What is there to do in ski country if you’re not skiing? The answer is, plenty. In fact, Steamboat has so much to offer off-slope, chances are you won’t be able to get it all in. That’s exactly the reason so many people come for a vacation and end up staying for life.
The truth is, winter has just as much to offer in terms of outdoor activities as summer—you just need a few extra layers. Here’s our list of ways to play in the snow, no lift ticket required.
Get your Nordic on
If you’ve never tried Nordic skiing, the truth is, if you can walk, you can cross-country ski. Better yet, Steamboat has a wide variety of cross-country ski trails and Nordic centers where you can get everything you need to get started, from equipment rentals to lessons. Whether you prefer classic or want to give skate skiing a try for a higher intensity workout, there are several options. Try the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, where you’ll find 15 kilometers of groomed trails including a blissfully flat beginner loop. The trails wind across meadows, into Aspen groves, and along Fish Creek. Hearty homemade lunches and snacks are available all day at The Picnic Basket in the Nordic Clubhouse. Haymaker Nordic Center has 10 km of trails, rentals, lessons, and offers hearty lunches in the Clubhouse. There’s also Lake Catamount Touring Center, situated on Catamount Lake surrounded by 3,000 acres of private land. After a solid workout, enjoy a lovely lunch at the Catamount Lake House Restaurant. Lessons, rentals, and retail available on site. If cross-country skiing is still a bit intimidating, most Nordic centers also have snowshoe trails.
Cheap thrills: Snow tubing
You’d be amazed how much fun can be had with an inner tube, some snow, and a little gravity. A great activity for the whole family and kids of all ages, tubing requires no skill and (as cheesy as it might sound) truly is fun for the whole family. Head out to Saddleback Ranch where a rope tow takes you up to the top of three groomed runs. Warm up in the lodge in between runs, grab a bite and a cup of hot chocolate. Better yet? Kids under 4 can ride with adults for free, and free transportation to the ranch is provided from the Mount Warner Transit Station at Gondola Base off Mount Werner Circle. Translation: you can make a whole day out of it and everyone, no matter how young or old, will be happy.
Yup, even in winter.
Steamboat lives up to its name as Bike Town USA so much so that most people can’t part with their bikes, even in winter. Fat bikes, or bikes made with extra-wide, extra-knobby tires and gearing specifically to ride on snow open up a whole new way to explore in the wintertime. Ideal for snow-packed backroads and trails, fat bikes can be used on most Nordic center groomed trails, BLM land (think: roads that are closed for the winter but are still packed from snowmobile use), City of Steamboat Trails, Stagecoach State Park, Routt County Roads (rural roads that are popular for gravel biking in the summer are perfect), and US Forest Service Lands. Fat bike rentals can be found at most local bike shops including Wheels, Orange Peel Bikes, and Ski Haus.
Some like it hot
You can’t visit Steamboat Springs without gaining some understanding and context for where the town got its name. Start by visiting the famous Strawberry Park Hot Springs and soak while basking in the views in this remote and pristine setting. Heated restrooms and changing areas are available on-site as well as massage and overnight lodging. Reservations are required, so inquire in advance. If you have kids, don’t miss the Old Town Hot Springs in the heart of downtown, which recently got a major renovation and offers several large soaking pools in addition to a covered four-story water slide (Warning: it’s fast, dark, and will get your heart pumping!). The pools have been here for over 100 years, enjoyed by the Ute Indians who first settled in the area and then later the homesteaders. Recently upgraded amenities include locker rooms, fitness classes and gym, café, and retail, so mom can get her workout in while Dad takes the kids for a swim.
Want to discover your inner sled-head or venture deep into the backcountry without having to do it on your own two legs? The Yampa Valley has endless wilderness areas to explore, and its deep snowfall and low-angle slopes make it the perfect place to experience a mountain adventure by snowmobile. If you want a true backcountry experience, explore the vast backcountry around Rabbit Ears Pass on state-of-the-art machines with an experienced guide at Steamboat Snowmobile Tours. Throw a ranch tour into the mix at Lucky 8 Ranch in Oak Creek where you can take a 20-mile cruise through this local bison ranch to view the majestic animals, ride through snow-covered hay meadows, venture into the Trout Creek Valley floor, and ascend to different lookouts for panoramic views of the Yampa Valley. Want something a little more hardcore? Check out Thunderstruck Adventures and rip up the pow on a privately-owned mountain on a top-of-the-line snowmobile.
Cold as Ice
Steamboat takes its winter sports seriously which is why it’s worth checking out the state of the art Olympic-size ice rink at Howelsen Ice Complex, one of the only ice facilities in Colorado to offer Bumper-Cars-On-Ice. There’s also public skate, stick and puck, and drop-in-hockey for all ages and ability levels. Want that Rockefeller Center holiday on ice feeling? Visit the new lighted outdoor rinks and enjoy the magic of backyard skating, also located at Howelsen Hill.
Not feeling sporty?
If you’re worried about your son’s ability to drive in dangerous winter conditions (or you just want an excuse to drive on ice), head over the Bridgestone Winter Driving school, the only one of its kind in the country, and learn from the pros with hands-on winter driving programs. Head down the Brew Trail, a 2.7-mile tour of Steamboat’s microbreweries and distilleries including Mahogany Ridge, Mountain Tap Brewery, Steamboat Whiskey Company, and Storm Peak Brewery. No need to drive—an e-bike or a fat bike will do! Feeling a little high-brow and want to take in some local culture? Look no further than the Tread of Pioneers Museum for the most recent exhibit, visit Steamboat Creates for local art classes, workshops, and events, or check out live music at one of the many performances lined up for the season including the Winter Wondergrass Festival, Steamboat Music Fest and Bud Light Free Concert Series. Visit Steamboat Chamber for the most current events listings and details. //steamboatchamber.com