Steamboat a Nordic Nirvana
Want a serene change from the slopes? Steamboat’s four Nordic centers offer more than 120 kilometers of groomed trails for classic cross country and skate skiing, as well as snow-shoeing, all within 30 minutes of downtown. Close-to-town options requiring passes include the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, Catamount Ranch & Club and Howelsen Hill (note: bring your own equipment for Howelsen). Thirty minutes north of town are groomed trails at Steamboat Lake State Park and Vista Verde Guest Ranch. There are also free trails west of town in the Steamboat II and Silver Spur subdivisions, as well as classic trails on the West Summit of Rabbit Ears Pass (nine trails ranging from 1.6 to 7 miles) and heading north from the Dry Lake Campground trailhead on Buffalo Pass. For an in-town option, take the family cross country skiing up Spring Creek just past the high school off Amethyst Drive. If you’re going non-groomed, carry the proper equipment, be aware of changing weather conditions and let someone know where you’re going.
You’ll likely share the trail with an Olympian at Howelsen Hill. Located in the heart of downtown, its 21 kilometers of trails are maintained by the city and Steamboat Springs Nordic Council and are often part of the Nordic Combined World Cup cross-country circuit. From late December through March the trails (20 percent beginner, 20 percent expert, 60 percent intermediate) are groomed three times weekly. In general, they’re a bit steeper than other trails in the area. Note: skiers must have their own equipment. Cost: $14/day. Info: http://www.steamboatsprings.net, 970-879-4300.
The Catamount Nordic Center off Colorado Highway 131 offers 30 kilometers of groomed trails, characterized by flat, easy-rolling terrain and wide open views of Lake Catamount, Mt. Baldy and Pleasant Valley. For dog lovers, the area also offers 10 kilometers of dog-friendly trails (cost: $2/dog, maximum two dogs/person). All dogs must be on a leash, and no dogs are allowed Friday through Sunday. The trails are open daily, with the Club House restaurant open Wednesday through Sunday. The center also offers lessons, including a new four-week clinic on Fridays. Rentals $17/day. Cost: $18/day. Info:
Steamboat Ski Touring Center
At the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, nearly 14 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails wind through aspen groves along Fish Creek, offering some of the most scenic and accessible Nordic skiing in the valley. The trails are rated novice to advanced and are groomed for both classic and skate skiing. The center also offers 10 kilometers of forested snowshoe trails, as well as a full-service rental and retail store carrying the latest in cross-country ski and snowshoe equipment. It also offers daily lessons taught by area experts. Refuel at the “Picnic Basket” with hearty homemade soups, breads, hot drinks and more. Cost: $18/day ($16 late arrival after 1 p.m.); rentals $13. Info: http://www.steamboatnordiccenter.com, 970-879-8180
The Steamboat Lake State Park Touring Center is 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs on Routt County Road 129. The area usually opens by Christmas, with trails groomed by the Steamboat Lake Snow Club. Dogs are allowed but must be on a six-foot leash. The center features 15 kilometers of groomed beginner and intermediate trails, with grooming twice per week. There are no services available so bring your own gear; meals are available at the Clark Store Deli, Glen Eden, Hahn’s Peak Cafe and Hahn’s Peak Roadhouse nearby. You can also rent trailside cabins from the marina (970-879-7019). Cost: $7 per vehicle (passes available at the park visitor center or self-service station). Info: 970-879-3922, http://parks.state.co.us/parks/steamboatlake.
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It was a love story that brought Jason Erwin to Steamboat Springs from Nashville, Tennessee.