Experience Steamboat Springs, a stellar ski getaway

There is something in the air in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and I’m not just talking about falling snow. Having grown up in the Hawaiian Islands, I never imagined you

could find the “aloha spirit” nestled 7,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies. And while there is a western twist on the “spirit” surrounding this ski resort, what remains true is the passion, joy and love Steamboat locals and vacationers have for the former ranching community.

Dubbed “Ski Town U.S.A.” for producing more winter Olympians than any other town in the U.S., Steamboat’s uniqueness lies in the fact that most residents have called “the boat” home since the late 1800s. It’s apparent that the resort didn’t create the community; rather, it’s the local community that has made the resort. Today, several large cattle ranches and a historic “downtown” still provide Steamboat with the character and uniqueness that set it apart from most resort communities. Regular visitors from Hawaii trade in their aloha shirts for cowboy boots, buckles and hats, as the dress code of the Old West is the only attire suitable for this classic town.

But rich history and western charm are not what put Steamboat Springs on the map. World-class skiing, a family-friendly environment and legendary “Champagne Powder” are the city’s most renowned hallmarks.

With nearly 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, Steamboat is one of the largest ski mountains in North America. Considered an “intermediate resort,” Steamboat has a ski trail for every ability: groomed beginner runs, open meadows, tight bumps, steep peaks, sheer mountain faces and the legendary bottomless Champagne Powder that can be found deep in Steamboat’s world famous tree runs (“Shadows,” “Closet” and “Twilight”). If skiing is not your style, not to fear – Steamboat is a snow-board-friendly mountain and home to “Mavericks,” America’s longest superpipe located in an 11.8 acre terrain park.

Being honored as the “#1 Family Resort in the West” by Ski magazine this year and for the last six years makes it clear that it’s not just the friendliness of Steamboat’s locals and staff that keep so many families coming back year after year. There is an overall welcoming vibe in Steamboat, but it’s the mountain’s kid-oriented programs that put the destination at the top of the charts. Steamboat was the first resort to create the “Kids Ski Free” program where children under the age of 12 ski completely free, and this widely popular program is still available today. The mountain also has one of the best ski and snowboard schools in the world, with six former winter Olympians on the full-time staff, more than 400 professionally trained instructors and a full line of classes to suit all ages and abilities.

If you’re an adrenaline junkie on a quest to truly discover Steamboat’s “Champagne Powder,” skip the ski school, book a trip with Steamboat Powdercats and journey into Steamboat’s back country. Leaving early in the morning, Steamboat Powdercats takes small groups of skiers and snowboarders to find untracked powder in Buffalo Pass adjacent to the mountain. Throughout the day you ski a variety of terrain, warming up between runs in the luxury snowcats that take you to the top of the next run. At lunchtime you take a break for a three-course meal in a rustic mountain cabin before heading back for more untracked powder. The highlight of a trip with Steamboat Powdercats is spending the day with the knowledgeable guides – Steamboat’s ski patrol, local residents and talented outdoorsman can tell you all the inside secrets only locals know.

Accommodations for vacationers are plentiful. If skiing is your priority, it’s best to stay as close as possible to the mountain. The prime option for a five-star stay is renting a “ski-in, ski-out” condo directly on the slopes. Mountain Resorts manages more than 500 condominiums and is considered Steamboat’s lodging expert – tell it what you are looking for, and the staff will make it happen. Mountain Resorts also provides guest services, bell service and a concierge service to help you settle into your mountain home.

The Steamboat Grand Hotel, located at the base of the mountain, is a great option if you prefer the resort experience. Complete with luxury guest rooms and an excellent spa, this hotel is the perfect choice for a romantic getaway.

After a long day of skiing on the mountain, selecting the perfect restaurant for a night on the town is extremely important. For a true Steamboat experience, head to downtown, about a 10-minute drive from the mountain where there are more than 20

restaurants tucked in and around the centuries-old buildings that line Lincoln Avenue. For an upbeat atmosphere and crowded after-skiing bar, head to the Cantina, a Steamboat staple known for its delicious Mexican food and sizable margaritas. For a romantic date night without the kids, grab a table next to the fireplace at Antares and dive into its award-winning wine list. A newer edition to the downtown Steamboat dining scene not to be missed is Mambo Italiano, a bustling family-style Italian restaurant. If you drop into Mambo Italiano, make sure to give the chocolate martini a try and sample the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

Although Steamboat has an interesting history dating back hundreds of years, this resort town and its residents remain cutting-edge, progressive and completely open to changes that will keep their mountain town as popular as ever. Recently purchased by Intrawest Resorts, a world leader in development and management of destination resorts, including the popular Whistler resort in Canada and Mammoth Mountain in California, the Steamboat Corporation poured $7 million into on-mountain improvements last year and more than $16 million as well this year. The new developers also have redesigned and begun construction on the base area and mountain village surrounding the ski resort to include more high-end lodging developments, shopping and restaurants. Under Intrawest’s proposed billion-dollar master plan, every aspect of Steamboat will slowly be improved and transformed to create a vacation experience that will ensure the town’s notoriety as a world-class resort well into the 21st century.

While change is in the air, one thing that will remain the same is the “Steamboat spirit” that surrounds this western winter wonderland.

Booking Information Mountain Resorts www.mtn-resorts.com (970) 879-3700

Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel www.steamboatgrand.com (970) 871-5500

Steamboat Powdercats www.steamboatpowdercats.com (970) 879-5188

Steamboat Ski Resort Central Reservations www.steamboat.com/ (877)783-2628