While the rest of the country is in a panic over the snow, here in Colorado we are doing backflips. One Colorado resort in particular, Steamboat Springs Ski Area, saw 17 inches in less than 24 hours and surpassed the 200-inch mark two months earlier than last year!
Spend a weekend in Steamboat Springs and you’ll realize that the easy 3-hour drive from Denver is much closer than we Denver-ites think. The trademarked “champagne snow” and true western heritage have made Steamboat a hot spot for vacationers from all over the world. Coloradans love the dry snow and because Steamboat is less crowded than many other resorts, visitors experience shorter lift lines and more mountain time.
This not-so-sleepy little town is buzzing with plenty to keep a family busy. The Kids Ski Free program is only one of the many reasons Steamboat has appeared on a number of best family friendly resort lists.
Kids On The Mountain
We brought our daughter Katherine (5) to the newly expanded Kids Vacation Center (KVC), where we were greeted by two smiley young folk who labeled every last thread of clothing on the child with her name.
We were pointed towards one of what seemed like a dozen desks where we checked her in for her ski lesson with the Sundance Kids and got a big thumbs up from Kat as she bounced towards a room full of kids playing.
KVC opens for check-in at 8:00 am with lessons beginning at 9:00 am, depending on the time of year and how busy the center is. You’ll want to be sure to get there in plenty of time (no later than 8:30) to make sure your kidlet is comfortable and ready to roll. Lunch is included in the cost of lessons, and if you reserve more than 7 days in advance you’ll benefit from a $13 savings.
The Rough Riders (1st grade to age 15) meet outside at 9:30 and head straight up the mountain as soon as everyone arrives so don’t be late! Both boys were met by friendly instructors who asked them questions about their skill levels. Each child is given a Flaik GPS tracking device with an individual number on it. The Rough Riders wear the device around the leg right below the knee, Katherine wore hers inside a pocket at the back of her ski school vest. Be sure to take note of your child’s number and you’ll be able to visit Flaik.com at the end of the day to see where your child skied, how fast, and at what elevation.
The system (Mountain Watch Technology) actually communicates with the ski school and has different levels of alerts so that if a child takes a different turn, slows down, or somehow gets separated from the group the instructor or ski patrol is notified by radio. I have to say that I was impressed from a geek gadget standpoint but the mom in me breathed a sigh of relieve knowing that my kids were being well taken care of on an unfamiliar mountain.
By all standards the day was a success. Kat was making parallel turns consistently by the end of the day and Will seemed to walk a bit taller as he proudly described his day riding through the terrain parks with the older kids. I was able to download the Flaik GPS and see that Henry’s class had skied more of the mountain than I could possibly hope to do in a full day! The biggest clue to how much fun they’d had? They were all pooped!
Play Time For The Big Kids
Steamboat is actually a complete mountain range: Mount Werner, Sunshine Peak, Storm Peak, Thunderhead Peak, Pioneer Ridge and Christie Peak. Loryn from Steamboat Springs Ski & Resort was kind enough to be our guide for the morning. With almost 3,000 acres of accessible terrain, I was relieved to hear we’d be starting in a friendly area the locals call “Wally World”. This area encompasses the Sunshine and Sundown Bowls, a nice mix of trail levels with access to a number of different lifts that seem to take you any direction you could possibly want to go. There are actually 5 lifts in this area, 3 in Sundown Bowl and 2 in Sunshine Bowl. My favorite run of the day? Two O’clock! It’s a blue/black trail with a decent pitch and on Saturday it was wide open and pure heavenly fresh powder–a perfect snowboard run!
If you are skiing “Wally World” you’ll have plenty of dining options at the top of the Gondola in the Thunderhead Peak building.
For the best views of Yampa Valley, visit Hazie’s and ask to be seated upstairs. Even on an uncharacteristically gray day the view was fantastic.
The lunch menu at Hazie’s offers a nice selection of entrees, burgers, sandwiches and salads. For a quick bite order the soup and salad bar ($15). The Ahi Shooters are a fun and unique appetizer ($14). Because I love burgers, I could not resist ordering the Grilled Kobe Burger, served with Maytag bleu cheese and buttermilk fried onions on a Ciabatta roll. The burger was perfectly cooked to medium rare and the blend of blue cheese and onion was delicious. The perfect meal to fuel me down the hill in time to pick up the kids!
Hazie’s serves lunch from 11:30 am-2:30 pm and offers a set menu dining experience Fri-Sun and holidays. Call for reservations 970-871-5150.
Family Western BBQ
The Western BBQ at the top of Thunderhead is one of those
“not to be missed” experiences if you are traveling with family. Ride the gondola up and enjoy a buffet of traditional western-style foods like slow roasted ribs, chicken, beans, prime rib, and turkey. Local Country-Western band, Sun Dog, plays from 7:00 pm ’til 10:00 pm. Their “schtick” is clearly geared toward making sure the kids have fun and the adults have plenty to laugh about. They’ll teach you the two-step and the Electric Slide and your kids will get a good giggle at Mom and Dad tripping over each other s feet. I captured plenty of fun video footage of my cowboys and girls dancing the night away. Henry was on fire and didn’t want to leave when it was time to go!
Reservations are required. Call 970-871-5162.
Whether you choose to stay in a condominium, studio, or traditional hotel room,
there are plenty of places to choose from in all price ranges. For the true ski in ski out experience Bear Claw Condominiums do not disappoint. Located slope-side just below Christie Peak Express, we were able to walk right out the door and into our skis. At the end of the day be sure to pop into the Bear Claw Lounge, located on the second floor. Complimentary appetizers are served each day at 4:30 pm and guests are invited to enjoy complimentary cocktails on Mondays from 5:00-6:00 pm.
Each unit, from a one bedroom to a four bedroom loft, is uniquely furnished with a fully equipped kitchen, a gas fireplace and all of the amenities you would expect from a premier condo. Our four bedroom loft was spacious and comfortable. The kids ran through the rooms deciding where everyone would sleep. With a family of five, one of us is usually stuck on a couch, but not this weekend. John and I shared the king-sized bed in the master bedroom and the kids split themselves between the bunk bed in the loft and the other bedroom. We were in heaven with our own little retreat downstairs!
Downtown Steamboat Springs
Downtown Steamboat Springs is surprisingly lively for a ski town.
There’s plenty of history mixed in with the many choices for modern dining and shopping.
Step into the old west with a visit to FM Light & Son’s. You’ll be familiar with the name because you’ll see signs every 500 yards or so for the last 50 miles of the trip into town! They had the biggest selection of cowboy boots and hats I’ve ever seen in my life.
8th Street Steak House – If you like your meat cooked your way, this is the spot. You’ll pick out your own meat and cook it too! They even have little buckaroo saddles for the kids to sit in while they cook their steak.
Our trip would not have been complete without a visit to the Old Town Hot Springs.
I say this because aside from soaking in the heavenly warm pools my son was able to convince me to ride one of the 250-foot slides several times. I provided the evening s entertainment by screaming my way down every foot of the slide–several times. It was very fast but definitely fun and gave the family much ammunition with which to tease me for the remainder of the trip! The slide is open from 4:00-8:00 pm in the winter. The pools are beautiful at night and the perfect place to soak your legs after a good day on the hill.
Packages and Specials
We were so enamored by the snow that we’ve been looking at the possibility of returning before the end of this season. If you’re looking for a real bargain take a look at the late season Ski Free Package, valid 4/1/11 – 4/10/11. We love spring skiing and rates as low as $119 per adult for 3 nights lodging and a 2-day lift ticket are looking very attractive right now. Visit Steamboat.com for the most up-to-date deals.
157 miles Northwest of Denver, an easy 3-hour drive. Take I-70 west through the Eisenhower Tunnel to Silverthorne, Exit 205 (67 miles). Take CO 9 North to Kremmling (37 miles), then West on US 40 to Steamboat Springs (53 miles).
Guest blogger Fiona Bryan lives in central Denver with her three active children and college-sweetheart husband, John. She is the founder of MomActive.com, a multi-media outreach that strives to motivate and empower women to be positive role models for their families. She can be found on twitter @banteringblonde and blogs about all things banter-worthy at BanteringBlonde.com.