I’m a Floridian through and through. I grew up running through sand in the winter, not snow. I made sandcastles, not snow angels. So planning a trip to Colorado at the beginning of March was totally out of my comfort zone. Luckily, my Canadian in-laws knew what they wanted and decided on Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs is about a 3.5-hour drive from Denver, but the most convenient flight is into Yampa Valley Regional Airport. It’s only about a 35-minute drive from downtown. Home to nearly 3,000 skiable acres, 165 trails, and “champagne powder” (smoother, dryer snow), it’s no wonder beginners and experts are drawn to this little slice of heaven. Steamboat Springs has produced an impressive 89 Olympians. I felt confident with our destination decision.
Originally, I had dreams of sliding down the slopes in style on a snowboard, everyone encouraged me to ski instead. Holy cow. I’m so happy they did. Picking up our rental skis was intimidating to me. Clicking in my ski boot and trying to glide on these things was so foreign to my body. After my first ride down the bunny slope, I was shaking. But lucky for me, Steamboat Springs was the perfect spot for a first-time skier like myself.
For our 5 day trip, we planned to ski for 3 of those days. Once there, we added on an extra day of skiing because I loved it that much! So that, alone, should tell you a lot about Steamboat Springs.
Ok, I know Steamboat Springs isn’t the only ski resort with private lessons, but they did have an incredibly friendly staff. Everyone we passed was eager to help, had a smile on their face, and genuinely loved what they were doing. Immediately, I was put at ease.
I haven’t been on a mountain covered with fresh snow in nearly two decades and I’ve never had ski boots on in my life. As we started researching options for this Florida girl to learn to ski, they had plenty of classes to choose from. We ultimately booked a private night lesson and I’m so happy we did! Our instructor, Kim, was kind, relaxed, patient, and great at building my confidence. For 2 hours, she went step by step for every little ski movement. Marc-André picked up on it right away which gave me even more one-on-one time with her. I wasn’t a pro in just one lesson, but she gave me all of the basics I needed to get myself down the slopes for the rest of the trip.
As a first-time skier, the last thing you really want to feel is out of place or in someone’s way.
Like the ski resort staff, the Steamboat Springs locals and tourists were kind and outgoing. We rented our ski equipment from Powder Pursuits and the guys made me feel comfortable, even as a first-timer. People in Ski Town, USA are genuinely happy and it rubs off on others. I found myself just smiling at random people, talking to strangers like we were best friends, and getting a pep-talk from the pro on the lift with me.
While we were in town, there was a free concert series hosted by Bud Light. One of our favorite artists, Donavon Frankenreiter, performed onstage at the bottom of the slopes and it was the best way to wrap up a day on the mountain! I had planned on getting there extra early to battle the crowds and make it to the front, but we showed up kinda last minute. Instead of pushing and shoving, everyone was laid-back, sipping on beers, and dancing to the music. It was the perfect metaphor for this town and set the tone for the entire vacation.
I remember showing my father-in-law some AirBnB options “just a 15-minute shuttle ride from the slopes”. He raved on about how he wanted a “ski-in-ski-out” condo. And once we got there, I totally understood. We walked to the base of the mountain from our condo in less than 5 minutes. At the end of the day, we could ski right up to the street, snap off our skis, and walk to the condo in less than 2 minutes! That is the way to go. Steamboat Springs had tons of options for tourists to stay within walking distance and we absolutely loved the condo we rented.
Gondola Square is at the base of the mountain and is an amazing spot filled with restaurants, shops, bars, and more. Whether you’re looking for a beer at happy hour, a delicious dining option, or some new ski gear, it’s all here. View included.
Beginner Slopes & Beyond
What did my brother choose to do when he found out how terrified I was to ski? He started playing every ski “fail” YouTube video he could find. Many of them were t-bar fails (I didn’t even know what a t-bar was), but nonetheless, I was terrified just standing at the bottom of the slope. Luckily, the ski lift wasn’t a rollercoaster, like I had imagined. Instead, it was one of the most peaceful moments of our skiing adventure.
On top of that, Steamboat Springs delivers plenty of beginner options. From Christie Peak lift on the lower mountain (where I first got comfortable on my skis) to Why Not that runs just over 3 miles down the mountain, I had several awesome options to choose from. I finally got really comfortable in my skis and loved every minute going down the slopes!
While I was making it down the greens, Steamboat also has some amazing blue and black diamond runs that were perfect for my in-laws and husband. (And I may or may not have been tricked onto a blue slope my first full day on the mountain).
Things To Do Off The Slopes
This could be a separate post all on its own. The abundance of options of things to do off the mountain was so appealing to me when we booked this trip. What if I didn’t like skiing? I didn’t want to be pessimistic, but I wanted to be prepared. You know, just in case I spent more time sliding down the mountain on my butt instead of my skis. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. We actually spent almost double the amount of time I had planned for on the slopes. I also found myself wishing we had double our vacation time in Steamboat Springs so we could do a little of everything.
We had planned on going to Strawberry Park Hot Springs, but we weren’t prepared. Epic. Travel. Blogger. Fail. I didn’t do my planning like I normally do and missed the little fact that you need a 4-wheel drive car to make it to Strawberry Park in the winter. Embarrassing, I know. We, obliviously, took our little VW Passat almost all the way to the springs before deciding to turn back. That’s when we found out that not only were we illegal on that road, but we could’ve paid for a shuttle to take us. Honestly, the shuttle is way over-priced and we were short on time because we were squeezing this in between dog sledding and our night-skiing plans, so we headed to Oldtown Hot Springs in the center of town. All I can say is, meh. Don’t make the same mistake as me. Completely plan out your trip to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Oldtown was really disappointing compared to the hype of Strawberry Park.
If you follow me on Instagram, or you saw my last post on Steamboat Springs, then you know this was an incredible bucket-list experience. I would recommend dog sledding to every single person visiting Steamboat Springs. I don’t care if you’re only there for one weekend. Carve out 4 hours of your day to experience the excitement of guiding your own team of Alaskan Huskies through the mountains.
Downtown Steamboat Springs
With a population of fewer than 14,000 people, I didn’t know what to expect downtown, but it was so charming! Boutiques, cafes, tourist stores, restaurants, and more lined Main Street. Mountains and ski slopes surround the downtown area allowing you to feel wrapped up in a snowglobe.
More To Do:
- Snow Tubing
- Snow Shoeing
- Sleigh Rides
- Ice Fishing
- Ice Climbing
- Horseback Riding
- Nordic Skiing
I have a list of local-approved spots for each activity! Shoot me an email if you’re planning your Steamboat Springs trip and want the full list of recommendations >> firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like most vacations, my biggest complaint was that it was too short. Steamboat Springs, Colorado, offered me everything I was looking for as a first-time skier. Embracing their lifestyle made this active trip one of the most relaxing ones I’ve ever been on. I felt comfortable on and off the mountain and loved creating memories in a place that I know I’ll be back to visit.
The Weekend Fox Tips:
- The weekends, as expected, are busy. The group classes were packed on Saturday morning and we had to wait 20-30 minutes to get on the gondola. I highly suggest a private night-time lesson for beginners.
- Ski for free the evening you arrive in Steamboat by just presenting your plane ticket from Hayden!
- Book your lift tickets/class at least one week in advance for discounts!
- Ski lift tickets and rentals can be expensive. Find out if your condo rental offers a discount through one of the local shops. I also borrowed plenty of warm-weather gear from friends.
- Steamboat offers half-day lift tickets. Night skiing is also cheaper, but much more limited.
- Have fun! You don’t have to turn pro overnight and the moment I stopped stressing about doing well, I did great.
My hubby pulled together a little video with our ski trip highlights. You’re allowed to laugh at my skills. 😉 Enjoy!
Where is your favorite place to ski or where would you love to go?!