There is so much to love about the little, remote town of Steamboat Springs, sitting comfortably in the Yampa Valley at the foot of Mount Werner, three or so hours northwest of Denver in northern Colorado.
At 7,000 feet above sea level, the region of 12,000 is so named because the bubbling of natural hot springs resembled the sound of a steamboat coming down the river, back when French trappers first arrived in the early 1800s.
The gold rush of the 1860s opened up this part of the country, paving the way for ranchers and settlers. And ever since Norwegian Carl Howelsen came to town circa 1910 and awoke an interest in ski jumping and recreational skiing, Steamboat Springs has been a thriving community that eats, sleeps and breathes skiing. More than 70 people from the region have competed in the Olympics in the past century.
Though half a million people descend on the amazing ski resort that sits just at the edge of town each year, the easy-going, country charm of the area remains. Eloping or honeymooning, you can’t get any more romantic than this. Check out Steamboat.com for more inside intel.
Spend a Day on the Slopes
With 65 runs, 23 lifts, tons of snow and plenty of fresh air, the Steamboat Ski Resort will take your breath away—particularly at the top of the mountain, which tops 10,000 feet above sea level. Find perfectly groomed hills for every level of skiing ability. The après ski crowd is always fun—and thirsty. For a real workout, hit the cross-country ski trails.
Take the Waters at a Rustic Hot Springs
After a winding 15-minute shuttle into the woods, you arrive at Strawberry Park Hot Springs (strawberryhotsprings.com) to melt your cares away in the rustic pools. Beware: One of them is really cold! Unfussy and unhurried, this romantic spot sees bathers changing in a teepee (don’t be shy). And because there is no electricity, clothing is optional after dark. • Closer to home base, the Old Town Hot Springs (oldtownhotsprings.org) is mid way between Steamboat the town and Steamboat the mountain, with a lap pool, hot spring-fed small pools, a gym and a water slide.
Go Horseback Riding on Snowy Canyon Trails
Ranching (and skiing) has been in the Heid family for generations. Triangle 3 Ranch, just 15 minutes or so outside of town, is where Ray Heid and his son Perk will guide you through snowy canyon trails on horseback—likely with a couple of dogs in tow. If you’ve never been on a horse before, don’t worry: These are the most easy-going horses around.
Wander the Shops Along Lincoln Avenue
The wall of cowboy boots at F.M. Light & Sons (fmlight.com) will be more than your eyes can take in. Just try not to paw over all this fine-crafted footwear, hats and belts. The shop opened for business in 1905 and is still in the same family. • Across the street, poke your head into Cowboys and Indians (cowboysandindiansonline.com) and get lost among the locally made jewellery, antiques and crafts. • Romicks Into the West (romicksintothewest.com) has a little bit of everything—home furnishings, furniture, clothing and gifts.
Cuddle Up in the Corner of a Romantic Restaurant
Head to the Ore House at the Pine Grove (orehouse.com), built in a 110-year-old barn, for the best steaks in town. Daily prime rib and Angus steaks headline the hearty menu. • The deeply intimate Café Diva (cafediva.com) is the top restaurant of the region, nestled in the ski village at the base of the mountain. Duck confit pockets come bloated with gouda and maple-bourbon sauce, while a cabernet veal demi-glace dresses up a lean elk tenderloin. • Clever cocktails and shared plates are the orders of the day at Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails (thelaundryrestaurant.com), where bartenders resurrect cocktail recipes from the ’40s and ’50s, much to the delight of the après-ski crowd. And if suds are more to your liking, the award-winning craft beers in Colorado are some of the best in the U.S.
– Doug Wallace (January 2014)