Those who have visited a certain town in northern Colorado know of the magical curse, the one which brings people back again and again, like a moth to a flame. It’s an unmistakable urge to visit this land cherished by so many: Steamboat Springs. Located in the Yampa Valley, with the Yampa River snaking past the town, the community has plenty for anyone at all times of the year.
Full disclosure, I spent many summers of my childhood in Steamboat. I witnessed the base of the ski area before huge hotels swallowed the small businesses to the north. I learned to ski on slopes covered with Champagne
Powder. I’ve attended rodeos, an unforgettable Independence Day parade and time on a ranch. Yet despite the vast growth in the area, the mountaintop and the quaint downtown remain relatively unchanged. FM Light, Old Town Pub, and the community swimming pool – usable year-round – are still part of the downtown experience with Mount Werner looming high in the background.
While many know Steamboat as a ski area, the summers are blessed with perfect weather, no humidity, and no mosquitoes.
Throughout the summertime, biking, hiking and wildlife watching are all incredibly popular. Enjoy free summer concerts, sitting on the mountain side as the sky turns to purple. Watch the rodeo every Friday and Saturday night at the base of Howelsen Hill, one of the most popular spots for ski jumping in the winter months. Or bike down the same mountain slopes that serve as ski runs the other half of the year.
When the snow falls, skiing isn’t the only recreation in the area. Snowshoeing is excellent in nearby Rabbit Ears Pass or Steamboat Lake, or for something closer to downtown try trails at Howelsen Hill. That’s also the spot of an outdoor skating rink. Biking isn’t only a summertime sport, with fat-tire snow bike rentals available at the base of the hill or downtown. Appreciate the freeing sensation of biking through powder on the many groomed trails in the area. Soak tired muscles in hot springs, either downtown at the Old Town Hot Springs or at Strawberry Park Hot Springs in the midst of Colorado’s mountain beauty.
Food for Thought
Dining is exceptional in Steamboat. Our visits tend to repeat the same locations over and over (why fix something that isn’t broken?) but there are loads of other well-recognized spots. Winona’s has an amazing breakfast and brunch with its tables overlooking downtown passerby. Truffle Pig is excellent for apres-ski drinks and appetizers, but their meals are also incredible. While a bit on the pricey end, take advantage of their happy hour specials. Mazzola’s Italian Restaurant is incredible Italian cooking, also located downtown. And Café Diva is right at the base with an exceptional dining experience, from service to taste buds.
For those skiing, most meals on the mountain aren’t anything special. Yet Stoker Bar and Grill at the top of the gondola boasts amazing views and great food. Considering the price of food at Thunderhead downstairs, it’s worth the slightly higher price tag.
A visit to Steamboat may be a one-time visit. But for most who experience the small-town charm and the Champagne Powder, the Yampa Valley Curse takes hold and once is just not quite enough.
An OLYMPIC-SIZED FOOTNOTE
Steamboat, aka Ski Town USA®, has more winter Olympians connected to the community than any other town in America. For the 2022 winter games, the community is sending 13 Olympians, with 9 representing the U.S. and the others representing Austria, Czechoslovakia and the Russian Olympic Committee. That brings the total to 100 athletes from Steamboat over the decades, an impressive count for certain.