Santa on the slopes: Skiers, riders from Colorado, beyond choose Steamboat for snow |

Santa on the slopes: Skiers, riders from Colorado, beyond choose Steamboat for snow

Dressed up as Santa Claus, Roy Simon, of California, handed out candy to children at Steamboat Resort on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. l Alison Berg/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Roy Simon cheered and smiled as he held out a black bag full of candy canes for children at Steamboat Resort on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

A California resident visiting Steamboat Springs for the holidays, Simon came to the resort dressed up as Santa Claus and passed out peppermint candies to skiers, riders and visitors exploring the base area.

“Everyone is so happy when they see Santa Claus,” Simon said. “It just makes you feel good to spread the Christmas joy.”

Simon used to work at a rest home and dressed up as Santa Claus for the residents every Christmas. Though he no longer works at the home, Simon wanted to carry the tradition on in Steamboat and help spread holiday cheer.

“It was touching doing so, so I’m doing it again for the kids,” Simon said.

Thousands of visitors flew in from around the country to visit Steamboat over the holidays, and more are on the way. Yampa Valley Regional Airport Manager Kevin Booth said the year is expected to end with about 154,000 passengers flying into Routt County, a higher number than previous years have brought to the valley.

The Steamboat Chamber also released data last week showing the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is nearing 90% occupancy some days, and Dec. 30 is expected to be the busiest day lodgingwise.

Because Steamboat saw a late start to its winter season, and Christmas week brought the second significant snowstorm of the season, several visitors at the resort said they made their holiday plans later in the year, as they waited to see which resorts would receive the most snow.

According to Steamboat Resort’s website, the mountain has 33 inches of snow at its base, with 19 more inches forecast to arrive by Wednesday.

Joel Gratz, founding meteorologist at OpenSnow, wrote in a Sunday, Dec. 26, post that a series of storms passing through Colorado favored central and southern mountains in the state, though Steamboat still benefited, despite its place in the northern Rockies.

The new snow in Steamboat paid off, too. Roxy Brown and Paul Elbert, a couple visiting from Boulder, quickly chose the city as their Christmas destination before the holidays, as they saw Steamboat was receiving more snow than resorts closer to the Front Range.

“We haven’t been able to travel much because of COVID and all of that, so we wanted to do something a little special and fun,” Elbert said. “Since we haven’t gotten any snow on the Front Range, we thought we’d come here.”

Elbert and Brown got engaged in 2000 while visiting Steamboat, so the ski area and city hold a special place in their hearts.

As she removed her skis and unbuckled her ski boots in the Meadows parking lot Christmas Day, Brown remembered skiing down Flying Z when Elbert pretended to fall. She skied by and went to help him up when Elbert got on one knee, reached for a box inside the pocket of his snow pants and proposed to Brown.

Decades later, the two are thrilled to return to the resort with their three children and remember the spots that brought their family together.

Chris Draper and James Ward, who flew into the Yampa Valley from the United Kingdom, have been coming to Steamboat Resort for decades because of its trademarked “Champagne Powder” — the resort’s famous light, fluffy snow.

“Sometimes, coming at this time of year to European resorts doesn’t go quite as well, and you don’t always get great snow,” Ward said. “You’re not guaranteed good conditions this time of year, so that’s good for us.”

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