Things to do in Steamboat Springs in winter

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Steamboat Springs is a remote ski town in northwestern Colorado with surprisingly a lot to do even if you don’t ski or snowboard. If you are visiting Steamboat Springs in winter, knowing what to expect both on and off the mountain will help you plan the perfect trip. Whether you plan to spend your day skiing, tubing, or exploring the town’s shops and restaurants, there are a lot of great things to do in Steamboat in winter – or any other time of year.

Steamboat is incredibly family-friendly. The family lodging options, ski runs for kids, and activities for children, make it one of our favorite winter travel destinations.

Skiing in Steamboat

About Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Like many ski towns, Steamboat Springs is a quaint and charming town with a western feel and a lot of dining and shopping options that will appeal to visitors. It is approximately a 5-10 minute drive from Steamboat Mountain Resort to the town of Steamboat Springs. Because of the close proximity to Steamboat Mountain Resort, the area and even the town is often referred to simply as “Steamboat” rather than Steamboat Springs. If staying at the base area of the mountain resort, it is worth making the short trek into the town at least one night for dinner or for a day of shopping.

Steamboat Springs does a very good job of maintaining the streets, plowing them every night during the winter when they have a big snowfall, so the drive from the resort to the town is quite easy.

How to get to Steamboat Springs, Colorado

The biggest downfall to visiting Steamboat in winter, especially when traveling with children, is that it isn’t the easiest ski resort to get to in Colorado. Unlike other resorts, such as Breckenridge, Copper, or Vail, which are within a two hour drive from Denver, Steamboat is a bit farther. It’s about a 3 1/2 to 4 hour drive from Denver. Additionally, that drive can be a bit treacherous when there is a lot of snow, as it can cause slick or even closed roads.

Driving isn’t your only option though, you can also fly into the small town of Hayden (Yampa Valley Regional Airport), which is only a 30 minute shuttle or car ride from the base. The caveat is, it’s a small airport so very few cities offer direct flights, and airfare can be a bit expensive. But flying into Hayden is a much more convenient option and safe option than driving from Denver.

The distance from Denver can also be a good thing though. The mountain and the town tend to be less crowded than some of the other Colorado resort areas. This means shorter lift lines, if skiing, and shorter wait times at restaurants. 

Things to do in Steamboat Springs in winter
The town of Steamboat Springs in winter.

Things to do in Steamboat Springs in winter

Steamboat is one of our favorite ski resorts. The mountain itself and its varying terrain are hands down the top reasons we repeatedly visit and ski in Steamboat. Steamboat in winter can often see around 150 inches of powdery snow, on average, more than most Colorado resorts. It is often referred to as champagne snow because it’s smooth and dry, which is perfect for skiing.

Go snowboarding or skiing in Steamboat in winter

Snow sports, like snowboarding and skiing, are the most popular activities in Steamboat in winter. The mountain has a good variety of greens, blues, and black runs, which makes it fun for skiers of all levels. For novice and young skiers, there are even some long green runs that take you from the top of the mountain all the way to the bottom. Unlike many ski resorts where the beginner runs are clustered together toward the bottom of the mountain and accessible by only one of two lifts, in Steamboat, even new skiers can ski off most lifts.

Skiing in Steamboat

Don’t under a ski mountains ratings system? Check out our guide to the top skiing terms and phrases you’ll hear on the slopes.

The good mix of beginner runs throughout the mountain becomes especially beneficial when you’re skiing with people of varying abilities or with a young child learning to ski for the first time.One parent can always ski with the beginner while the other parent or any older, more experienced children can ski down intermediate or advanced terrain that runs parallel to the green. The parallel runs will still meet up at the same chair lift.

If your child is in ski school, there is a good chance you might spot them on the mountain skiing in the same general vicinity as you! Nothing like a proud parent moment when you spot your little shredder snow plowing down the mountain with the rest of the kids in the class!

Skiing in Steamboat
Skiing is the most popular activity in Steamboat Springs in winter

If you aren’t skiing with a novice, there are a lot of great runs for experienced skiers, as well, including some really fun tree runs and even hiking terrain. 

Things to do in Steamboat in winter besides skiing

Although it’s known for mountain sports, there are plenty of things to do in Steamboat Springs in winter off the mountain, as well. Many of the family-friendly winter activities in Steamboat are suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

The base area at Steamboat provides entertainment after the mountain closes and during the day for non-skiers. It is a fun place to gather, with outdoor seating and fire pits and some great restaurants and shops. 

Attend a concert, festival, or event

During winter in Steamboat, there is always some type of event going on! You’ll often find ski races and family-friendly spectator events or concerts at the base of the mountain and in the town of Steamboat Springs. It is a great place to hang out for both families and those who aren’t traveling with children.

The Music Fest

Steamboat Mountain Resort is known for its live music events. Right at the bottom of the mountain there is a large stage, where musicians will often perform. Each January the resort hosts a large music festival, simply called The Music Fest, with dozens of Texas country music artists playing throughout the week-long event.

Steamboat Music Fest
Steamboat Music Fest

Winter Carnival

Named one of the top winter carnivals in the world, the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival is a celebration of the community’s western heritage and its acclaimed winter sports. Children can get towed by horses through a snowy obstacle course in the streets of Steamboat Springs. You can also witness feats of Olympic proportions as athletes race down the slopes, fly off ski jumps, and even jump through fiery hoops. 

Cowboy Downhill

One of the most popular events in Steamboat in winter is the annual Cowboy Downhill. Cowboys in chaps and hats race down the mountain on skis, and then partake in a roping and saddling competition. Crowds gather throughout the day and night to watch the entertaining spectacle. There is also live music, sky divers, hot air balloons, and plenty of family entertainment.

Base area in Steamboat - Family attending the Cowboy Downhill with kids
Attending the Cowboy Downhill in Steamboat with kids

Visit the iconic Arnold Barn

In the grassy knoll at Mt. Werner Road and Mt. Werner Circle, you’ll find a picturesque, old barn that has become somewhat of an iconic landmark for the town of Steamboat. Dating back to 1928, the nearly 100-year-old barn was built by a dairy farmer by the name of Walter Arnold. Eventually Arnold sold his land to the corporation that developed Steamboat Mountain Resort. While much of the farm was demolished over time, the barn remained untouched. Today, it stands near the entrance of the resort as a symbol of the area’s agricultural history. It is one of the most photographed landmarks in Steamboat.

snow-covered barn in Steamboat Springs in winter
The iconic barn at Steamboat, Colorado in winter

Glide down the mountain on a snow tube

Snow tubing is a popular family-friendly activity in Steamboat in winter. Children of all ages can participate, but young children will need to ride in the lap of an adult. Yee-Haw Tubing Hill at Saddleback Ranch is the best place to go snow tubing in Steamboat. Plan for at least two hours. If traveling with kids, your children will enjoy every minute!

Cost: $36/person (Kids age 3 and under are free)

Take a scenic gondola ride

The gondola will take you from the base of Steamboat Mountain Resort to the top of Mount Werner. At the top, you can have a meal, take photos, or simply enjoy the view from 9,000 feet above sea level. If you are skiing while in Steamboat, your ski pass covers your gondola ride up the mountain.

Cost: Free with a ski pass or $39/per person

skiers underneath the gondola at Steamboat Mountain Resort
Skiing is one of the most popular things to do in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in winter.

Soak in natural hot springs

Steamboat Springs actually got its name because of the multitude of natural hot springs in the area. When the first settlers came to the area, they said the sulfur which was steaming out of the hot springs sounded like a steamboat, so they named the town Steamboat Springs. Naturally, soaking in a natural hot spring is a must when in Steamboat. 

There are two main hot springs in Steamboat that visitors can enjoy and relax in during their Steamboat winter vacation. Old Town Hot Springs is located in the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs. It has water slides, a rock climbing wall and a kiddie pool, so it is a great place to visit in Steamboat with kids.

If you’re looking for something more therapeutic or are visiting Steamboat without children, Strawberry Park Hot Springs offers a rustic experience surrounded by natural beauty. 

The hot springs are open year round and can provide a nice relaxing break from the mountain, if you just need to soak your sore muscles. The hot springs are suitable and open to children of all ages, in fact kids under two are free!

Cost: Starting at $25/adult

Go on a dinner sleigh ride

There are several places where you can book a dinner sleigh ride in Steamboat during winter. We took our 11-month-old daughter on a dinner sleigh ride at Haymaker’s. The food was wonderful and the staff and horses were very friendly. They offer warm blankets and hot cocoa to keep you warm on the 20-minute sleigh ride that follows dinner. This is definitely one of the more relaxing family-friendly activities in Steamboat that you can do with very young children. 

A dinner sleigh ride is one of the great family-friendly activities in Steamboat in winter
A dinner sleigh ride is one of the best family-friendly activities in Steamboat in winter.

For a sleigh ride geared more toward adults, you can take the gondola to the top of the mountain and take a sleigh ride pulled by a snowcat over to Ragnar’s where you will then enjoy a gourmet 5-course meal.

Cost: $25 + dinner at Haymaker’s

Enjoy a day of dog sledding

Dog sledding in Steamboat is another activity that is suitable even for children as young as two years old. Embark on a 2-hour long adventure along a 12-mile trail through the backcountry pulled by a team of excited Alaskan Huskies. These dogs are friendly, loved, and most importantly, they really enjoy and get excited when they get to pull a sled. 

My daughter LOVES dogs, so naturally dog sledding is a perfect activity for animal lovers. The best part is your dog sledding adventure comes with lots of snuggling and petting time with the affectionate sled dogs.

Cost: $225 per guest over 80 pounds. 

Take a snowshoeing tour

If you are experienced at snowshoeing there are a variety of trails that are either free or require a small entrance fee around Steamboat Springs in winter. However, if you’ve never been snowshoeing before, it can take some getting used to. So, it might be a good idea to book a snowshoe tour. You can do so at the Gondola Square Ski and Sport at the base of Steamboat Mountain Resort or by going online

snowshoeing

Learn how to drive on ice

The Bridgestone Winter Driving School is one of the more unique experiences you can have in Steamboat Springs in winter. While this activity can be a bit pricey and isn’t suitable for children or new drivers, if you aren’t used to winter weather, snow and ice, this is a great introductory course to driving on ice. It does entail one hour of classroom instruction followed by time on a track where you’ll learn how to safely navigate turns, skids and a loss of vehicle traction. 

Cost: $309 per person

Go ice skating

Whether you want to skate indoors or outdoors, Steamboat Springs has public ice skating rinks that are the perfect place to test your balance on ice skates. 

The Howelsen Ice Complex offers indoor skating and even bumper-cars-on ice! If you prefer an outdoor skating rink, Howelsen Hill has a smaller oval outdoor rink. The outdoor rink is a free public rink, but does not offer skate rentals like the Howelsen Ice Complex.  

Cost: $8/adult + $4 skate rental 

Ride a mountain coaster

The Outlaw Mountain Coaster at the base of Steamboat Mountain resort is the second longest mountain coaster in North America. With more than 6,000 feet of tracks, this 10-minute coaster ride reaches speeds up to 27 miles per hour. Kids 16 and younger can ride with a parent who operates the brake levers to control the speed of the sled. 

family riding the mountain coaster in Steamboat in winter
Total excitement for the Outlaw Mountain Coaster

We bought the unlimited ride day pass and rode the mountain coaster time and time again!

Cost: $25/person for a single ride or $45/person for an unlimited day pass

Shop in downtown Steamboat Springs

Every ski town typically has a variety of charming boutiques and unique shops. Steamboat is no different. You’ll find plenty of stores carrying winter and ski apparel. Gourmet candy shops and souvenir stores offer plenty of keepsakes if you are looking for a gift or just want something to take home with you to remember your trip.

Eat and drink at locally-owned restaurants and breweries

There are some really great restaurants for foodies and craft breweries for beer lovers.

I’d recommend having dinner at Mahogany Ridge Brewery. If you are a craft beer lover, you will enjoy their Alpenglow beer. Mahogany Ridge is not only a brewery but a restaurant too, and it is family friendly. The food is wonderful and the atmosphere is equally great.

Where to stay in Steamboat in winter

When looking for lodging in Steamboat, Colorado, there are a few factors to consider. Are you looking for something that is ski-in, ski-out? Or are you willing to stay a bit farther away to save money?

While many people who visit Steamboat Springs in winter stay near the mountain resort, you can save money by staying in the town. Just a short drive or bus ride from the resort, the town of Steamboat Springs offers a variety of lodging options, as well. This is also a great option if visiting Steamboat during the summer months.

There are only a few ski-in, ski-out places at Steamboat in winter. For the most part you will have to utilize the free shuttle from the base area to access most of the hotels. If you don’t mind a short walk, there are some great options that, while not ski-in, are still fairly close to the lifts. The Steamboat Grand is one of them.

Steamboat Grand Lodging Review

We have stayed in a couple of the hotels in Steamboat but particularly like the Steamboat Grand.

Lodging in Steamboat Springs Colorado
Inside one of the rooms at The Steamboat grand

The Steamboat Grand is not ski-in, ski-out, but it is within a very short distance from the mountain. It is directly across the street from the main lifts, so you don’t have to take the shuttle. They also offer free ski and snowboard storage right at the base, which is a convenient perk that I love after a long day on the mountain.

The accommodations are nice, comfortable and spacious. It makes it easier for families traveling with young children. Some rooms come with a small, fully-stocked kitchen, double sinks in the bathroom, and a living area. As with most hotels in the United States, they also offer roll-away hotel cribs for families traveling with babies.

The hotel has a great restaurant and bar right off the lobby that serves a wonderful breakfast. If you want something a little less expensive, there are plenty of restaurants that serve breakfast right at the base of the mountain.

Ski School in Steamboat

Steamboat is known as Ski Town USA because it has produced more Olympic athletes than any other place in America… So guess where we like to teach our kid how to ski? 🙂

We don’t expect our daughter to become an Olympian or anything, but we do want her to be able to ski well and safely navigate varying terrain. Our daughter has been in ski school in Steamboat, and loved it. We also saw a great amount of progress in her ability level while she was there.

The ski school in Steamboat is conveniently located, right at the base of the gondola, making it easy to pick your child up at the end of their session.

Child Care in Steamboat

If you plan to ski, but your children are too young to ski or take a lesson in ski school, child care in Steamboat is also an option. In any ski town, child care is a bit pricey. It will basically cost you the price of a daily lift ticket. But the child care facility at the base of the mountain is clean, well staffed, and the children are separated based on age. 

Outside the gondola entrance in steamboat
Outside the gondola entrance in Steamboat. The child care center and ski school are located next to the gondola.

Like the ski school, the child care center is also located directly below the gondola so you can ski down at the end of the day, pick your child up, and head to a restaurant to grab a bite to eat or go enjoy one of the other winter activities above.

We recommend reserving a spot in the Kid’s Vacation Center early because it does tend to fill up fast. Babies need to be at least 6 months old to use the child care facility and the rates are based on a full day only. There is no discount or reduced price for a half day. 

But when your child is old enough to finally ski with you, kids up to the age of 12 ski free with their parent or guardian when the parent purchases a ski pass for themselves for 5 days or more.

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This list of things to do in Steamboat Springs in winter was originally written in January 2016 but was updated in September 2021 for accuracy and current information.

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