Need a break from the slopes? Give snowmobiling, Nordic skiing or ice fishing a try |

Need a break from the slopes? Give snowmobiling, Nordic skiing or ice fishing a try

Jenette Settle glides along one of the trails at Steamboat Ski Touring Center. (Photo by Tom Ross)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Strapping on skis or a snowboard isn’t the only way to enjoy Steamboat’s trademark Champagne Powder. For a serene change from the slopes, head outside and give a different wintertime sport a try.

Nordic skiing

Steamboat’s three Nordic centers offer more than 120 kilometers of groomed trails for classic cross country and skate skiing as well as snowshoeing, all within 30 minutes of downtown.

Close-to-town options requiring passes include the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, Catamount Ranch & Club and Howelsen Hill. 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 and heading north from the Dry Lake Campground trailhead on Buffalo Pass.

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This article is from the winter issue of Explore Steamboat magazine.

• Howelsen Hill: 970-879-4300,

Located in the heart of downtown, Howelsen Hill has 21 kilometers of trails that are maintained by the city and Steamboat Springs Nordic Council. From late December through March the trails are groomed three times weekly. Note: Skiers must have their own equipment.

• Lake Catamount: 970-871-6667,

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, Mount Baldy and Pleasant Valley. For dog lovers, the area also offers 10 kilometers of dog-friendly trails. All dogs must be on a leash, and no dogs are allowed Fridays through Sundays.

• Steamboat Ski Touring Center: 970-879-8180,

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.

Customers on a guided ride with Steamboat Snowmobile Tours make their way across a Rabbit Ears Pass meadow. (Photo by Brian Ray)


Snowmobilers also take the region’s mountainous terrain to get their winter thrill. Thanks to rolling hills, vast tracts of public land and world-class snowfall, Steamboat offers some of the best snowmobiling in the country, drawing sledders from across the nation.


• Elkhorn Outfitters: 970-824-7392,
• Rocky Mountain Rentals: 970-627-9673,

• Saddleback Ranch: 970-879-3711,
• Hahn’s Peak Roadhouse: 970-879-4404,
• Steamboat Snowmobile Tours: 980-879-6500,
• Colorado Sled Rentals: 970-439-1707,

“It’s truly world-class,” Steamboat Powersports manager Jason Stanhope said. “It has everything snowmobilers look for in a great destination: abundant snowfall and wide-open terrain.”

Maps of the trail systems are available at the U.S. Forest Service office, 925 Weiss Drive, as are free season pass permits for the Buffalo Pass Backcountry Winter Recreation Area. Day-use permits are available at the Dry Lake Campground trailhead. Out-of-state residents must purchase a $25 Colorado Non-Resident OHV permits are available online, at State Parks offices or anywhere Colorado hunting and fishing licenses are sold.

Be sure to respect nonmotorized areas such as the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass and the Soda Creek drainage north of Dry Lake Campground on Buffalo Pass. Snowmobiles are prohibited in all wilderness areas.

Daniel Daffer stands in the cold waters of the Yampa River while fly-fishing. (Photo by John F. Russell)


Swap your ski poles for a fishing pole. For many anglers, winter is their favorite time of year to cast a line.


• Straightline Sports: 970-879-7568,
• Bucking Rainbow: 970-879-8747,
• Steamboat Flyfisher: 970-879-6552,
• Yampa Valley Anglers: 970-819-4376,

“A lot of people have more fun fishing in winter than they do on summer trips,” Steamboat Flyfisher’s Mike Morton said. One popular hotspot involves snowmobiling to the Stagecoach Reservoir tailwaters.

“When the town stretch is frozen, there are still about five miles of fishable water nearby,” said Morton, advocating nymphs, and blue wing olives when it’s sunny. “There’s nothing like catching a nice brown while watching fresh snowflakes dissolve.”

For fly-fishermen, finding open, moving water is the main challenge. Luckily, the Yampa tailwaters yield open water and bug life throughout the winter. While the vehicle access gate through Stagecoach State Park remains closed until April 1, you can access the area via cross country skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles on Routt County Road 18 off Colorado Highway 131.

Russell Cook drills a hole in the Stagecoach Reservoir ice. (Photo by Ben Ingersoll)

Ice fishing

Don’t overlook ice fishing as another great wintertime outing.

The state record pike was pulled out of Stagecoach Reservoir in winter. Local outfitters offer guided ice fishing trips, or go on your own, provided you don’t mind a little auger drilling. Top local options include Steamboat Lake, Stagecoach Reservoir and Elkhead Reservoir.

“Steamboat has some great ice fishing that often gets overlooked,” Morton said. “Between that and fly-fishing options, there’s no reason to hang up your rod come winter.”

To reach Eugene Buchanan, call 970-871-4276 or email

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