A Few Days In

A Champagne-Powder Perfect Weekend in Steamboat Springs

by California Chaney
Night Steamboat Springs is one of the few resorts in the U.S. to offer night skiing. Photo courtesy of Steamboat Springs Resort.

Long runs floating through Champagne powder, soothing soaks in natural hot springs, and adventures among snow-capped peaks — this is how to spend the perfect winter weekend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO — At several ski resorts across the U.S., the sport of skiing has taken a backseat to the glitzy, Champagne-fueled après-ski scene. Some travelers admit to never slipping on the ski boots during a winter trip, prioritizing the off-piste party scene instead. This is not the case at Steamboat Springs Resort. Tucked in the upper valley of the Yampa River, just west of the Continental Divide, this is a place that savors and honors the long-standing traditions of American skiing. The original wild-west ski town, nicknamed Ski Town USA, is the site of the oldest continuously operating ski area (it was founded as Howelsen Hill in 1915 by ski jumper and OG Olympic team member, Carl Howelsen). Over 100 winter sport Olympians have taken their first turns on this mountain with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, the oldest ski training club west of the Mississippi. And we can't forget about its iconic trademark: Champagne Powder, the dry, low-moisture snow that tickles like bubbly as it grazes your face.

On this mountain, winter sports are not only celebrated, but integrated throughout the charming high-elevation town. There are several historic traditions, including the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival, wherein the entire town is taken over by racing, ski jumping, and a parade by the local high-school band skiing on the main street while balancing their trombones. Every January, the four-decade Cowboy Downhill takes place, created by local Olympian Billy Kidd and six-time world champion cowboy Larry Mahan, with pro rodeo riders racing downhill on skis as the entire town cheers from the base. The Winter WonderGrass Festival kicks off spring skiing in March with a lineup of bluegrass bands and Colorado microbreweries at the resort's new stage at the base of the mountain.

Beginning this winter, Steamboat Resort will officially become the second-largest resort among Colorado's 30 ski destinations thanks to the addition of 650 acres of advanced and expert terrain (Mahogany Ridge, Fish Creek Canyon) joining the resort's already sprawling 170 runs across 3,000 acres. Also debuting this winter is Wild Blue Gondola, North America’s longest and fastest ten-person sky rider that travels from the base to the top of Sunshine Peak (a total of three miles) in just 13 minutes. This is especially exciting for Ikon Pass holders, as they receive three complimentary first tracks tickets to be the first on the mountain, lapping the high-speed gondola before the rest of the crowd arrives. Skiers and snowboarders receive unlimited access to Steamboat with the Ikon Pass (and up to five days with the Ikon Base Pass). The pass also grants travelers discounts on lodging, free night skiing, dining, and shopping. You can compare the passes here. The resort has become increasingly convenient for travelers with nonstop flights from sixteen major cities to the local Yampa Valley Regional Airport, a 30-minute drive from the resort.

The time is now to tune your skis, secure your helmet, and get out there. Ahead, how to spend the perfect winter weekend in Steamboat.

Aerial of Steamboat Springs. Photo courtesy of Steamboat Ski Resort.

Friday: Explore the Town and Ski Under the Moonlight

If you arrive in the afternoon and think you've missed your chance on the slopes once the sun goes down, think again. Steamboat is one of the only ski resorts in the U.S. to offer night skiing. From 5:30-8:30 p.m., Thursday to Sunday, you can watch dusk fall on the mountains from the Christie Peak Express high-speed chairlift and float through the trees guided by the moonlight across five trails including Sitz, See Me, Vogue, Stampede, and Lil’ Rodeo. If you'd rather save your skiing for daybreak, cruise the charming town, making a pitstop at F.M. Light and Sons, a five-generation family owned store that's been outfitting cowboys with Stetson hats, Dan Post Boots, and turquoise jewelry since 1905. Steamboat Art Museum is also a great showcase of art and culture around Northwest Colorado and is located in a former 1905 bank building. It's fun to fuel-up on European-style charcuterie boards at Laura the Butcher's MeatBar or cozy snow-day classics like buttermilk-fried chicken, jalapeño grits, and a great burger at Yampa Valley Kitchen.

Gliding through Champagne powder. Photo courtesy of Steamboat Resort.
Photo courtesy of Bésame.

Saturday: First Tracks to Last Tracks

There's nothing like the first early morning ski day, and Steamboat's new Greenhorn Ranch is not your average bunny hill. The 14-acre state-of-the-art terrain park is located mid-mountain with a gentle obstacle course designed by ski pros to teach skiers and boarders how to use their edges and gain confidence turning across the snow. For advanced skiers, Morningside Park is an expansive bowl-like zone accessible from the top of Sunshine Peak or Storm Peak lifts with forgiving tree skiing and challenging steeps on the backside of Mount Werner.

On Steamboat, the euphoric last run of the day is a slow and gentle ride down to TBar , a self-proclaimed "five-star dive bar" in a former ski patrol building off the Right-o-Way run near the base. Frosty Colorado brews are served alongside street-style tacos, flatbreads, and peanut butter paninis loaded with bacon. Every Saturday in March, the newly redesigned ski plaza hosts free concerts with music ranging from brass to country.

Once the ski boots come off, head to Bésame, a low-lit local favorite serving hot and cold tapas, paella, warm curries, and "tequila after dark" cocktails infused with chocolate. After dinner, if you want to shake your sore legs, head to Schmiggity’s, a downtown club with nightly live music, comedy, two-step dance lessons, and karaoke.

Post-skiing soak at Strawberry Springs. Photo by California Chaney.

Sunday: Take it Easy with Brunch and a Soak

Walk off your high-altitude hangover (remember one drink equals two at elevation) with a brisk morning walk along the Yampa River Core Trail, which winds for 7.5 miles along the river through town. Suit up and take a few laps along the Sunshine Express lift before brunch at Ragnar's, named after Norwegian Olympian Ski Jumper Ragnar Omtvedt (he set a world record of 192.5 feet in 1916 on Howelsen Hill). The cozy eatery serves Scandi-style seafood chowder and Swedish meatballs with lingonberry. Spend the afternoon poking through the forgiving tree skiing on Closets and Shadows runs while taking in the sprawling valley vistas.

If you'd rather give your ski legs a break, lean into the western lifestyle with a picturesque snowy horseback ride through the high Rocky Mountains at Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch. No trip to Steamboat is complete without a soak at Strawberry Park Hot Springs, a 40-minute drive from downtown Steamboat. Reservations are required for the steamy oasis open until 10 p.m. and midnight on Friday and Saturday nights (clothing is optional after dark). They also offer massages and aquatic therapy for extra sore muscles. -

Where to Stay

Gravity Haus
In 2022, the hip Colorado-based social club with a stay-to-play atmosphere set up camp slope-side at the Thunderhead gondola, catering to young couples and groups of friends who want easy access to the slopes with a social place to hang after skiing. This winter, the hotel is opening a new restaurant, White Rabbit tavern, sourcing local ingredients from Steamboat farmers and ranchers. Guests can also join the Gravity Haus membership that offers hotel discounts on its locations, fitness classes, gear rentals, co-working space, and community events.

Steamboat Grand
Perfect for families and large groups, the 328-room hotel offers spacious condos and penthouse suites, a spa, health club, restaurant, bar, and convenient grab-and-go coffee and snacks for skiing.The resort offers a direct mountain shuttle that runs every 20 minutes.

How to Get There

Steamboat Springs is a three-hour drive from Denver International Airport or a 30-minute drive from the local Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

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