By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Steamboat, which opens on November 27, will offer night skiing for the first time this season, complete with several illuminated features in the Lil' Rodeo terrain park.
Splurge: "On the mountain, check out the six-course dining experience at the new Four Points Lodge, and on a powder day, you can pay extra for the First Tracks deal, which gets you on the gondola early," Noble says. "In that half-hour, you might get a couple of the best runs of your life." For high-end lodging, Noble suggests the Steamboat Grand, Ptarmigan Inn or Christie Club. And for the ultimate Steamboat splurge, plan ahead and book a snowcat trip with Steamboat Powdercats. "Every year I help them with a Wounded Warriors program they do, and it's a top-notch operation. We like to take our staff on a Powdercats trip on Super Bowl Sunday, and it's always one of the highlights of the year. They always know where to go to find the snow."
Ski bum tips: "People are always going to mention the hot springs, and I'd make that part of your day, for sure, because it's part of what makes Steamboat special," Noble says, recommending both the famous Strawberry Hot Springs outside of town ($10, visit StrawberryHotSprings.com for more information and to book a massage) and the Old Town Hot Springs ($16, SSHRA.org). If you're coming before Christmas, save on lift tickets with the $129 Boat Launch 3-Day Early Season Pass, good from Thanksgiving through December 21. "For lodging, you'll find your best bets in town," Noble says. "You can't go wrong with the Rabbit Ears Motel, which is right across the street from the hot springs, has free breakfast, and is definitely the most affordable place in town," Noble says. "I'd also recommend the Alpiner Lodge, right across the street from us, and the Nordic Lodge."
Drink locally: "If you're up on the mountain, I would recommend the T-Bar at the base area, a great locals' hangout with really good food and drinks," Noble says. "Then come see us here at 435 Lincoln Avenue for happy hour, dinner, or our late-night happy hour. In addition to the seven beers always on our menu, this season we'll be doing a Scottish ale and a barleywine that should both pair well with a day on the slopes." Overwhelmed by all the drink choices? Start with the tasting flight and try them all.
"The standard good practice around here is to enjoy a day of skiing at Sunlight, head over to the hot-springs pool for a soak, and then come here to the brewpub to finish it off," says Ken Jones, brewery manager at the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub inside the town's historic Hotel Denver. "That's the 1-2-3, as far as I'm concerned. And to really complete the picture, I'd suggest starting with a beer at the Wynkoop in Denver before hopping a train. That way you'll avoid I-70 traffic altogether, and when you pop out at the train station here, you can walk across the street and have another beer at our place."
Sunlight, which opens December 6, has a well-deserved reputation as a family-friendly ski area, but it's also home to some steep stuff. Be sure to head for the new gladed areas in the trees, where the ski area has been clearing out beetle-kill pine in partnership with local manufacturer Matt Cudmore, who turns the wood into planks for Meier Skis and Weston Snowboards.
Splurge: "The Pullman is a good spot to get a nice dinner, and there are any number of good restaurants downtown where you can get a pretty good steak," Jones says. "For lodging, a lot of people think of the Hotel Colorado, because it's the most iconic place in town, but I'd urge you take a close look here at the Hotel Denver, too. We run a free shuttle to the ski area, so you'll be all set. And, of course, don't miss the hot-springs pool. People love coming here in the summer, but I think it's best when it's cold and snowy outside. For me, it's that contrast that makes it special, and after a day on the slopes, your legs will thank you for it."
Ski bum tips: "If you're ski-bumming it, Sunlight's your place," Jones says. "It's not pretentious at all, unlike some of the other ski areas, and nobody here will care what you're wearing. Come mid-week to get unbelievable deals on lodging, and for a funky little locals' hangout with great food, try the 19th Street Diner. You'll find some colorful locals in there, for sure, as well as good eats and a decent draft selection."
Drink locally: On the mountain, Jones recommends the Last-Turn Lounge for a selection of Colorado beers on tap. Off the mountain, he likes his own place. "We've been open since '96, and we just won our twelfth medal at the Great American Beer Festival, taking silver for our Hanging Lake English Ale," he says. Also try the St. James Irish Red Ale, a 2012 GABF gold-medalist, and repeat prize winners like the Storm King Dunkel Lager. "We also make some great winter seasonals, and this year we're going to make our Sopris Strong Ale, Carbonator Doppelbock, South Canyon Imperial Red, and Deep Lake Scotch Ale."