A First-Timers’ Guide to Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Steamboat is one of those places that you could spend a month there and not stay long enough. My husband, Tyler, decided to go to Steamboat for his bachelor party. He let all the women go also since most of his groomsmen were already married. There was a group of around 15 of us that stayed in Steamboat for four days and we had an absolute blast. I’ve put together a few suggestions as a guide to Steamboat Springs in case it’s your first time and you need some ideas for visiting in the winter.

How to Get There

A guide to Steamboat Springs wouldn’t be complete without telling you how to get there because depending on where you’re coming from, it may not be that simple.

Fields dusted in snow seen from an airplane.  Getting there is the first part in the guide to Steamboat Springs.
Flying over the snow dusted fields right outside of Denver.

Denver Airport – There are a couple different options to get there, but the most economical is flying into Denver and renting a car. The drive from Denver to Steamboat is about 3.5 to 4 hours depending on traffic and weather. You will go through one tough section if it is snowing called Rabbit Ears Pass and that’s about 30 minutes outside of Steamboat. Definitely try and make it through there before dark because it’ll get a little hairy (lol) especially if you aren’t used to those conditions. We made the mistake of messing around in Denver and it was dark and snowy when we came through Rabbit Ears Pass.

Hayden Airport – The other option is more expensive, but you can fly into the Hayden Airport that’s only 15 minutes from Steamboat. It is nice though because you can either Uber or rent a car from there. So if you didn’t want to rent a car this would be a good option for you.

Where to Stay in Steamboat Springs

Luxury

Steamboat Grand Hotel – This looks like an amazing place to stay where service is top notch. It is also located at the base of the ski area, so the lifts are a short walk across the road. They offer many amenities including a huge pool, Grand Spa, ski rental services and ski valet. There are different shops and dining options on site and across the road at Gondola Square.

Antlers at Christie Base – If you are looking for a ski-in/ski-out option, then this is the place for you. Walk outside and you are right at the Christie III lift that will take you part of the way up the mountain. The rooms available are condos which are ideal for families and large groups. The amenities offered include a sauna, heated pool, hot tub, ski storage, and shuttle into town.

Reasonable

The Phoenix – We used Airbnb to book a condo at The Phoenix. The condo was very reasonably priced for the amount of people we had and the perfect location. It was a short walk to the slopes across the road and between buildings and a quick drive into town or to the grocery store. The area was also pretty quiet and the check-in/check-out process was super simple. The only issue we ran into was that they only allow two cars parked on premises and their off-site lot was difficult to find. Just a warning, do not leave your vehicle in the grocery store parking lot because it will get towed. Trust me on this.

Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas – You can get a nice room here for a very good price. However, prices quickly rise when you look at the larger 3-bedroom villas. This could be a great couples retreat or friends who don’t mind sleeping on a sofa-bed. They offer a full service spa, pool, and on-site dining. The location is ideal since it is right beside Gondola Square at the bottom of the Christie Peak Express lift.

Budget

Nordic Lodge – You can get a room here for as low as $89 per night. Prices vary based on the time of year and day of the week. These rooms do not have kitchens though, only a microwave and refrigerator. Included in your stay is a complimentary breakfast, free ski shuttle to Steamboat Resort, an indoor hot tub, and pool. The lodge is located downtown near lots of shopping and dining.

Rabbit Ears Motel – On the opposite side of town from Nordic Lodge, this motel is located right at the entrance of downtown on Highway 40. One unique thing here is that pets are welcome in these rooms. They also offer a free shuttle, continental breakfast, and laundry facilities.

What to Do In Steamboat Springs

Ski/Snowboard

I am covered from head to toe because it gets freezing cold on the mountain. This is a selfie with a view of the valley behind me. Snowboarding is at the top of the list for the guide to Steamboat Springs.

I know, this one is obvious. But it can’t be left out of a guide to Steamboat Springs. Biggest tip: BUY LIFT TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME. You can purchase them here. Sometimes you can get a discount and then depending on the time of year you can find multi-day passes that are much cheaper than usual, like the Olympian Pass. I boarded for one day and rented from the resort. Renting was really easy and the people there were super nice and helpful. Check out rental prices here.

Other than the green trails right next to the resort, the other trails were not crowded at all. The mountain is huge, so everyone can spread out. Even if you aren’t very experienced, there is plenty of easy green terrain. For the pro in your group the top of the mountain has lots of double black diamonds and world-class tree skiing. If you aren’t comfortable going out on your own then take a lesson. Steamboat has one of the best ski schools in the country.

Snowshoe

This is some of the best exercise you will ever have. The resort offers free snowshoe tours, you just have to rent your shoes and poles. The snowshoe trails cross the ski trails on the bottom mountain so it gives you an interesting perspective. Find the map here. When you take the tour, you’ll get to learn about the native trees, animals, and fun facts about the resort and surrounding area. You can also rent snowshoes and take them to trails off resort in the Steamboat Area. A few popular places to go are Uranium Mine and Emerald Mountain.

Snowtube

Me sliding to a stop at the bottom of the hill in front of the loading area.

Tubing was surprisingly one of my favorite activities of the trip. We went with Saddleback Ranch because they picked you up right out front of Steamboat Resort in a big bus and shuttled you to the Ranch. They had three different “trail” options marked as green, blue, or black. You could run it solo or link up with other people in your group by holding to each other’s hands and feet. We did everything we could to see how fast we could go. At the ranch, they also had a little building that sold food and drinks. You could even get spiked cider.

Downtown

Downtown is part of the guide to Steamboat Springs for first-timers. You can't miss this cute experience.

There are so many cute little stores and restaurants in Steamboat if you need to kill some time. We went downtown one day with the sole purpose of buying souvenirs. We found a few specialty ski shops that looked interesting, but we had places to be that afternoon and had to eat and find our souvenirs. There are also different festivals and events throughout the year. Look at the calendar here to see if one overlaps with your trip.

Dog Sledding

I have not gotten a chance to do this yet, but I am dying to. On most dog sledding trips you get to spend some time socializing with the dogs and learning about this method of transportation. On some tours you ride the whole time and some you get to drive the sled. This excursion is a lot more expensive than the other ones I’ve listed, but how cool would it be to ride on a dog sled? Or maybe I’m just obsessed with dogs, I don’t know.

Other Options: Ice Fishing, Horseback Riding, Horse-drawn Sleighride, Spa Treatment

Where to Eat in Steamboat Springs

Los Locos – Absolutely fantastic Mexican food located in Gondola Square. This is a small restaurant with limited seating inside, but they do have patio seating for warmer months. The prices are great for this area.

Gondola Pub & Grill – If you are staying in the Resort area, this is a great place for Happy Hour. Draft beer is $5.25 and all appetizers are $6. This is also a really good place for lunch if you are skiing/snowboarding.

Mazzola’s – This Italian restaurant in downtown Steamboat was recommended to someone in our group by a local while they were on the ski lift. It’s a cozy little restaurant with great pizza and pasta and short wait times. We didn’t wait long at all for a group of 15.

Truffle Pig – For a more upscale dining experience you can go to the Truffle Pig for dinner. We went for Happy Hour one day and they have awesome deals on drinks. It’s also a good atmosphere and they have a cute patio overlooking the slopes with a fireplace.

Mountain Tap Brewery – The specialty here is wood-fired pizza and beer. They have a huge beer selection and plenty of seating. If you want somewhere intimate and quiet though, this is not the place to go. This is a bit more loud/party scene.

Winona’s – I have never had a cinnamon roll like the one that I had here. I love sweets so this was paradise for me. I had coffee and a cinnamon roll and that may have been the best meal I had the entire trip. Winona’s is located downtown so go here for breakfast and do some shopping afterwards.

Winona's gives you huge cinnamon rolls smothered in icing with a steaming mug of coffee in adorable multi-colored cups. This is a must on the guide to Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat is such a magical place to visit. It is also a great ski town far enough outside Denver that it isn’t too crowded. We enjoyed our vacation here very much and would love to go back here one day. This guide to Steamboat Springs only scrapes the surface of what’s available in the area. I hope this gets you started with planning your vacation to Steamboat, and if you have any questions feel free to email me at anna@stuckonthego.com.

What did you think about A First-Timer’s Guide to Steamboat Springs? Would you add any details that I missed?

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. You had me at Steamboat! Truly my favorite place!

    1. Loved connecting yesterday over this place! I love it as well.

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