Champagne Powder and Hot Springs Dreams
“I’m giddy with joy. Above me, blue skies and sunshine punctuated with idyllic cumulus clouds. Before me, feet of untouched powder. M’ladies and I exchange quick glances acknowledging our good fortune as we pick our lines and float through the perfectly spaced trees.”
Last February, my friends and I took the scenic 5.5-hour road trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to experience the reputed Champagne Powder at Steamboat Resort. I had the best day of my ski season on the second day of the trip because we stumbled upon a whole stash of hero snow off the South Peak Lift, near the Rendezvous Saddle Lodge. We lapped it for half the day. Is there even anything better than first, second, and third tracks through OMG! ski conditions with your best friends? Methinks not.
Ski Town USA
Situated against the western ridge of the Continental Divide, surrounded by national forest and wilderness areas, Steamboat Resort comprises six peaks: Mount Werner, Sunshine Peak, Storm Peak, Christie Peak, and Pioneer Ridge. Nearly 3,000 acres of terrain offer a diversity of trails for all ability levels, though the vast majority of the trails are intermediate to advanced. Skiing or snowboarding from the summit of Mount Werner (10,568 ft) to the base of Steamboat Resort (6,900 ft) will add 3,668 ft to your vertical feet bank. Steamboat Resort has an average snowfall of 313 inches and one of the longest winter seasons in the country.
There’s a good mix of steeps, bowl, and tree skiing with some access to sidecountry skiing. The gladed areas of Pioneer Ridge, Sunshine, and Storm Peak are Steamboat’s particular claim to fame, with Champagne Powder snow in the trees for days. The bowl between Storm Peak and Sunshine Peak has gobs of swooshy pow, while the Chute 1, Chute 2, and Chute 3 runs provide the steepest double-black diamond runs.
Ski In Ski Out
We opted to book a ski-in/ski-out stay with Moving Mountains for a slopeside vacation rental at One Steamboat Place so we could get to the purported luxury snow as fast as possible. The four-bedroom, four-bathroom family-sized condominium we stayed at could fit a bloat of hippos—or exactly four ladies on a ski vacay with heaps of gear. Steamboat Springs has a multitude of other available accommodation options both on and off mountain for every type of traveler.
Spoiler Alert: There are no actual steamboats in the area. Why is it called Steamboat Springs? The lore goes that in the 1820s, three French trappers traveling along the Yampa River heard a “chug chug” sound, thought they had reached a major river and yelled, “A steamboat, by gar!” Upon further investigation, they discovered the sound came from a natural mineral spring at the far end of town, which no longer makes the chug chug sound. Prior to becoming a ski town in 1963, Steamboat Springs was known as a destination for health-conscious travelers visiting from around the country to indulge in the area’s hot baths and so-called “medicinal” springs.
Hot Springs Dreams
Today, Steamboat Springs is still known as a hot springs haven. Old Town Hot Springs is located right downtown and boasts eight natural mineral hot water pools and two waterslides sourced from The Heart Spring, which pumps 220 gallons of 102-103℉ water out of the ground per minute. The main pool is a family-friendly environment, but there’s also a kiddie pool for smallies.
Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs is seven miles from downtown and welcomes families during daylight hours. Some bathers have been known to lose their swimwear after sunset. The views and vibe at Strawberry Hot Springs make the tricky drive worth it. The springs are difficult to get to and especially iffy in snowy conditions. Drivers who risk it and get stuck on the road are fined $500. It’s smart to book a shuttle ride with Sweet Pea Tours and let them handle the steep, winding, unpaved mountain roads. Relaxing in natural hot springs surrounded by 360 degrees of snowy mountain views was the best kind of aprés.
After long days of skiing and hot springing, finding a good place for dinner wasn’t hard at all. Steamboat Springs has a nice array of restaurants that serve everything from cheap eats to fancy AF. I highly recommend Salt and Lime where both the food and service are exceptional. The chile relleno, fresh guacamole, and cauliflower hash with cashew salsa were *chef’s kiss.* Other good bets are Mazzola’s, Cafe Diva, Taco Cabo, and Winona’s.
I have access to six world-class ski resorts within 15-45 minutes of my house along the Wasatch Front, for which I’m extremely grateful, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wonder about the snow being powderier on the other side of the Rockies. It turns out the rumors are true–there are oodles of Champagne Powder at Steamboat Resort. And now that it’s part of the Ikon Pass, I see no reason why I wouldn’t attempt another perfect ski holiday there this season.