Steamboat Springs Resort boasts such large amounts of fluffy, light, dry snow for skiing and snowboarding that its marketing team secured a registered trademark. Steamboat’s brand of snow is officially called “Champagne Powder®.”
After skiing at Steamboat and enjoying this famous powder, I’m happy to report the resort is not just blowing smoke – it truly is some of the finest cold smoke powder the sky has to offer. Averaging 368” of snow per year, the odds of a powder day during your ski vacation are in your favor. These tips will help you get the most out of a Steamboat ski trip.
Get Away from the Gondola
In fact, get away from the entire base area. Steamboat attracts crowds consistently throughout the season and the layout funnels almost everyone to the same place. Ride the gondola once to get on the mountain, then avoid its long lines until the next morning. You can also check the line at the live gondola base area webcam.
Breckenridge, for example, has very distinct mountain peaks and the lifts start at the base of each peak and go to the top, for the most part. The mountain peaks at Steamboat, by contrast, sit in an odd configuration that makes it easy to waste a lot of time and energy going from one area to another without actually doing any real skiing.
Figure out what you like to ski most – steeps, blue cruisers, bumps – and stay there. If it’s trees you want, Steamboat offers fantastic tree skiing everywhere, though I especially enjoyed the Triangle 3 area to skier’s left from the top of the Bar-UE lift.
Steamboat for Intermediate Skiers
Intermediate skiers can count on Steamboat to meticulously groom a series of blue cruisers served by the Sunshine Express lift. Most are wide, rolling and offer a gentle pitch. On cold days, these trails ski incredibly fast and fun. Skiers who want to perfect their carving or push their shaped skis to the edge will enjoy this area. Improving beginners will also want to try this area to gauge their progress on the slopes.
Morningside Park provides an ideal introduction to bowl skiing for intermediate skiers ready to take the next step. The very top has black signage, but don’t shy away. After two or three turns, the entire way to the bottom skis blue. And it offers a virtually infinite number of lines in and out of the trees at an easy pitch. This helps blue skiers get more comfortable on a map that often seems covered in black diamonds. It’s easy for intermediate skiers to spend most of the day here without even realizing they missed lunch.
When returning from Morningside Park to the front side via the Morningside lift, many skiers take the blue Over Easy to the blue Buddy’s Run, which leads towards a weird, congested confluence of trails and lifts. Instead of taking the easy way, more experienced skiers will want to go over the top of the peak into a series of short, steep chutes. Some are marked as EX for extreme terrain, others as merely black diamonds but they are all superb on a powder day and especially challenging when skied out and scratchy.
At the end of the ski day, many skiers and snowboarders take Heavenly Daze (blue) to Lower Valley View (easy black) to return to the base lodge. Just like the Four O’clock run at Breckenridge and Mountain Run at Squaw Valley, this crowded mass of tired skiers and boarders racing to get down the mountain needs to be avoided. Instead, bear skier’s right from the top of the gondola towards the Thunderhead Express lift area and cut through the trees in a series of green trails. Conditions permitting, it’s much more fun and more safe.
Stay on the Mountain
Lodging is not inexpensive but if you’re visiting Steamboat Springs Resort for a week or two and praying to the snow gods for just one, incredible powder day then you want to be staying on the mountain to be in the best position to get first tracks. You certainly don’t want to be digging out the car, sitting in traffic behind a snowplow and losing 20 minutes walking from the parking lot to the lifts. And given the powder brings out the locals as well as the vacationers, it can get tracked out fairly quickly.
On my last trip to Steamboat Springs, we stayed at the Steamboat Grand, right at the base area. It’s far more beautiful and luxurious than I need for a ski trip but it’s all about getting to the champagne powder first.
First Tracks at Steamboat Springs Resort
For an extra $39.00 on top of the lift ticket cost, Steamboat offers First Tracks passes that allow access to the gondola and several other lifts at 8:00 a.m. instead of at 8:30 a.m. Is it worth it on top of the $200.00 day rate? Not every day, but I loved getting out early for first tracks while the rest of my family had breakfast and made their way leisurely to the lifts. If you’re the type that loves fresh pow, you’ll hate standing in line at the gondola watching other First Tracks skiers go up and get it while you stand there waiting.
Steamboat Springs Resort provided lift tickets to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.