City Guide: Steamboat Springs, CO
Over the past 5 years we’ve spent many months in Steamboat Springs, Colorado including our recent 3 month stint as Digital Nomads during Covid. Ski Town USA as it is known, is home to some of the best skiing in the US, but also has a ton of other offerings. So if you’re thinking of heading to Steamboat, here’s our Steamboat Springs destination guide with everything you need to know!
Table of Contents
What to Pack for Steamboat
Getting to Steamboat
Where to Stay in Steamboat
Top 10 Things to Do in Steamboat
Digital Nomads in Steamboat
Steamboat Springs Weather
The weather in Steamboat can vary greatly depending on the season. In the winter, expect consistent snowfall and constant accumulations on the ground, trails and roads. Temperatures can fall into the single digits, but are generally in the upper teens and twenties during the day, making for a comfortable ski experience.
June through August temperatures rise up to the mid 70s and 80s with lots of sunshine. April and May are generally the mud season as snowmelt and rainfall make a bit of a muddy mess if you’re heading up for mountain biking or taking on some hiking trails.
What to Pack for Steamboat
In the winter, Steamboat calls for heavy jackets and multiple layers of clothing. Temperatures aren’t generally extreme, but can dip below 0 fahrenheit at times. In the summer, temps are extremely mild and shorts and t-shirts will keep you cool in the Colorado sun. If you plan on making a couple summits though, be sure to bring a light jacket and pants as elevation change can cause temperatures to drop.
Speaking of summits, Steamboat is home to unmatched outdoor recreation. If you plan on getting out and exploring, be sure to bring a rugged, lightweight and padded hiking backpack along for the trip. Additionally, the altitude and lack of humidity can be especially dehydrating to visitors. Make sure to bring a water bottle (or two) to keep handy. A 1 Liter Vapur bottle along with a filtering system can be great for hikes when you want to enjoy some mountain spring water.
Cell service can also be spotty in Steamboat and the surrounding areas, which can burn up your phone's battery. Grab a power bank to keep your phone charged for amazing photos and searching for your food and drink spot on the way home.
Getting to Steamboat
Steamboat is a three hour drive from the Denver International Airport, making it a bit of a haul. This is both good and bad as it keeps the number of tourists to a minimum at most times, but often requires visitors to rent a car. If arriving to DIA, head west on Interstate 70 when leaving the airport until you reach Silverthorne. Turn north onto Highway 9 towards Kremmling, then turn west on Highway 40 to follow signs to Steamboat.
Alternatively, there is a smaller local airport located in Hayden, just 30 miles north of Steamboat. It can be difficult to find reasonably priced flights into this airport, but if you can, it will save you hours of drive time into Steamboat. There are regular shuttles from the Hayden airport to Steamboat so check with your accommodation provider for the best way to get into town from the airport.
Where to Stay in Steamboat
There are a number of great hotel and condo accommodations available for rent right around the Steamboat Springs ski resort. These can get very expensive and it’s rare to find good accommodations during the winter season, right around the ski area, for less than $200/night. Good luck finding a rental at all during the weeks of Christmas, New Years or MusicFest (the first or second weekend in January, known as Texas Week to locals). Just outside of the ski area there are additional condos and Airbnbs available. If you can pile in with a few friends, you’ll be able to find reasonable accommodations within shuttle or driving distance to the mountain and downtown.
Top 10 Things to Do in Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs Ski Resort
Steamboat has an excellent ski area at Mt. Werner with almost 3,000 skiable acres and plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain. With 169 named trails and 23 different lifts, crowds are usually spread out, giving you plenty of room and short lift lines. Additionally, the distance from a major airport and from Denver generally keeps the crowds pretty reasonable as well.
Check Out the Base Area
Most ski areas have a little base area where you can grab lift tickets and maybe a quick meal. But the Steamboat base is an experience all on its own. The base has tons of shops and restaurants, as well as a number of hotel and lodging options. There is a giant stage where they often have live music performances or an emcee entertaining the skiers. The base area is a great place to grab any gear you might need, have some excellent food, and sip a beer or cocktail after a long day on the mountain.
The Steamboat Springs ski area isn’t even the only ski area in town! Ski where Olympic skiers train when you grab a day pass to the far lesser known Howelsen Hill. With far smaller crowds and a less developed base area, the Howelsen Hill offers a totally different experience from the well established Steamboat ski area. Known as the “town hill” Howelson has a reputation as being the kid brother to the Steamboat ski area, but actually serves as an Olympic training grounds and practice area for many up and coming winter sports athletes.
The Howelson ski area also boasts tubing for those looking for winter fun that doesn’t require a ski or snowboard rental. If you’re looking for a change up, or just want to pretend to be an Olympic athlete try out North America’s oldest operating ski area at Howelsen Hill for a day.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs
On a day off from skiing, a great place to unwind and relax your sore muscles is the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. The Strawberry Park Hot Springs are located above the town just a short drive from the ski area or downtown Steamboat. It’s a short drive, but can be a treacherous one if roads are snowy or icy, so be prepared with snow tires or 4 wheel drive.
Once at the Steamboat Hot Springs, you can purchase inexpensive passes and walk your way from the parking lot down to the sprawling natural hot spring pools. There are several changing lodges and you can even stay overnight at the hot springs in a number of different lodging options. Once changed, you can take your pick of any number of varying temperature pools, including one particularly large pool that is absolutely frigid! It’s considered a right of passage at the hot springs to go from the large warm pool and plunge into the cold pool to swim the length of the pool and back, before getting back into the warm pool.
Old Town Hot Springs
If you don’t want to make the drive out to Strawberry Park, or if the feel of the natural hot springs isn’t your style, check out the Old Town Hot Springs right in downtown Steamboat. The Old Town Springs is a spa, water park, fitness center and more all wrapped into one, and day passes are only $25 for adults.
Steamboat is surrounded by beautiful mountain trails that are generally accessible year round. In the summer, mild temperatures, mountain air and endless views make the trails around Steamboat popular. In the winter, strap on your snowshoes and explore the quiet serenity of snow blanketed nature. The Uranium Mine Trail, Fish Creek Falls, and Steamboat Lake trail are popular choices.
Every year Steamboat hosts a Winter Carnival. The town hauls in snow to cover Main Street so that horses, carriages, skiers and more can make their way right down the street in a mix of a parade and a competition. There is food, music, competitions and more! In the evening, tubing, music and a fireworks show on skis (yes you read that right) all take place over on Howelsen Hill. It is a magical way to enjoy the winter weather.
Downtown Steamboat has tons of great shops, restaurants and breweries. Roam the short Main Street and pop into shops full of artwork, cowboy supplies, candy, ice cream and more. Pop into F.M. Light & Sons to try on a few cowboy hats, or wander through the giant Steamboat Art Company.
When you’re getting hungry there are a number of quick and easy restaurants as well as fine dining experiences. New for this year, and on our list of must try experiences, is Gondola Car dining at Mountain Tap Brewery and Yurt dining at Aurum Food & Wine. In both cases, guests enjoy a private dining experience with a room all to themselves, but one that provides a uniquely wintry experience as the dining areas are actually outside!
Yampa River Tubing
From June to August, Steamboat offers tubing down the Yampa River (which if it’s anything like tubing down the French Broad River is probably a blast). Gently glide past the ski area, and downtown as you make your way through the Yampa River Valley. You can stop at a number of parks, restaurants or bars on the 1 to 3 hour float. There are a plenty of outfitters in town where you can rent your tube, paddles and more.
If none of this is extreme enough for you, and you’re looking for the skiing/snowboarding experience of the Colorado wilderness, check out Steamboat Powdercats. Experience the untouched thrill of backcountry skiing without the battle to make it up the hill. Hop into a multi ton snow cat (the machines they use to groom the ski areas) and truck your way up through the Buffalo Pass wilderness, before enjoying the champagne powder downhill.
Digital Nomads in Steamboat
Steamboat is an excellent digital nomad destination both in the winter and in the summer. There are tons of activities and lots of surrounding areas to explore. The cost of living in Steamboat can be really high, with rent, groceries and entertainment all well above the average US city. Savvy digital nomads will find though, that if you’re smart, you can stretch your dollars pretty far if you spend your money just outside of the Steamboat area.
WiFi is free in many public areas in Steamboat and bars, restaurants and coffee shops all welcome business visitors. There is even free WiFi provided on the ski mountain if you need to take a quick call while on the chair lift, or want to knock out some work over a beer at the base area. Cell phone service in Steamboat is solid, but just outside of town reception can fall off quickly. Don’t expect to go for a hike and pull out your laptop on your picnic lunch.
There is a fairly intricate bus system in Steamboat that can get you around most places of interest and there are a few Ubers in the area, but in all likelihood you’ll want to bring your own vehicle to get around. Steamboat is not a walkable town (besides the Main Street area) and you’ll really appreciate the freedom of being able to explore the surrounding areas on your own time. In Mountain Standard Time, Steamboat makes it extremely easy to find overlapping hours with US co-workers or clients.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado is one of our favorite winter destinations, and can be a blast to visit in the summer as well. If you’re looking for mountain air, laid back mountain culture, and amazing outdoor recreation, Steamboat is a great choice. If you’re looking for something a little different, check out all of our breakdowns of other great travel destinations.
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