size sheet of ice where you can unleash your inner Apolo Ohno or Dorothy Hamill all summer long. It also hosts an array of adult and youth drop-in and stick-and-puck hockey sessions, Unsure of yourself on the ice? Sharpen your skills with a lesson. For the kids, the rink also offers its super fun bumper cars on ice, where your children can drive into Dad, as well as Rock On Ice, where kids can skate to music under a disco ball. If you’re lucky, your visit might also coincide with a home hockey game by Steamboat’s new Junior Hockey Team, the Wranglers (rmjhl.co/steamboatwranglers), or a local figure skating performance.
Bridgestone Winter Driving School
Learn how to drive your car on snow at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School (winterdrive.com), the only driving school of its kind in North America. The school’s 77-acre facility includes three state-of-the-art ice and snow-covered tracks coated with more than 250,000 gallons of water to simulate winter driving conditions. They feature banked and off-cambered corners, elevation changes and more to suit a variety of levels. Taught by driving professionals, including former racers, courses begin with classroom instruction and video demonstrations before taking to the track. Programs include the introductory First Gear half-day class and popular Second Gear full-day course. Private one-on-one training is also offered upon completion of a standard course. Regardless, you’ll drive away a better winter driver.
Snowcat skiing outfitter Steamboat Powdercats (steamboatpowdercats.com) has operated out of Steamboat for more than 30 years, guiding up to 36 guests per day in the pristine backcountry powder of nearby Buffalo Pass, home of Colorado’s deepest annual snowpack. Tens of thousands of guests have used its snowcats and guides to access some of the best powder in the country, including such celebrities as Warren Miller, Martina Navratilova, Klaus Obermeyer and Seth Morrison. Several film and clothing companies have also included Steamboat Powdercats in their movies and commercials. “Steamboat always has great snow, and this is one the best ways to experience it,” says manager Kent Vertrees.
Just because you’re in Ski Town USA, doesn’t mean you have to always have skis on your feet. Even in winter, a variety of hiking options exist to let you stretch your legs. Favorites include 283-foot Fish Creek Falls, just a three-mile drive from downtown where an easy 1/4-mile walk up the road to the trailhead and another 1/4-mile to the bridge takes you to the base of the falls. (You can also ice climb it with a guide; steamboatclimbing.com). Another popular, multi-use trail is Spring Creek, leading from the heart of downtown up a snow-covered dirt road to a picnic shelter and along a creek for another mile. (The trailhead starts at the intersection of East Maple Street and Amethyst Drive.) A final hiking favorite is Blackmere Drive on the backside of Emerald Mountain, which runs two miles from its gate at the top of Routt Street to the Emerald Mountain Quarry, providing a prime overlook of town (from downtown, head west on U.S. Highway 40, turn left onto 13th Street, left onto Gilpin Street, left onto Saratoga Avenue and right onto Routt Street).
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