Depending on how you look at things, we either got a lovely extended fall or were robbed of primo skiing due to unseasonably warm weather. If your thinking falls into the latter camp, you'll be glad to know that resorts are finally opening – and offering more than ever this year.
In this year's edition of Edge, our snow-activities guide to resorts in Colorado, we've told you about what’s new at every major ski area in the state, must-do experiences and insider tips. We’ve also done our own tireless research all over the state and reached out to some experts for suggestions on how to make the most of it all, whether you’re looking to drop some coin for something special or just trying to get by as a dirtbag ski bum like the rest of us. We'll roll those out at resorts open, like Steamboat Ski Resort, which opened Wednesday, November 23.
STEAMBOAT SKI RESORT
November 23 is opening day at Steamboat, and by longstanding tradition, it’s also Scholarship Day with discounted lift tickets benefiting the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Scholarship Fund. Improvements on the mountain include a new detachable high-speed quad Elkhead chairlift serving Steamboat’s popular Priest Creek and Sunshine zone; it replaces one of the last fixed-grip lifts at the ski area.
Don’t come all the way to Steamboat Springs only to skip the actual hot springs, nature’s perfect corrective after pounding powder. “Strawberry [Park] Hot Springs is famous worldwide, rustic, and the best way to recover from a day on the slopes,” says Steamboat spokeswoman Loryn Kasten. The road there can be tricky in winter, so call 970-879-4688 or visit thehotspringsshuttle.com to leave the driving to someone else. Step it up a notch by booking a poolside massage or Watsu aquatic therapy session at strawberryhotsprings.com. Old Town Hot Springs, at the edge of downtown Steamboat Springs, is also worth a soak.
Expand your winter-sports horizons with Grizzle-T Dog & Sled Works, where you’ll learn to drive your own team of Alaskan huskies and get a glorious view of the Yampa Valley. Tours are $175 per adult; call 970-870-1782 or visit steamboatdogsledding.com to book. You should also try Nordic skiing at Howelsen Hill, a small ski area operated by the city. And don’t miss quirky spectator-friendly events like the College Mascot Stampede (December 16-17), Cowboy Downhill (January 15-16) and the 104th annual Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival (February 8-12).
While you’ll find plenty of powder in-bounds at the resort, true snow chasers will also want to spend a day with the Steamboat Powdercats, a local operation offering full-day tours at $600 per person, as well as private tours, alpenglow sunset tours, and even full-moon night-skiing tours. Call 800-288-0543 or visit steamboatpowdercats.com to book.
Ski bum tips:
Stay at the Rabbit Ears Motel, and buy discounted tickets for Old Town Hot Springs, right across the street, when you check in. “It’s the best location in town, with the lowest price,” Kasten says. “Right downtown, on the bus line, walking distance to great bars and restaurants, plus rooms have lots of extra sleeping space to pack the friends in.” Call 970-879-1150 or visit rabbitearsmotel.com to book.
“Steamboat is becoming a hub for craft breweries,” says Kasten. “Butcherknife Brewing, Storm Peak Brewing and Mahogany Ridge are joined by the newest brewery, Mountain Tap, offering more than forty made-on-location microbrews under the direction of master brewers. Roughly 2,500 gallons of beer are handcrafted a month in Steamboat Springs and feature everything from favorite light ale to dark brews, often with unique local twists. When you’re this close to the Continental Divide, the water is clean, fresh and unspoiled. Can’t decide which one to go to? Hit up the BARley, serving thirty beers on tap, 28 of them Colorado crafts, and Colorado spirits.”