20 things to do: A non-skier’s guide to Steamboat Springs
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Not a skier? No problem. There’s plenty to do in Steamboat Springs from playing in the snow to soaking in the hot springs and everything in between.
• Dog sledding
SteamboatDogSledding.com, 970-870-1782; SnowBuddyDogSledTours.com, 970-291-1114; DogSleddingSteamboat.com, 970-846-0249
Combine sledding and dogs and you have the perfect family winter adventure — especially when you get to drive your own team. Many of the dogs you’ll drive have competed in the Iditarod. Settle into the perfect trotting speed of 10 mph, or sit in the sled and enjoy the ride. Kids also can learn to drive a team, with an adult behind them for safety.
Sometimes it’s fun to careen without the control. For that, it doesn’t get any better than tubing on snow, promising fun for the whole family. Fifteen miles out of town, soar down Saddleback Ranch’s Yee-Haw Tubing Hill, complete with a state-of-the-art tube-tow lift system, and warm up with a hot drink from the concession stand.
• Ice skating
Howelsen Hill Ice Arena features an Olympic-size sheet of ice where you can unleash your inner Apolo Ohno or Dorothy Hamill. It also hosts an array of adult and youth drop-in and stick-and-puck hockey sessions. For the kids, try the super fun bumper cars on ice as well as Rock On Ice, where kids can skate to music under a disco ball.
• Excel Gymnastics
For tots and teens who like to tumble, Excel Gymnastics offers a full array of classes for kids and hosts open gyms for the public. The gym is equipped with uneven bars, rings, balance beams, trampolines and the ever-popular foam pit.
• Ride the gondola
Ride the gondola for awe-inspiring views of the Yampa Valley. The gondola whisks you 2,000 vertical feet to the 9,000-foot-high Thunderhead Lodge. From there, you can take in the views while enjoying a great meal or drink inside the lodge.
• Hot air balloon rides
For a bird’s-eye view of the Yampa Valley, take an early morning ride on a hot air balloon. 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.
• Bridgestone Winter Driving School
Learn how to drive on snow at 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. Courses are taught by driving professionals, including former racers.
• Fat biking
SteamboatSprings.net/ski, 970-879-8499; Steamboat.com, 970-879-6111; CatamountRanchClub.com, 970-871-9200
Fat biking is rolling strong, with followers taking to the groomed trails of Howelsen Hill and more. Catamount offers a full moon race series, and rental shops around town rent snow bikes for lift-served riding — no pedaling required. For a complete listing of local trails, visit RouttCountyRiders.org.
Even in winter, hiking options exist to let you stretch your legs. Favorites include 283-foot Fish Creek Falls, just a three-mile drive from downtown. A popular, multiuse trail is Spring Creek, leading from the heart of downtown up a snow-covered dirt road and along a creek. Blackmere Drive on the backside of Emerald Mountain leads to the quarry overlook.
SteamboatClimbing.com, 970-870-8440; LoveClimbing.co, 970-761-2686
To get out of the elements, try Steamboat’s indoor rock climbing gym, Love Climbing Adventures, with a variety of bouldering options and auto-belay stations. Think ice is nice? Try ice climbing Fish Creek Falls with a certified guide at Rocky Mountain Ventures.
• Sleigh rides
Steamboat.com 970-871-5150; SaddlebackRanch.com, 970-879-3711; HahnsPeakRoadhouse.com, 970-879-4404; BarLazyLRanch.com, 970-367-4187
At Steamboat Resort, ride a sleigh behind a snowcat to Ragnar’s, take a snowcat ride to Four Points Lodge, or go for a horse-drawn sleigh ride before dinner at Haymaker Golf Course. The family-owned Saddleback Ranch offers rides with bells jingling from Belgium horses, and Hahn’s Peak Roadhouse offers sleigh rides to and from its lodge in North Routt County.
• Horseback riding
SteamboatHorses.com, 970-879-3495; SaddlebackRanch.net, 970-879-3711; CRSummit.com, 970-879-6201
Who says you can’t horseback ride in winter? Enjoy a taste of Steamboat’s authentic Western heritage by taking a horseback ride with the entire family. Saddle up at Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch, which offers family-friendly rides north of Steamboat near Clark, or Saddleback Ranch west of town. For lessons, try the CR Summit Riding Club for English and Western clinics.
• F.M. Light and Sons
For a true taste of Steamboat’s western heritage, visit F.M. Light and Sons downtown. Now in its fifth generation of family management and ownership, the store was founded in Steamboat Springs in 1905 and still offers the most authentic ranch and cowboy apparel and footwear in town.
• Tread of Pioneers Museum
For a glimpse into Steamboat’s colorful past, visit the museum at Eighth and Oak streets downtown. The history of Utes, pioneers, a flying Norwegian who brought ski jumping to town and even the Lighted Man’s original suit are all on display, as is a tribute to the history of skiing in Steamboat Springs.
• Olympic tradition
Start on the corner of Fifth and Yampa streets for a tour featuring 18-square-inch bronze plaques inlaid in brick pavers downtown, all honoring local Olympians. Also find tributes to local Olympians on the second floor of Thunderhead Lodge at the top of the gondola and upstairs at Howelsen Hill Lodge.
• Bud Werner Memorial Library
Cozy up in a couch in Steamboat’s 33,000-square-foot library at 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue next to the Yampa River. It includes dedicated spaces for children and teenagers, a coffee shop, large community and conference rooms, artwork, a Library Hall for presentations and more. The library has a collection of more than 88,000 titles and free wireless.
Steamboat’s historic shopping district combines the nostalgia of old-time storefronts with boutique shops, galleries and more. If you’re staying on the mountain, take the free city bus to Fifth Street and begin your journey by passing the historic Routt County Courthouse before entering the heart of the downtown, where restaurants, bars and shops await.
• Old Town Hot Springs
Soothe your weary muscles in natural hot springs after a day of outdoor adventures. The newly renovated Old Town Hot Springs at Third Street and Lincoln Avenue provides the most convenient option, complete with waterfalls, a pool-plunging climbing wall and a pair of 230-foot water slides for the kids.
• Strawberry Park Hot Springs
For a more rustic setting, Strawberry Park Hot Springs seven miles outside of town lets you change in a teepee and soak in a variety of different temperature pools, complete with shoulder-caressing waterfalls and a creek you can plunge into to cool off. Just heed the sunset curfew with your kids: Clothing is optional after dark.
• Hot springs walking tour
Steamboat Springs earned its named from early pioneers for the “chugging” sound of its springs, and you can experience them yourself in the area’s natural pools. Visit and learn about seven of the springs on a downtown walking tour. Stop by the Tread of Pioneers Museum to pick up a map.
To reach Eugene Buchanan, call 970-871-4276 or email ebuchanan@SteamboatPilot.com
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