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4 Perfect Days on a Ski Trip to Colorado: Steamboat Springs Itinerary

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These days, a ski trip to Colorado must make your bucket list. That’s if you ski, or not. Colorado winters indeed offer sports and other activities for non-skiers too. So whether you go to ski or simply take a vacation and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, you will not be disappointed. You may have heard of the larger resorts like Breckenridge and Vail, but several other ski resorts in Colorado offer more authentic Colorado ski experiences. Think more minor and less accessible Colorado skiing mountains like Crested Butte (my favorite in CO) or Steamboat Springs (my other favorite). While these resorts are a bit further away from Denver, they provide the ideal backdrop for your next ski trip to Colorado. Since I’ve already covered Crested Butte, it’s time to shed some light on the adorable ski town of Steamboat Springs, CO. 

Is Steamboat Springs Expensive? 

Let’s face it, skiing is expensive leisure and you have to commit to spending. Unless you’re like me and committed to making skiing budget-friendly. Anyway, the answer is that it is what you make it. In my opinion, Steamboat is comparable to many other ski resorts in Colorado. There are ways to make it affordable like purchasing your lift tickets early through the IKON pass, being smart about where you dine, and being flexible about where you stay. Like any other ski town in Colorado, staying at the resort bases will be outrageous. Choosing an Airbnb or hotel and taking the free shuttles from your doorstep to the mountain will work just fine and save you an extra buck. As far as dining goes, it’s just like any other tourist town. There are dives with cheap and delicious bar food and fancier options at an elevated price. All in all, Steamboat Springs, CO is no more expensive than the next ski resort. 

What is Steamboat Colorado Known For? 

There are several reasons to visit Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The town, of course, is most known for its world-class skiing and dubbed “Ski Town, USA”. However, the natural hot springs in Steamboat, give the resort a run for its money and are a must-visit attraction. In addition, Steamboat is a year-round destination. Like many other Colorado ski areas, when the snow melts, it reveals lush green and mountains ripe for hiking and biking. There’s lots of history in Steamboat Springs with tourism dating back to the 1900s and a reputation as a “spa town”. You’ll notice these little pieces of history as you stroll the streets of Old Town Steamboat. 

What is the Best Month to Ski in Steamboat Springs? 

The best month to ski in Steamboat Springs depends from year to year depending on the conditions of the mountain. In my opinion, the best time to take any ski trip to Colorado is mid-January through March. Any time before that can be hit or miss with the snow, especially for Steamboat which sits at a lower elevation than most other Colorado skiing mountains. So, plan for later in the winter for best results and stay updated on conditions. 

The good thing about Steamboat is that it is a bit further drive from Denver and does not follow the route along I-70. This means that you can avoid a lot of the crowds and traffic that traditionally come with ski season in Colorado. So, while Steamboat is absolutely a popular destination for skiing, worrying about crowds during peak ski season in Colorado is not as much of an issue.

4-Day Weekend Itinerary in Steamboat Springs

Day 1, Travel Day: 

***A Quick Note: There’s a reason that this itinerary is 4 days instead of 3. With any ski trip to Colorado, you’re going to want at least 1 extra day for travel to maximize your time on the mountain. The best (and often cheapest) times to travel are during the week when the crowds have diminished. 

If you’re traveling from outside of Colorado, there are two options. You can fly into Denver then make the 3-hour drive into the mountains, or you can fly directly into Steamboat. That’s right, Steamboat has it’s airport making travel seamless. The good news is that you can often find reasonable flights to and from the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, but overall Denver is the cheapest. 

Eat at One of the Best Restaurants in Steamboat Springs

Once you’re settled in your Steamboat Springs lodging (check out this lodging guide from The Mountain Travelist), I recommend heading into downtown Steamboat for a casual bite to eat. After a long day of travel, it’s best to fuel up for the days ahead with a juicy burger. For this, head to Back Door Grill and indulge. If you’re feeling more excited than exhausted after your day of travel, then you can explore the shopping on Main Street in downtown Steamboat and/or head to O’Neil’s Tavern for a nightcap. 

Day 2, Morning:

Grab & Go Breakfast Options

First things first, wake up early and grab some breakfast. Two awesome grab-and-go options include Winona’s and Colorado Bagel Company. Winona’s offers bakery options and is known for its giant cinnamon rolls, while Colorado Bagel Company gives you filling bagels and breakfast sandwich options. 

Get Prepared for Skiing

Now it’s time to nail the logistics of getting to the mountain. If you cannot splurge and stay within walking distance or ski-in ski-out accommodations, I assure you that it’s not a problem. In the winter, ski towns in Colorado have robust public transportation and free shuttle services to get you safely to and from the mountain without having to pay for parking or lug your gear on a mile walk. Before you book your stay, make sure you know whether or not there are transportation options nearby. Apart from transportation to the base, you may want to arrive at the base earlier on your first day of skiing to snag your rental gear and/or ski pass. 

Go Skiing

Use these maps to help navigate the mountain and resort base. Head to the main entrance and Steamboat Square at the base to catch the Steamboat Gondola. This Gondola takes you up the highest so that you can explore most of the mountain without having to go back down to the crowded base. Expect to wait a bit for the Steamboat Gondola as this is the main access point. My advice is to arrive as early as possible or after the morning rush. Just be aware that most lifts close at 3:30 p.m. While I’m usually not the navigator on any mountain, I can tell you that my favorite runs all exist off of Sunshine Express. 

What if I Don’t Ski?

There are several options for activities if you are not a skier which is why you should never pass on a ski trip to Colorado. However, you also might consider taking a lesson. If you cannot or will not ski, then I would first and foremost sleep in. Then go into town and stroll along the Yampa River Trail with a coffee from Big Iron Coffee and peruse Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. When you’ve begun to work up an appetite, head to the local favorite Creekside Cafe and Grill for brunch. 

Day 2, Afternoon:

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Mid-day Aprés On-Mountain

Take a break on the mountain and grab the perfect mid-day snack at Taco Beast. A retired snowcat that dishes out tacos, Mexican sodas, and beer. You can find it parked at the bottom of Sundown Express. Then, more skiing…

What if I don’t Ski?

With full bellies from brunch, I’d head back onto Main Street and do some shopping. Maybe you even grab a fancy cocktail and appetizer from a spot like The Barley Tap and Tavern. If you’re feeling like relaxing and have the time, you can also hit the Old Town Hot Springs for a soak in the natural, healing waters and even schedule a massage. 

Day 2, Post Skiing:

Everyone Meets at Double Diamonds Bar for the best aprés ski experience in the nation according to USA Today. At Double Diamonds, you’ll hear your favorite 90s throwbacks while munching on some bar classics and drinks of course. Who knows maybe you’ll find yourself on the dance floor sashaying under the neon lights. Even if you’re not a skier, enjoying the aprés experience is a must on a ski trip to Colorado. 

Day 2, Evening:

Eat at Blue Sage or Salt & Lime

It’s been a long day, I know. Time to take your respective shuttle back to your stay and shower. Depending on how the gang is feeling, a dinner out may not be on the table. You can order a pizza from Blue Sage and spend the rest of the night in preparing for tomorrow’s ski day. On the other hand, a dinner at Salt & Lime can be the perfect end to a perfect day. Serving up classic Mexican dishes and drinks, Salt & Lime has some of the best food in town. For that reason, I highly recommend reservations. 

Now go to sleep, you have another big day ahead of you. 

Day 3, Morning/Afternoon:

Fuel Up With Breakfast

Maybe you’re moving a bit slower this morning and want to sit down for some breakfast. If that’s the case, then I recommend Freshies. Of course, grab-and-go options from Winona’s and Colorado Bagel Company are still on the table. 

Go Skiing

Nothing new here, you got this and have learned from yesterday’s mistakes that were inevitably made. While you’re on the mountain today, stop at Ragnar’s for a relaxing, Scandinavian-inspired, sit-down lunch on the mountain. If you want more bar food and aprés vibes then you can’t go wrong with T-bar

What if I Don’t Ski?

Try an outdoor activity like ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or cross-country skiing.  Skeeter’s Ice Rink is a small rink located right in Steamboat Square. There is sometimes live music to enjoy while you skate and views of the mountain and skiers above. Visit the Haymaker Nordic Center if you’re feeling even more adventurous and want to rent some cross-country skis or snowshoes for the day. Snowshoeing is the easier option and is basically like taking a hike in the snow. A great way to see gorgeous snow-covered trails and mountain vistas. Check out this page for all the winter things to do in Steamboat Springs, CO. 

Day 3, After Skiing/Evening:

Tapas and Happy Hour at Bésame

Delay the aprés for just a bit. I recommend heading back to your stay a bit earlier as your evening plans require reservations and some preparation. First things first, you’ll grab tapas and drinks at Bésame. The happy hour here is incredible with deals like 50% off house cocktails every day from 4-5:30 p.m. I recommend reservations for sure! 

Soak at Strawberry Hot Springs 

Do NOT skip this! A soak at Strawberry Hot Springs is one of the coolest things to do in Steamboat Springs, CO. Not to mention, hot springs are the perfect cap for a ski trip to Colorado. By this point your legs are tired and in need of some rest. Strawberry Hot Springs feels magical. With snow and forest surrounding the pools, you’ll feel like you’re in a snow globe or Hallmark movie. Make sure you book your reservations as early as possible as spots tend to sell out quickly. Dates are released no more than a month in advance. Your stay will be for 2 hours and they only accept cash upon arrival ($20/person). Heads up, clothing is optional after sundown…so just beware and keep your hands close. 

Day 4, Morning/Afternoon:

To Ski or Not to Ski 

This decision will depend on your day of travel ahead, the type of ski pass you bought, and how your body is feeling. Whether or not you decide to ski will determine how your day is spent, so I’ll simply list recommendations and you fit in what you can. 

Brunch Options

Johnny B Good Diner is a 50s-style classic diner with large portions and lots of Elvis memorabilia. If you haven’t already been (or if you have) Creekside Cafe and Grill is by far the most recommended (and my favorite) breakfast spot in Steamboat Springs. 

Peruse Main Street and/or The Yampa River Trail

A suggestion for non-skiers earlier in this guide, but walking might do your legs some good. Whether you need to grab a last-minute Steamboat Springs memento or feel like exploring some of the history of Steamboat it’s a nice way to end your ski trip to Colorado. 

And that’s that, your perfect ski trip to Colorado is planned for you. Unfortunately, you will indeed need 2 travel days along this journey, but at least the drive is gorgeous or the airport is close. We’ve made so many wonderful memories in Steamboat Springs both with a group of friends and as a couple. I believe Steamboat to be one of the best options for out-of-town skiers (and non-skiers) looking to enjoy the bucket list Colorado winter season. While it’s easy on the crowds compared to Breck and Vail, it’s accessible and gives you impeccable resort vibes with a humble mountain-town twist. 

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