No, this isn’t a riddle. Chances are you’ll find them in Steamboat Springs, an authentic western town in Colorado, where the Director of Skiing, 1964 Olympic medallist, Billy Kidd, hits the slopes wearing a Stetson and every January is joined by 100 of the best rodeo cowboys who compete in an annual downhill race….on skis. Yee Haw!
A snowy cattle drive in Colorado
People come to Steamboat not just for the skiing: it attracts tourists all year round with its huge range of activities, plentiful accommodation and a vibrant town near the ski resort itself. It has a local airport 25 miles away; Yampa Valley connects with many other US cities which makes the town easily accessible. One of North America’s top family resorts, Steamboat-Ski Town U.S.A.® is known for its friendliness but also its Olympic tradition. In its 102 year history the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has produced 88 Olympic athletes and provided a training programme to nearly 22,000 young people in the community.
|The slopes of Steamboat on a ‘busy’ day|
Arriving at Steamboat, the atmosphere was buzzing as it was the Winter Carnival weekend. The ski area is large: 6 peaks, 165 trails over 3000 skiable acres, lots of room to spread out and never a feeling of it being too busy. There is a huge choice of accommodation; hotels and condos hug the mountainside whilst numerous minibuses shuttle skiers in and out of town.
We stayed at the Steamboat Grand which though technically isn’t a ski-in ski-out hotel, is very nearly one, with just a single road to cross. The hotel provides its own excellent ski rental service plus the facility for storing your skis at the base of the mountain to save lugging them back and forth. The large, beautifully furnished rooms and apartments cater for every family combination with the outdoor pool and hot tubs a big bonus.
|A warm welcome at the Steamboat Grand|
What about the skiing? Steamboat’s snowsports school is exceptionally good: GPS tracking for children, a good number of easy runs and a mixture of group and private lessons with experienced instructors. Having learned the basics at Winter Park, we had a day honing our skills on the famous Champagne Powder® with the help of our patient and informative instructor, Adam. I loved the names of the runs: western-style Stampede, Tomahawk, Giggle Gulch and Chuckwagon plus the amusing randomness of See Me, Why Not and So What. Our favourite had to be Burgess Creek: an area of the mountain just for us, with our own chair lift too. They must have known we were coming.
Skiers and non-skiers alike can make the most of an impressive gondola which transports visitors high up to Thunderhead Lodge from where you can reach more of the mountain on skis or just have a delicious meal before coming down again. We took a break from our lesson to take the gondola up for lunch at Hazie’s, a smart waiter-service restaurant with the most breathtaking views of the mountains. As I clomped in with my awkward ski-boot gait, looking dishevelled with the all too familiar helmet hair, I vowed next time I would come without skis and eat there in style.
|View from Hazie’s restaurant, Steamboat|
Thankfully I looked a little better on our evening jaunt up to the very top of the mountain for an Italian feast. Guests are booked at set intervals to ride the gondola before hitching a ride in the warm cabin of a huge snowcat which makes light work of the steep incline. At Four Points Lodge we were greeted with a welcome glass of wine and treated to a sensational meal: antipasti, Tuscan bean soup, ravioli then a choice of mains including lamb shanks, veal and the biggest steak that just about fitted a dinner plate. Tiramisu, cocktails, liqueurs and coffee; this was fine dining indeed at nearly 3000m elevation.
And here’s me thinking I might be sitting round a campfire, in my chaps, eating beans…
|All aboard the snowcat for a mile high dinner|
In my next post I will tell you more about the Winter Carnival activities and why a dip in the hot springs at Strawberry Park is the perfect way to ease tired limbs.
Other posts about our trip to Colorado:
Flying high to Denver
Learning to ski at Winter Park
Where to eat in Winter Park
There’s more to Steamboat than skiing
This trip was organised for us by the resorts of Winter Park and Steamboat Springs. Accommodation, ski rental, lessons and lift passes were complimentary as were my flights and some meals. Dougie paid for his own flights.