Skiing and Snowboarding in Steamboat
There’s a reason the term “Champagne powder” was coined in Steamboat Springs in 1958 by Kremmling rancher Joe McElroy: the ski area gets some of the most and best powder not only in the state, but the entire country.
“It’s truly what distinguishes Steamboat from most other resorts,” says local Olympian Nelson Carmichael. “Steamboat gets some of the best snow in the country, plain and simple.”
The reason is its unique topography. As the first barrier that storms encounter as they move across the deserts of northern Utah and Colorado, the resort’s Park Mountain range traps snowfall like early settlers did small game. And it’s some of the lightest, driest snowfall you’ll find anywhere.
Snowfall totals have surpassed 400 inches during nearly half of past 10 winters, including 433 in 2011 year, jump-started by a record-setting 90 inches in November. The record winter of 2007-08 saw 489 inches of snow, including three consecutive months of 100-plus inches. And in 2012, the resort set a single-day mid-mountain snowfall record of 27 inches. All that means you’re likely to get a powder day during your stay.
There’s also plenty of space to track it up. The resort’s 2,965 skiable acres make it one of the largest ski areas in the state, and its world-class tree skiing in places like Closets and Shadows maintain powder stashes for days after a storm. Add 3,668 feet of vertical and 165 named trails (not to mention the countless glades), and you get a resort for skiers of all abilities, with 14 percent of its runs for beginners, 42 percent for intermediates and 44 percent for advanced.
The mountain offers world-class terrain for carvers and freestylers as well as powderhounds. A fleet of 23 grooming machines — including a new Bison Sherpa winch, the first of its kind in Colorado — corduroy more than 600 acres nightly. For park riders, its four terrain parks, highlighted by Mavericks Superpipe — a 500-foot-long halfpipe with 18-foot walls and 22-foot transitions — provide fun for the whole freeride family.
To maximize your visit, arrive early. Lifts open between 8:30 and 9 a.m., with the gondola taking its first passengers at 8:30 a.m. (if it’s a powder day, try the resort’s First Tracks program, which gets you up ahead of the pack). For lessons, Steamboat’s award-winning ski and snowboard school includes six Olympian instructors, as well as the new FLAIK GPS system, which lets you monitor your kids’ whereabouts and relive it on the computer back home. The Kids’ Vacation Center offers a variety of kids programs as well and is just one reason Steamboat has been named the No. 1 Family Resort in the West by SKI magazine.
On-mountain facilities include the Four Points Lodge, as well as Thunderhead Lodge at the top of the gondola and Rendezvous Lodge off the Sundown and Sunshine lifts. For a quick bite, try the newly expanded Gondola Joe’s at the base.
Fine dining can be found at Hazie’s and Ragnar’s. For apres, a variety of bars and restaurants line the slopes at the resort’s base, including the outside deck and Umbrella Bar at the Bear River Grill, the ice bar at Slopeside and the T-Bar just uphill. The ski area also hosts the Bud Light Rocks the ‘Boat concert series, featuring free music in gondola square, as well as the Steamboat MusicFest and Ski Jam and, new this year, WonderGrass. Other special events take place throughout the season.
Top all this with town’s genuine western hospitality — Steamboat was a ranching town way before it ever became a world-class resort, meaning everyone treats you like a neighbor — and you get a winter destination offering everything from friendliness to first tracks, which you can toast with the resort’s namesake Champagne afterward. Info: steamboat.com.
Ski with an Olympian
Steamboat has 89 Olympians and counting, and there are plenty of ways to ski with them.
To ski with a former World Champion, look for the “Billy Kidd is Skiing Today” sign at the top of the gondola and meet him at the top of Why Not at 1 p.m. Steamboat’s director of skiing became the first U.S. male to win an Olympic medal in skiing when he took the silver in 1964, and he won the World Championships in 1970. Your whole family can ski with the Steamboat icon who’s made Steamboat home for the past 45 years. If you can’t make his daily outing, try one of his Billy Kidd Ski Camps, which run throughout the winter.
You can also ski with 1992 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time World Cup mogul champion Nelson Carmichael, who hosts a free mogul clinic on his namesake Nelson’s Run at 1 p.m. on select Sundays (check the grooming report to see if he is skiing and meet at the Nelson’s sign outside Four Points Hut). For women, there are the Steamboat Women’s Ski Camps, led by four-time Olympian Ann Battelle and three-time Olympian Caroline Lalive
Fulfill your need for speed with a multitude of races offered across Steamboat. Race friends and family down the NASTAR course in the Bashor Race Area on Mount Werner, or join in the weekly Town Challenge Race Series held Thursday nights under the lights at Howelsen Hill. For the kids, during Steamboat’s annual Winter Carnival, the Soda Pop Slalom lets kids 11 and younger race head to head, with the reward of a soda at the finish line. For Nordic, the Steamboat Touring Center offers the Sven Wiik Cup Nordic Race Series throughout the season along with various other races, presenting something for everyone.
If you’re more of a spectator, cheer on racers competing in events hosted by the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, including the Race to the Cup Alpine Snowboard Race, during which competitors battle for a spot on the World Cup, or the Collegiate XC Ski Races. Also look for the U.S. Freestyle Nationals at Steamboat Ski Area. Info: sswsc.org.
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