Steamboat Springs On and Off the Slopes
We went to Steamboat Springs to visit friends for Thanksgiving. It was a quick trip over a holiday with no skiing in our forecast. But then we arrived to several inches of the fresh “champagne” powder snow. We promptly signed Tiny Traveler up for a ski lesson, seeing as she was the only one who packed ski pants. Meanwhile, we also looked around to see what we could do outdoors in this unexpected winter wonderland. (Read more about Steamboat Springs Ski Resort.)
Here’s what we suggest for winter fun in Steamboat Springs with kids.
Steamboat Springs For Skiers
Steamboat is known for its excellent skiing and didn’t disappoint. The instructors at the Steamboat ski school* were seasoned adults, not teenagers. They were unfailingly friendly and did a good job of putting the kids as ease and grouping them by age and ability. The slopes, much longer than what TT is used to, intimidated her at first. But if she’d had a second day I think she would have had a blast on the longer green runs.
They only offer full-day lessons ($169). If you also have an adult skiing, the kids’ lift tickets are free. The sun is bright, so be sure to bring sunscreen and goggles or sunglasses for everyone. And dress in layers you can unzip when the slopes warm up.
Tip: Even on a slow day buying tickets, setting up a lesson and arranging rentals took a good hour. If you aren’t able to make all your arrangements the day before you ski, leave plenty of time before your lessons start.
Steamboat Springs For Non-Skiers
Steamboat Springs is primarily a ski town. But after donning good boots and warm clothes we found other ways to get outside and enjoy the mountain air. A few ideas:
Take a Ride
Non-skiers can enjoy the mountain scenery while riding to the top of the ski mountain in the gondola. Our tickets ($22 for adults) came with a 10% discount at the mountain lodge. The food is standard ski cafeteria fare. But the bar has a great view and large glass jars filled with colorful layers of pickled olives, tomatoes and peppers for bloody Marys. We couldn’t resist. While we waited for TT to finish up her ski lesson we had our impressively good cocktails with a view to match.
Swim in Winter
You can’t visit Steamboat without a dip in the hot springs. Old Town springs, right in town, is perfect for families. Admission ($16.50 for adults; $9.50 for kids) buys you access to several heated outdoor pools and whirlpools. There is a kiddie pool in summer. Slides and a water obstacle course called the Wibit are an additional fee when they’re open in summer.
Even without these extras kids love it here. It was snowing when we went and TT got a huge kick out of building snowmen and swimming at the same time.
Tip: Local people wore winter hats with their swimsuits to keep their heads warm.
Hike Near Town
The trails at Fiskcreek Falls, just four miles above the town, were shoveled and walkable despite a good foot of snow on the ground the day we visited. A 15-minute walk uphill gives you a good view of the valley. Head back to the parking lot and a 5-minute walk downhill (it’s longer coming back) takes you to a scenic bridge below the falls. The scenery was Frozenesque and the distances are manageable for kids five and up.
Learn About Colorado
The small Tread of the Pioneers Museum, located in a stately Victorian house in the center of town, pleasantly surprised us. Half the space is preserved as a 19th century Victorian Home. The other half has exhibits on pioneer life, Native Americans and local skiing. Highlights included a traveling candy salesman’s case (with the original candy!) and the equipment for special night skiers who cover themselves with lights. Ask for the scavenger-hunt at the front desk for kids; figuring out riddles and finding the items helped to pull TT into the exhibits.
Tip: Steamboat has a large, modern library. With a brightly decorated kids section and comfy armchairs throughout, it’s a good place to keep very small children warm and occupied.
Warm up in Town: Dining
Outdoor activity makes a family hungry. Several storeowners directed us to Carl’s Tavern, a busy sports bar at night, but a kid-friendly restaurant at lunchtime. Homemade chicken-pot pie, grilled cheese and onion rings were spot on. Locals also like Freshies for made-from scratch sandwiches, salads and egg dishes.
Mountain Brew, a tucked-away ramshackle coffee house, has excellent baked goods. The cupcake selection on the day we visited included chocolate-peanut butter and spice cake with a bourbon-vanilla icing. The fruit scones were crumbly and not too sweet.
Next time we visit Steamboat Springs we will absolutely be ready to ski, but we’re glad we got the chance to discover what the town offers families away from the slopes, too.
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*Steamboat provided us with a complimentary ski lesson. We paid for rentals, lift ticket and all our other activities. Our opinions are always our own.