The Best Ski Resorts in North America: 06. Steamboat Ski Resort

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Steamboat Ski Resort.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Steamboat’s ski-school staff is basically a roster of former Olympians: Billy Kidd, Deb Armstrong, Nelson Carmichael, and Caroline Lalive all work here, as do Aussie and Kiwi champions and six members of the PSIA-AASI national team.

Within the past couple of years, the four terrain parks got new trails and many of the 18 lifts were treated to major upgrades—the most recently built ones run on solar and wind power. They unload atop 165 trails, onto which 354 annual snow inches fall, creating 10 percent of powder days per season. Of the 3,668 vertical feet descending 2,965 skiable acres, just 14 percent of the terrain is designated for beginners; the rest is pretty evenly split between blues and blacks. For riders, a freestyle park-and-pipe clinic is helpful for bagging tricks.

Bear, a safety dog, helps make sure that things are copacetic, as does the ski patrol’s more than 100 members. The nearest hospital is less than a mile from the hill and a team of 12 doctors share on-call duty for the resort throughout the winter.

Total peak-season staffers number almost 1,700. Among them are ski valets who will, upon request, come to your hotel room to fit you into gear. Lodging options here include the big, middle-of-the-road Steamboat Grand; One Steamboat Place, a slopeside collection of private residences; and the rustic-chic Vista Verde Guest Ranch, a AAA 4-Diamond lodge that’s happy to coordinate experiences like backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. There’s also a KOA open to RVs.

Off-hill recreational options are many and varied—in fact, this is the category in which Steamboat scores highest. There’s a tube park, an ice arena, natural hot springs, a bowling alley, a movie theater, helicopter tours, ice climbing, a bungee trampoline, and much more. If you’re just looking for a good meal, Café Diva is popular; for something to drink, head to Tugboat Saloon or Tap House. The new, heated promenade at Gondola Square has lovely water features to play in, courtesy of the daylighted Burgess Creek.

Environmentally, Steamboat is mostly good, but the proposed Pioneer Ridge expansion would impinge upon 162 open-space acres. However, the resort gets credit for working to improve nesting habitat for migratory birds, and for having a zero-waste initiative that’s on track toward its goal: Thanks to much recycling and composting, 80 percent of Steamboat’s trash got diverted from the landfill. Free shuttles and buses have, the resort estimates, negated 1.2 million driving miles last year alone.

From February 6 to 10, the 100th annual Winter Carnival happens on Main Street, featuring a parade on skis and a nighttime light show. In early January is MusicFest, and mid-April brings the Cardboard Classic and its races in zany homemade sleds.

CONTACT: (877) 783-2628, steamboat.com
SEASON: Late November to mid-April
TICKETS: General: $99 (reduced-price half-day tickets offered; discounts offered to military personnel), children $60, ages 65 and older: $67, ages 4 and younger: free

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