Skiing in Steamboat
Steamboat is a complete mountain range with six peaks: Mount Werner, Sunshine Peak, Storm Peak, Thunderhead Peak, Christie Peak and Pioneer Ridge. Steamboat (quite literally) trademarked the term “champagne powder” so you can expect plenty of it, with an average snowfall of nearly 30 feet every season.
Steamboat Ski Area Overview
Steamboat’s unique location, on the eastern of a high desert, means that the resort averages more snow per winter than resorts that sit 3,000 feet higher. Steamboat’s relatively low base elevation makes it an ideal choice for those who suffer from altitude sickness or generally prefer to breathe easy.
For those who think Colorado skiing is all Aspen and Vail, think again. Steamboat, the next largest ski area, is nestled in the Routt National Forest. It is a complete mountain range with six peaks: Mount Werner, Sunshine Peak, Storm Peak, Thunderhead Peak, Christie Peak and Pioneer Ridge. Mount Werner is named after native son Buddy Werner, who conquered the Hahenkamm at Kitzbühel in 1957 (the first American man to win a major European downhill title). At 10,568 feet (3,221 m) it’s the highest peak of the six, and the main access to plenty of backcountry stashes with double black diamond chutes at East Face and North St. Pat’s, plus lots of other challenging runs.
Pioneer Ridge opened in 1998 with the Pony Express-a high-speed quad chairlift allowing skiers and riders to easily explore 260 acres (105 ha) of gladed terrain that Steamboat locals have loved for years. Steamboat is large: there’s 2,965 acres (1,200 ha) of permitted terrain with a diversity of 65 miles (105 km) of trails. That translates into 64 trails and 3,668 vertical feet (1,118 m) for all ability levels. Ropes, signs, placards, gates and access points are used throughout the area to mark closures, ski area boundaries and access points for the backcounty terrain.
Snow in Steamboat
Take your pick: from late November through to mid-April you can ski beautiful gladed areas or groomed cruisers, or go for the bumps, steeps and open meadows with champagne powder in the trees for the most avid powder hounds. In fact, the term “champagne powder” was coined here and there’s plenty of it, with an average snowfall of nearly 30 feet every season. Steamboat’s snowmaking systems cover 333 acres (135 ha) of terrain, from the base area through mid-mountain to the top of Storm Peak. Night skiing is available at historic Howelsen Hill, located in downtown Steamboat Springs. This ski area dates back to the early 1900s and is the oldest continuously operating ski area in Colorado. Night tubing is also available at the Steamboat ski area. There are snowcat-drawn sleigh-ride dinners in the evenings and the gondola is open at night for dinner atop the mountain.
Beginner Skiing in Steamboat
Steamboat’s beginner skiing is located at the base of the mountain. It allows beginner skiers and riders to gain confidence before taking the gondola to enjoy Why Not, the resort’s longest beginner trail—over three miles (4.8 km) in length on Thunderhead.
For a resort as family friendly as Steamboat, it comes as a surprise to many that the resort’s beginner terrain is generally subpar. The majority of green runs are located near the base of the mountain and beginners can sometimes feel hemmed in. As beginners begin to progress beyond the slopes immediately surrounding the base area, they are met by a rather serpentine set of green trails that force them to pay close attention to the trail map. Often, when riding up a new chair beginners find there is only one green way down. While that takes some of the difficulty out of decision making, it also forces beginners to constantly move from pod to pod to avoid getting bored. Many beginners lament that they feel like they spend all day looking for a place to ski.
In reponse of this oft-heard criticism, Steamboat recently reshaped its beginner terrain, improving the grade of the slope and fall line of several main arteries. This terrain, located at the base of the mountain, allows beginner skiers and riders to gain confidence before taking the gondola to enjoy Why Not, the resort’s longest beginner trail-over three miles (4.8 km) in length on Thunderhead. Spur Run, also on Thunderhead, is a great beginner run off the top of the gondola. The Sunshine lift area is groomed for beginners and low intermediate skiers and riders.
Intermediate Skiing in Steamboat
Steamboat’s intermediate skiing is amongst the best in Colorado. 56% of the trails in Steamboat are given over to intermediate skiers and boarders, and the longest trail is Tomahawk at two miles (3.2 km). Heavenly Daze is one of the most challenging intermediate trails in the ski area.
Steamboat is known as primarily and intermediate’s mountain. Fifty-six percent of the trails in Steamboat are given over to intermediate skiers and boarders. Solid intermediate skiers will find little they can’t tackle and no pods of trails, save the hike-to terrain that will be off limits. We recommend the Sunshine Express on the extreme right of the trail map. There, intermediates will find long blue cruisers serviced by an express quad. Blue skiers will also appreciate the Morningside lift on the backside of the mountain. While the trails aren’t particularly long or steep, they have a “Back Bowls” type feel and many skiers enjoy skiing over the top with long views of the pristine wilderness beyond.
Steamboat’s longest trail is Tomahawk at two miles (3.2 km). Heavenly Daze (the Women’s World Cup downhill run) is one of the most challenging intermediate trails in the ski area. It is a steep trail-descending nearly 1,000 ft (300 m)-that winds under the gondola and provides views of the entire Yampa Valley. Intermediate skiers and riders will also enjoy skiing the trails accessed by Storm Peak Express or Sundown Express lifts on the upper mountain. The lift lines can really build at the lower mountain (particularly the gondola) so it is advisable to remain in the upper mountain areas where the lines are generally shorter.
Advanced & Expert Skiing in Steamboat
Steamboat’s expert skiing is somewhat lacking. For the most experienced skiers the chutes, bowls and double blacks at the top of Mount Werner provide the best skiing and riding in Steamboat. For powder, the gladed areas of Pioneer Ridge, Sunshine and Storm Peak are Steamboat’s particular claims to fame.
Expert skiers will find Steamboat lacking in truly diverse expert terrain. Most of the black diamond runs are on the easier end of the spectrum and intermediates will find many of the blue/black runs to be eminently within their capabilities.
The gladed areas of Priest Creek, including the resort’s legendary Shadows and Closets trails, are a favorite among experts. The toughest skiing comes courtesy of The Chutes, East Face, St. Pat’s, The Ridge, White Out, Three O’Clock, Nelson’s, Shadows, Closets, Twilight, Priest Creek Lift Line, Triangle 3, and areas within Pioneer Ridge with moguls and steep, deep couloirs. The hike-to terrain is accessible via a short, 5-minute walk or pole/skate from the top of the Morningside Peak Lift. However, the average drop on these fun but short chutes is only about 750 ft.
For powder, the gladed areas of Pioneer Ridge, Sunshine and Storm Peak are Steamboat’s particular claims to fame, with Champagne Powder in the trees for the most avid powder hounds. To test your skiing, ride up the gondola then down White Out to the Storm Peak lift and then up to the top of Storm Peak. Drop down the backside of the mountain into Morningside Park, head down the Ridge, Chutes or East Face to Pony Express. Then ride up Pony Express and ski the gladed areas of Pioneer Ridge. There’s a multitude of bumps, trees and steeps for advanced skiers and riders. The hardwood glades of Shadows and Closets are Steamboat’s most famous runs and should not be missed on a powder day.
Backcountry Skiing in Steamboat
Skiers and riders are only allowed to enter backcountry areas from the ski area through designated access points. Again, The Chutes and terrain such as East Face and North St. Pat’s will keep expert skiers pumping adrenaline. In addition, the mogul trails of White Out, Nelson’s and Three O’Clock are favorites with expert skiers.
Boarding & Freestyle in Steamboat
Steamboat’s Mavericks Superpipe is claimed to be the longest on the continent—it has 15-foot (4.6-m) walls, is 48 feet (14.6 m) wide and is 650 feet (198 m) long. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a 50-foot (15.2-m) quarterpipe at the end.
The Mavericks Superpipe is claimed to be the longest on the continent-it has 15-foot (4.6-m) walls, is 48 feet (14.6 m) wide and is 650 feet (198 m) long. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a 50-foot (15.2-m) quarterpipe at the end. The terrain park, SoBE, is spread accross 11.8 acres (4.8 hectares), is serviced by its own chairlift and has an outdoor sound system. A 250-foot (76-m) beginner pipe, Mini Mav, is located here along with rails and jumps for intermediates and experts.
Away from the park, the well-groomed open pistes at Mount Werner down to Sunshine Peak have a variety of trails to tempt carvers. Start with the Morningside Lift to the Morningside Bowl and head off from there-there are several demanding black diamond and intermediate trails. This is also the exit point via an access gate to backcountry options with steep north-facing slopes and quite open terrain. Steamboat has plenty of north-facing slopes that provide good, high-speed, tree-lined trails. With limited catwalks and one base area, Steamboat ski area is easy for snowboarders to get around.
Snowbiking in Steamboat
Steamboat is also one of a handful of resorts which rents Snowbikes. At first glance, the contraptions look like death traps, but after a few minutes with an instructor to show you the ropes, they’re surprisingly simple and fun. Steamboat allows the bikes everywhere except the terrain parks.
Mountain Restaurants in Steamboat
There are a handful of restaurants on the mountain at Steamboat, including a coffee and snack bar, cafeteria, Western-style buffet and two fine-dining restaurants that open for dinner as well as lunch.
There is a handful of restaurants on the mountain, including a coffee and snack bar, cafeteria, Western-style buffet and two fine-dining restaurants that open for dinner as well as lunch. The latter includes Hazie’s, named for Hazie Werner, mother of three Olympians; this alpine bistro at Thunderbird mid-station offers the perfect setting to enjoy a special Continental dinner while enjoying the sparkling lights of the Yampa Valley below. There’s à la carte dining Thursday through Saturday nights and additional holidays.
Another mid-mountain venue, via the Steamboat gondola and then on a waiting sleigh that draws you underneath starry skies, is Ragnar’s at Rendezvous Saddle. Enjoy a five-course Continental dinner with a Scandinavian flavor and excellent live acoustic entertainment here. Ragnar’s Sleigh-Ride Dinners are offered on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and additional holidays only.
Moving downscale, at both the Thunderbird and Rendezvous Saddle mid-mountain stations you will also find self-service with sundecks and barbecues, while at the base area Gondola Joe’s is convenient for breakfast or lunch snacks. The Four Points Hut at the top of the Four Points lift keeps you warm with chili, hot dogs, soups and cappuccino.