5 reasons to ski at Steamboat Springs this year

Oct 19, 2020

You definitely don’t need to stay stuck inside this winter.

In Steamboat Springs, Colorado you’ll breathe crisp mountain air on one of the mountain’s many powder days and smile at the sound of your skis or board carving into a turn. Those timeless moments, as well as the laid-back vibe of this welcoming and authentic ski town, are the same today as they were decades ago.

Thanks to Steamboat’s wide-open spaces and fresh air, plus the outdoor nature of the sport, skiing is well suited to distancing — and the modern challenges of travel. Steamboat’s season opens next month, on Nov. 21. But, while the best parts of skiing here are staying the same, there are changes to know about if you are dreaming of skiing or riding at Steamboat this season.

You can head to the resort’s new site, Steamboat.com/Trail Forward, for up-to-date information on the upcoming season, but read on for five reasons why you may want to add Steamboat to your must-ski list for the 2020 to 2021 season.

(Photo courtesy of Shawn OConnor/Getty Images)
(Photo courtesy of Shawn OConnor/Getty Images)

It’s an authentic ski town

Steamboat is in Northwest Colorado, about a three-hour drive from Denver (or you can fly right into town — more on that shortly). It’s about 90 miles from the Wyoming border, so this is true America West territory.

The area isn’t a soulless new development. It has ranching roots dating back to the 1800s and a ski resort pedigree that’s existed since the 1960s. This matters because the town’s architecture, history and welcoming residents are a big part of what gives the area depth and genuineness you can’t fake or quickly create.

There’s no doubt Steamboat is one of the best true ski towns in all of Colorado.

(Image courtesy of Steamboat Springs)
(Image courtesy of Steamboat Springs)

You can experience Champagne powder — really

No, Champagne Powder isn’t the latest après-ski craze (though, it does sound like an incredibly tasty drink).

Champagne Powder® refers to Steamboat’s exceptionally dry snow. If you’ve skied or boarded in heavy, wet powder, you know it comes with a set of challenges. There’s a lot of science and geography that explains why the snow in Steamboat has a lower water content than on some other mountains, but the result is light, fluffy powder you don’t have to fight with.

(Photo courtesy of Steamboat Springs)
(Photo courtesy of Steamboat Springs)

Instead, you just glide down the six peaks and almost 3,000 acres of skiable terrain spread across 169 named trails that receive an average of 314 inches of snow per year.

Steamboat is where skiing first clicked for my eldest daughter several years ago, so the wide-open beginner runs with the easy-to-ski snow hold a special place in my heart.

Despite the exceptional snow, Steamboat sits at a lower elevation than several other Colorado mountains, so there’s a chance you’ll have fewer altitude issues to deal with than you might have in other ski destinations.

(Photo courtesy of Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo courtesy of Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

There are new, nonstop flights

While you certainly can drive the 157 miles from Denver to Steamboat if that suits your travel plans best, there are additional, convenient flights from 14 U.S. cities that operate into the airport nearest Steamboat Springs, Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN), about 20 miles away. This season, Southwest Airlines will fly new seasonal routes from Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Denver (DEN), from Dec. 19 through April 5.

Southwest isn’t the only way to fly directly into the Steamboat area. During ski season, United has flights from Denver (DEN), San Francisco (SFO), New York-Newark (EWR), Chicago (ORD), Washington Dulles (IAD) and Houston (IAH); American Airlines operates flights from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Chicago (ORD); Alaska Airlines operates flights from Seattle (SEA) and San Diego (SAN); and JetBlue has nonstop flights from New York-JFK, Boston (BOS) and Ft. Lauderdale (FLL).

You can view all of this season’s flights at Steamboat.com/flights.

Related: Best ways to redeem points and miles for a ski trip

Reservations are not necessarily required

While other major ski mountains are requiring reservations to ski this year, that’s not the case — at least for now — at Steamboat.

If you know you want to head to Steamboat this season but can’t pinpoint exactly when, Steamboat may be a great match thanks to its Worry-Free policy.

While you should keep an eye on the mountain’s Trail Forward page for any updates, Steamboat is currently not requiring reservations for Ikon, Ikon Base, Ikon Session 4-Day, Steamboat season and Snowy Range passholders. Additionally, travelers who prebook packages before Nov. 2 through Steamboat Central Reservations, or other approved travel partners, will have guaranteed access.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

On the flip side, you should know that — to limit on-mountain capacity (especially during peak periods) — Steamboat is not currently offering, and will be tightly regulating, stand-alone lift tickets. In other words, advanced purchase packages and seasonal passes are the only guaranteed ways to access the mountain at this time.

There’s more than just skiing

While I hope you ski if you make the trip to Steamboat, there’s plenty to do on your “off days,” too. A must-do activity, especially if you’re feeling sore from your time on the mountain, is a soak in the town’s natural hot springs.

You’ll find the Old Town Hot Springs right in downtown Steamboat, while Strawberry Park Hot Springs is tucked away in the mountains. Both are naturally open-air activities. It looks likely that reservations will be required to help with distancing at the hot springs, so look into that before your trip.

(Photo courtesy of Steamboat Springs)
(Photo courtesy of Steamboat Springs)

Steamboat also has an on-mountain Outlaw Mountain Coaster, snow tubing at Saddleback Ranch’s Yee-Haw Tubing Hill and a well-regarded dining scene. If you want to dine indoors, you can make reservations for dinner in buildings dating back more than 100 years. Of course, many of the top local restaurants are whipping up family meals to go if you’d rather bring dinner back to eat at your accommodations.

Related: Top things to do on a ski trip for non-skiers

Bottom line

Steamboat isn’t the mountain you go to if you want to flaunt your newest designer snowsuit. Steamboat is where you go to enjoy some of the best skiing in the country, set in a very accessible and welcoming ski town that still has resort-style amenities and on-mountain lodging to accompany the great powder.

View from the Sheraton Steamboat bookable with Marriott points (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
View from the Sheraton Steamboat bookable with Marriott points. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

If you want to get the most out of every snowflake in Steamboat, start your day early on the mountain at 7:45 a.m. with the “first tracks” program to get a jump on almost everyone else. If early isn’t your game, you can also stretch your skiing into the night on a mix of beginner through advanced trails that are lit up many evenings throughout the season.

There’s no shortage of good ski days and skiable hours at Steamboat. If you want to add a trip to this iconic ski town to your winter travel plans, research the ways to secure a ski pass for the season and keep an eye on the Steamboat.com/Trail Forward website.

Featured image courtesy of darekm101/Getty Images

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