Why You Should Visit Steamboat Springs: Winter Wonderland
Today's post is by US-based guest blogger Anna Cook from Stuck On the Go. In her post, Anna talks about the most magical winter wonderland that makes for the perfect weekend getaway in the US!
If you’re looking for a western winter wonderland Steamboat is the perfect winter vacation destination for you.
When you walk around downtown it’s like you are transported back into an old American western movie. And it snows constantly. If you love snow, there is no shortage of things to do in Steamboat Springs and even if you don’t you can find lots of other activities.
My now husband chose to go to Steamboat last winter for his bachelor party and we were there for five days, Wednesday to Sunday. He let the girls go too because most of his groomsmen were already married. Anyways, it snowed about nine inches every single day. We went around the end of January which is prime ski season.
How to Get There
There are two good ways to get to Steamboat if you aren’t within driving distance. You can either fly into Denver and then rent a car or fly into the Yampa Valley Regional Airport and either rent a car or Uber/Lyft into town. Both options have pros and cons and it’s dependent on your budget and vacation length for which you should choose.
Denver Airport – It can be incredibly cheap to fly into the Denver Airport. We found tickets from Raleigh, NC to Denver for $100, that did not include a carry-on or checked bag though. If you fly into Denver the drive to Steamboat is about three hours long, but can quickly turn into a longer drive depending on weather conditions. The worst part of the drive is going through Rabbit Ears Pass so I would highly recommend getting through there before dark. We made the mistake of hanging around Denver too long and were coming through the curvy pass in the dark while it was pouring snow.
Yampa Valley Regional Airport – This is by far the easiest option, but you definitely pay a significant amount more. In comparison to Denver, a flight from Raleigh to Yampa Valley usually costs around $500. If you catch it at the right time you might pay $300 but your dates have to be flexible. Depending on what you can rent a four-wheel drive vehicle for, the additional cost may wash out though.
Where Should You Stay and How Long
If you can stay within walking distance of the slopes, then that is the best-case scenario. You can find the best deals when you skip the ski-in/ski-out lodging and there are many accommodations within a five-minute walk of the slopes. If you need low budget lodging then look downtown and take the Steamboat Springs Transit system.
You could easily spend a week or two in Steamboat and not get bored. However, it all depends on your budget. If you’re doing daily activities in Steamboat it can get pretty expensive. We arrived at Steamboat on Wednesday night and left early Sunday morning, so we had three full days. I felt like this was not nearly enough to explore everything available.
Things to Do in Steamboat Springs
Ski/Snowboard – This one is obvious, but I cannot recommend trying skiing or boarding out enough while you’re here. Steamboat is a perfect place to learn for beginners but also has lots of advanced terrain for experienced riders. The one day that I went snowboarding I stayed on the green trails while my husband and his friends all went to the top of the mountain for the tougher blues and blacks. In the US green is easiest, blue is moderate, and black is difficult. You should not miss the opportunity to ride on that powder snow.
Skiing at Steamboat can be VERY expensive though. You can cut down on costs by purchasing multi-day lift tickets in advance or a season pass like the Ikon Pass. The views from the mountain are absolutely worth it.
Tubing – Snow tubing is the activity that probably surprised me the most. All the girls went tubing with Saddleback Ranch one afternoon and it was the first time most of us had ever done it. A bus came to pick us up and dropped us off at the Ranch. Then we got a certain amount of time to tube before it would be back to take us to the resort.
Once we got to the Ranch, there was a little barn building with restrooms, picnic tables and a concession stand selling food and drinks. Spiked apple cider for those over 21. After you watch a short safety video, you are released to go down the mountain as many times as you can until the bus returns.
You sit down in your tube and then a pulley system pulls you up the hill. They had three trails you could slide down and we would drag our tubes to the top, decide how we would go down, and then hop in and enjoy the ride. You can go down individually or grab on to another person so you slide down together. However you do it, you’re sure to be laughing the whole way down.
Horseback Riding – I was obsessed with horses when I was younger. Riding horses in the snow would be an absolute dream come true and if the chance ever comes up again, I will jump all over it. At Saddleback Ranch they offer horseback riding year-round. Their ranch is absolutely gorgeous and located right on the outskirts of Steamboat. They were incredibly nice to tube with, so I’m sure they would make your horseback riding trip very memorable.
Strawberry Hot Springs – We tried to plan a trip here on our last night in town and it just did not work out. You must have 4-wheel drive to get there, but there are also transportation services that will pick you up and take you there. The locals we spoke with said it’s a unique experience to be out in a hot spring while snow covers the ground. Just be warned that it’s clothes optional after dark.
Dog Sledding – Another one that I would give anything to try is dog sledding. You will pay a pretty penny to try this out, but not many people can say they’ve ridden on a dog sled! Plus you get to pet the dogs before you go on the sled ride.
Snowshoeing – Snowshoeing is just hiking in the snow using special shoes. It’s an incredible feeling being out in the woods with nothing but snow-filled trees surrounding you. There are so many opportunities to snowshoe both at the ski resort and outside of town.
The resort offers snowshoes to rent and a free walking tour that follows a trail around the mountain. Rabbit Ears Pass also has some great place to hike and they are much more secluded. You can still rent your snowshoes from Steamboat Resort and take them off property.
Snowmobiling – Think jet skiing, but on snow instead of water. With trees all around. Honestly, I was a little too chicken to try this. It was relatively cheap, but for some reason I think of myself as a terrible driver so I was too scared. Make sure you are dressed warmly if you do this! At most places you can drive once you are 16 years old. I’m sure this is an exhilarating adventure and most tours run on the continental divide in Routt National Forest. This means you’ll get incredible mountain views as well.
Dinner Sleigh Ride – What says Christmas more than taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride up to a secluded cabin and enjoying an incredible meal? There are multiple options for a sleigh ride around Steamboat, some are horse-drawn and some use the snowcats. The ones at Steamboat Resort go to an established restaurant on property and the ones with Saddleback and Haymaker take you to a more secluded, cozy cabin.
This is perfect for a romantic evening or for a family with older children. Be sure to dress warmly though! When the sun goes down it gets bone-chilling cold.
Steamboat is a Winter Dream!*
Before Steamboat I had never really taken a vacation in the winter to a snowy destination. I loved it so much that my husband and I already have three winter trips scheduled this season!!! There are so many things to do in Steamboat that you can’t go wrong with a vacation here.
White Winter Views
*For a European alternative to this winter wonderland, check out my post on Finland: Lapland!
About the Author: Anna is a small town girl from North Carolina who loves to find new adventures & experiences. Her love of travel started in college and after she graduated, she took a five-week trip across Europe. Now her travels are typically long weekends because of her 9-5, but she makes the most out of her 15 vacation days! She loves to stay active while traveling and her favorite things to do are hike, fish, snorkel, sight-see, and find the best places to eat and drink!