Steamboat Springs is best known for its trademarked “champagne powder,” epic singletrack, sprawling ranches and numerous Olympians. These are only a fraction of what makes this town, nestled in the upper reaches of the Yampa River Valley, an awesome spot. This winter, head to the resort for a few days on its legendary slopes. When you’ve had your fill, or when you want a little variety, use this guide to explore a few of Steamboat’s oft overlooked gems.
Don’t let winter stop you in your tracks; “Bike Town USA” certainly doesn’t. A few years ago, nordic ski trails at Lake Catamount and Howelsen Hill opened to fat tire bikes, so you can spend a day exploring miles of Steamboat’s infamous singletrack while it’s covered in snow. Catamount Nordic Center (catamountranchclub.com) offers plenty of rolling terrain and vast open views of Pleasant Valley, Mount Baldy and the Lake. Howelsen Hill (tinyurl.com/howelsenhill) is located right in town and provides 14 miles of more physically and technically challenging trails.
If you want to give biking in the snow a first try, buy a day pass and rent a ride from Howelsen Hill or the Lake Catamount Touring Center, or stop by one of the many shops in town that also rent and sell fat bikes. Our personal favorite is Orange Peel (orangepeelbikes.com). This is a one-stop shop for all your biking maintenance, equipment and
Shoe It In
Just four miles from town, a winter wonderland boasting a 280-foot waterfall awaits. With a quartermile snowshoe, you can see the frozen, plunging cascade in all its glory. If you’re more ambitious,cross the footbridge over the creek and follow the steep trail up the far hillside. Go as far as you like or carry on for five miles toward Long Lake, catching a glimpse of the upper falls on the way. For an up-close look at the falls, give ice climbing a shot. Rocky Mountain Ventures offers half- and full-day excursions (rmclimbing.com).
Sweat It Out
Steamboat is a veritable paradise for Nordic skiers and snowshoers. The well-kept trails, varied terrain, lower elevations of the Yampa Valley, and loads of fluffy snow that fall each year combine to create a world-class destination for cross-country pursuits.
With four Nordic centers and wide swaths of national forest located a half-hour from town or less, homemade bread and baked goods. Located just a few miles from town, the Steamboat Ski Touring Center (steamboatnordiccenter.com) offers 10 km of stunningly scenic, groomed trails for snowshoeing and skiing. Wind through the forest or follow Fish Creek on your own or as part of a lesson or backcountry ski tour. Make a day of it and enjoy lunch at the Picnic Basket, a charming cafe that pumps out soothing and hearty soups and homemade bread and baked goods.
Approximately 13 miles southeast of Steamboat on US 40, 9,426-foot Rabbit Ear’s Pass (fs.usda.gov/main/mbr) boasts easy access, copious and early snowfall, and a variety of trails cruising through easy to expert terrain. Plus, since the west side of the pass is reserved solely for non-motorized recreation, you’ll find peace and solitude. Early season, we highly recommend Bruce’s Trail, a machine-groomed 3.1 mile trail consisting of an upper, easier loop and a lower, more moderate loop. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, link up West Summit Loops A & B for a difficult 5.4- mile loop.
If you’re looking for a more secluded, pristine winter backcountry experience head 27 miles north of town to Steamboat Lake State Park (cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/SteamboatLake). You’ll be rewarded with unfettered views of Hahn’s Peak and a network of well-marked snowshoe routes and groomed ski trails. Don’t miss the 1.5 mile snowshoe trail that begins at the Visitor Center and offers incredible views of the area as it snakes through a tranquil lodge pole pine forest.
Choose one of the luxury vacation homes from Moving Mountains Chalets (movingmountainschalets.com). Or take it a step further by going with the Luxury Chalet Catered experience and you’ll have a private gourmet chef whipping up breakfast and dinner every day. You can do more than just soak at Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Camp in private riverside sites or spend the night in a unique rustic cabin. Choose from an old train caboose (our favorite, but it’s not always easy to book), a covered wagon or more traditional lodging structures.
World-famous cinnamon rolls the size of your head, eggs benedict done 100 delectable ways, giant omelets coupled with crispy potatoes and cookies to die for; what isn’t there to like about Winona’s (winonassteamboat. com), Steamboat’s breakfast institution? Our only complaint is that they’re not open for dinner. Or hit the Backcountry Delicatessen (backcountry-deli.com) for breakfast or lunch and prepare to be amazed. They’ve reinvented lunch by providing unique, tasty concoctions on delicious, fresh-baked bread.