Steamboat: Top 4 Things to Know Before You Go

Photo by Larry Pierce

1)    Ski town USA consistently hosts the most annual snow fall in Colorado as well as some of the top tree skiing in the world.  Champagne powder and perfectly spaced aspen trees make this lesser known mountain hidden gem.  Dotted with world-class restaurants whilst having the feeling of a Wild West town, “the Boat” is a unique vacation destination all year round.  Be sure to treat yourself to soak in one of the natural mineral hot springs for a truly memorable vacation.

2)    Steamboat Springs is home to a variety of incredible restaurants.  One of the local’s favorites, La Montana, is located just across the street from the ski mountain in a cute little shopping center.  The margaritas are extra refreshing after skiing hard all day and the Shrimp wrap with bacon covered in Jalapeno Hollandaise will not only warm you up but it will keep a smile on your face the whole day. A short 5 minute drive into the downtown area will bring you to an eclectic array of shops and restaurants such as the original malt shoppe located in the historic pharmacy, an old school candy shop with homemade goodies, a candle making shop and the best breakfast restaurant on the planet called “……..”.  Between an epic mountain experience, unforgettable hot springs, fabulous restaurants and shopping, Steamboat Springs has something for everyone.

3)    Appropriately named, the “Heavenly Daze” could just about be the most fun run on the mountain. It gently weaves all the way from the top of the gondola down to the base of the ski area. This easy skiing blue run is a very popular way to cap off the day while watching the valley floor close in with every turn as friends and family await your return.  I have fond memories of lining up on top with all of my friends. We each take turns guiding each other down while playfully weaving amongst each other and celebrate in gratitude another epic day on the mountain!

4)    The Eagle Ridge Condos are a well-kept secret right down the street from the Steamboat Springs Ski Area. When my family and I had the pleasure of skiing and relaxing in Steamboat we were elated with the perfect location and comfortable accommodations. Not only did our 2 bedroom condo have a view of the mountain but it was ground level right next to the pool and hot tubs. The kitchen was fantastically appointed with a complementary bottle of wine waiting for us.  The lobby at Eagle Ridge Condos was very welcoming with a gracious staff, free coffee and baked goods to lounge around the fire with. Should you be in the mood for a short 10 minute walk to get warmed up, there is an easy bike path that leads right to the gondola. On the way there is a health minded mini-market to grab a coffee or some snacks. The condos also offer a shuttle to the slopes which is very convenient for those who would rather not walk with their equipment. Either way, once aboard the gondola the whole mountain is accessible and you are sure to have a great time.  Our family had such a memorable and pleasant experience we will be sure to stay at Eagle Ridge on our next Steamboat Springs vacation.

Safe Travels,
Ryan Zeller

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Snowmass: Know before you go

Apres Ski

1)    Après ski, quick snack, cold beer and a great menu….all of that is available at the New Belgium Ranger Station, right next to the Westin Hotel in Snowmass, Colorado. This slope side location with incredible craft beer just might take the cake for the most refreshing pit stop in Snowmass Village. Be sure to sample one of the unique craft beers they have on tap that are not available in bottles. An incredible blend of flavors that I will never forget is the Coconut Curry Ale: a light but spicy ale with a sweet coconut after taste. Tasty brew with a soft pretzel pizza after skiing fresh powder all day really hit the spot.

2)    Ular nights- The whole family will enjoy a night on the mountain where the medieval theme welcomes Ular, the great god of snow.  Employees are dressed in festive costumes acting as gracious and playful hosts.  The event starts at 5 pm and the Elk Camp restaurant and bar are open for dinner with a great kids menu. The outdoor activities are plentiful but not too overwhelming. There are options for the little ones to ride snow bikes just their size on the bunny slopes while the big kids slide through a dark snow cave.  The highlight of the evening for most is the well-groomed tube sledding hills that vary in length and pitch making it a hoot for all ages. Top off the night with an incredible fire dancing show and s’mores at the fire.

As a father of 3, I can say first hand that the atmosphere invites one to get out there and be a kid. The banked turns of the groomed tubing hill glide so freely under the dark night sky that the thrill will delight parents and little ones alike. I recommend dressing the children in pajamas under their snowsuits because chances are they will quickly fall asleep to the soothing sounds and dark night of the gondola ride home.  Reap the silent reward of this night to be remembered while you gaze out at the distant lights of the village.

Safe Travels,
Ryan Zeller

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8 GREAT REASONS TO VISIT CRESTED BUTTE

 

Amazing scenery (and my goofy kids)

  1.  Beautiful scenery: Crested Butte is located in an incredible valley that, in the wintertime, can only be accessed from one direction. The resort, at the base of the mountain – shaped like a butte with a crest on top, is surrounded in all directions by amazing snowcapped peaks. These peaks are not adorned with any 10,000 square foot mega mansions but are in their original, unspoiled state. Our condo at Crested Mountain North, managed by Crested Butte Lodging, had a “front and center” view of The Butte.
  2. No crowds: The nearest interstate is about three hours’ drive from Crested Butte. If you fly into Denver instead of Gunnison, there are 16 major ski areas that are closer than Crested Butte. As a result of this fortunate geography, Crested Butte never gets crowded. If you are like me, you prefer to enjoy your ski day by skiing on the runs where the snow is the best. You don’t want to have to begin planning your day by figuring out which lift to avoid or which side of the mountain to stay away from in the afternoon because “it’ll be at least a 40 minute lift line at the base of so-and-so”.

    Crested Butte town in the background

     

  3. Very accessible: I know, I just told you how remote it is, right? Very surprisingly, it really doesn’t take all that long to get there. If you fly into Denver, you are going to be faced with at least a three hour drive or shuttle ride to get to 7 of those 16 resorts that I mentioned earlier. Four hours after you leave Denver, you would be within only about 15 minutes of Crested Butte. It is not much longer than traveling to Aspen and there is way less traffic.
  4. It skis much bigger than 1,547 acres:Although the trail map says that the skiable terrain is 1,547 acres, the mountain feels much, much bigger. Go check out the North Face and see how many hidden runs and bowls are over there. Each run you do there feels like a whole new adventure.

    Crested Butte City Hall

  5. Two destinations in one: Crested Butteis one of the few ski areas that has a resort base area (Mt. Crested Butte) as well as a separate town (Crested Butte). Both offer a wide variety of shops, restaurants etc and are linked via a free shuttle bus service that runs day and night. The town has a strong mining heritage and still looks like a western movie set. The ski area, only 2 miles from town, is 500 feet higher and has a more modern look.

    Dinner at the Secret Stash

  6. The Secret Stash: It sounds like a powder run that the locals won’t tell you about but it is actually an incredible pizza restaurant in town. This is not your traditional pepperoni and cheese type place. The Stash has 20 different pizzas that you have probably never heard of but they are all awesome. Try the Steazy Rider or the You’re Driving Me Caprese. They even offer gluten-free crust options that my kids declared the best they had ever had. There’s a reason why they have been voted Crested Butte’s Best Pizza every year since they opened in 2002.
  7. The terrace at Butte 66: Right at the base of the Red Lady lift, this is a great place to relax with a beverage at the end of the ski day. The upstairs terrace has lots of wooden Adirondack chairs so you can relax and watch the colors change as the sun sets on the Crested Butte, right in front of you. Happy hour specials include $1 beers and offer live music.
  8. Terrain Parks: If your kids are like my kids, they love the terrain parks. Crested Butte Mountain Resort has several different park options and they are rated beginner, intermediate and advanced. Try the Jib Park off the Keystone trail for a fun selection of jumps, rails and boxes. The Family Cross course under the Paradise lift is also a blast. If your kids are like my kids, they will say “I wanna do that run again”.
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Paradise in Crested Butte, CO

Crested Butte

It’s not everyday you find yourself in the middle of nowhere.  Many people will go their whole lives and never be “in the middle of nowhere.” Sure, maybe you got off the subway three blocks further than you intended. Or perhaps on that long road trip through Kansas – but not many people can say they’ve skied in the middle of nowhere. But that’s the best part about Crested Butte– that sense of old time Colorado mixed with the feeling that even today there is nothing else around. Take I-70 for example, a solid 3 hours from here. Many ski resorts lay claim to close proximity to the interstate, making it easier to access from metropolitan areas like Denver and Colorado Springs. But the drive into Crested Butte, despite it being in the middle of the night, was beautiful and isolated. A large half moon displaying its bright lunar light across swaths of steep, snow covered Rocky Mountains. The wildlife spotting became wildlife evasive driving as we neared the Crested Butte area, reminding us of the beauty and wildness of Colorado.  But once in Crested Butte, the soft lights of the nearby historic buildings and modern lodging accommodations, welcomed us to the little town and ski area where we made a quick night of resting and gearing up for a day on the slopes.

Paradise

The next day was up early. Despite a poor showing of the winter storm that was supposed to have come through the area, we had a bluebird day, and received a mountain tour with a representative from Crested Butte named Seth. And it was a good thing too. The mountain, though not huge, has a variety of terrain and is most famous for its steeps and back bowls. Be sure to get your T-bar practice in before you head to Crested Butte as two of their upper lifts are T-bars. But if you’re not into the T-bar and steep scenes, you’ll enjoy the lower half of the mountain with great groomers, wonderful 365 degree views, and excellent on mountain dining. Take in the surrounding peaks with an afternoon cocktail at Paradise or a high-end dinner and sleigh ride to Uley’s Cabin at mid mountain. Named for a local moonshiner, Uley’s Cabin is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner that harkens back to the Wild West days. Après at the base area with a soak in the hot tub before heading into the town of Crested Butte about two miles down the road. Free shuttle buses run frequently between the two areas so there’s no excuse to drive. Enjoy a walk down Elk Avenue and see the historic buildings of Crested Butte. Drop into to the local Ginger Café, and try their salmon spring rolls and a ginger martini. Enjoy a twist on pizza at the Secret Stash and return back down Elk Avenue with a stopover at the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin for an after dinner drink and desert. Catch the last bus back up to Mount Crested Butte just before midnight.

Unfortunately, we only had two days to explore the area, but I can see what locals mean when they say you have to stay a whole season to really get to know CB. Only a stone’s throw from the famous ski area of Aspen or the whitewater haven of Buena Vista, Crested Butte in the winter becomes extremely isolated which is exactly what makes it great. Dubbed the “last great Colorado ski town,” Crested Butte is cut off from its larger neighbors to the north and east by winter closures over Cottonwood and Kebler Passes. The only way in and out is through Gunnison – Montrose to the West and Monarch Pass to the east. But don’t let that deter you from visiting Crested Butte because once you’re there, you might just have to stay a while.

Safe Travels,
Jessica Burley
Crested Butte Destination Expert

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Night Lights: Skiing Under the Stars in Keystone, Colorado

Dusk at Keystone

At most ski resorts along the I-70 corridor in Colorado, 4pm means time is up. More remote lifts start closing at 3pm, and major lifts at the base of the mountains close at 4pm. At Breckenridge, for example, the Four O’Clock run leads skiers straight to the parking lot, making it a popular last run of the day.

The spell doesn’t have to be broken when the clock strikes four. For a memorable last few runs, head over to Keystone for night skiing. Not only a great way to wait out the horrendous I-70 eastbound traffic, it’s an amazing twilight experience.

 

Map of Keystone’s lighted trails

Keystone is home to Colorado’s largest night skiing operation, including 243 acres of lighted terrain. Lifts close at 8pm. Check the Keystone resort website for a night ski calendar and more information.

Keystone all aglow

Tips for night skiing at Keystone:

1) Bundle up. When the sun goes down, the temperature drops. Add layers to what you were wearing during the day, and consider using hand and foot warmers.

2) Perk up. After a full day of skiing and a big meal, putting the gear back on might seem like a task. Just find a second wind (in a large cup of coffee if necessary) and get back out there. Trust me – it will be worth it.

Twilight on Keystone Mountain

3) Light up. Eyes just don’t work as well in the dark, especially with goggles on. It’s easier to be seen if you can find a flashing LED light to wear, such as a light-up bike commuter cuff.

4) Look up. The best part about skiing after dark is the night sky above. Whether it’s a full moon or a smattering of stars, the view from the heights of the Rocky Mountains is amazing on a clear winter night. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a festive display of fireworks.

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Steamboat Springs is for Everyone!

Ice Fishing in Steamboat

I traveled to Steamboat last week to meet up with some friends and go skiing and fishing for a few days. Steamboat is one of of my favorite mountains in Colorado for a variety of reasons. First and foremost it is just out of reach for the average person from the Front Range/Denver area to drive to for the day. Drive time can take anywhere from 3-4 hours from Denver however, it is only about a 4 and a half hour drive from my home in Park City, Utah.

The mountain has a ton of terrain for every skier/rider ability and there is a solid amount of beginner intermediate terrain at the top of the mountain. What this translates to is that EVERYONE in the family or group gets to experience riding the gondola instead of being trapped down at the bottom of the mountain as is the case at many other ski areas. Another great aspect of Steamboat is the amount of off slope activities there are especially the choices in hot springs in and around the area. We chose to visit Strawberry Hot Springs located just outside of town as they are slightly less developed but be aware as it is clothing optional after dark.

We were fortunate enough to stay for three nights at the Phoenix located right on Apres Ski Way through Mountain Resorts. The Phoenix has seen a ton of updates in recent years. It received a new facade and the owners of our unit did a very tasteful job of updating the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms. The kitchen was all stainless and the counter tops were granite. Bathrooms all had granite counter tops as well and the master had a great walk in shower with a double shower head. Jen and I even enjoyed a sauna located right in the master bedroom. The location of the Phoenix is awesome! You can either make the less than five minute walk over to the snow, or you can jump on the complimentary shuttle provided by the property to get you over to the lifts. The common area pool and hot tubs were awesome after skiing! Another nice aspect of the Phoenix is that it is located right next door to a small sundries/liquor store. The staff is very nice and the orange-cranberry scones are to die for!

We ate some wonderful meals and had some delicious drinks while on the trip as well. The first night we stopped on our way into town at Carl’s for some cocktails. It is a really nice open space with a huge bar in the middle. There is a separate dining room and we heard the food is pretty good. I had a couple beers and Jen enjoyed two Moscow Mules out of the traditional copper mug. The second night we went downtown again to Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill. This is one of my favorite spots in Steamboat to grab a burger and a salad…the house dressing is AWESOME and the beers are good…I recommend the home brewed root beer! The last night we decided to go out for a special occasion meal at Three Peaks for great steaks and seafood. Oysters followed by a NY strip and a salad topped off the trip…the food was great and the service was extraordinary! Our last stop was on our way out of town to the Creekside Café and Grill. This is a must and is worth the wait if there is one. I enjoyed a fresh garden salad and a bowl of the home made beef stew and Jen indulged in the Eggs Benedict…the dining room is relatively small but is packed with lots of character and locals.

One of the finest points of Steamboat is the laid back atmosphere of both the town and mountain. It is a very unpretentious and has some of the best skiing and fishing in Northern Colorado!

Safe Travels,
Cam
Destination Expert

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The Singular Joys of a Solo Ski Day

solo ski days – singles line

Ski lift chairs are built for two or more. Aside from that, there’s really nothing plural about the sport. It’s a solitary venture. At the top of the lift, gaggles of friends and families disband and carve their own lines down the mountain, similar but separate. Except for those hapless small children whose parents have decided to tether them up with some kind of leash, we ultimately go down alone.

Rather than resisting the solitude of the sport, take at least one day each season to embrace it. For those who have never gone skiing unaccompanied, the joys of a solo ski day are many. To name a few:

Freedom

Without a partner or a group to coordinate with, the freedom is complete. Want to wake up super-early and catch the first chair? Do it. Want to eat on the lifts rather than taking a lunch break? Pack your picnic for one and stop for nothing. Push yourself on runs you’ve never tried before, losing both skis and poles in a total yard sale. Nobody you know will see it or capture it on their GoPro. Lap around your favorite run six times in a row. Nobody will judge.

solo ski days – powder and freedom!

Fresh Powder

As the saying goes, “No friends on a powder day.” On those rare days of ideal conditions, it’s okay to be a little selfish. “I won’t wait to get in line 30 minutes before a lift starts and potentially forgo some fresh tracks just because a buddy is late to join me,” says Crested Butte local Kris Bruun. “Nor would I expect a better skier to wait on me if I were dragging behind.” Some things, like secret stashes, aren’t meant to be shared.

Oblivion

Skiing alone, you can be a self-contained universe inside your helmet. Plug some headphones in and zen out. Lose yourself on the mountain – it doesn’t matter where you end up or when you get there. Deep “me time” is a constructive state, where new ideas are born. Think of it as a meditative retreat (minus the yoga mats, incense, and granola).

Eight Minute Friends

Once you’ve zipped your way through the singles line and onto the chair lift, chances are you’ll be sharing it with strangers. You have two choices: 1) be a fly on the wall and drop eaves on their conversations, collecting a “things overheard” montage, or 2) be sociable and chat it up. For Colorado transplant and ski aficionado Ari Templeton, there’s a certain appeal to the smalltalk. “You never know who you’ll have random eight minute conversations with,” she notes. “It’s people you’ll likely never see again. Over and over.” If the repetition gets boring, sharpen your improv skills. Invent a new persona on every lift.

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Five qualities to look for in a ski or snowboarding school

Kamp Keystone

For many families, ski or snowboarding lessons are a crucial aspect of a ski vacation. I concur: each of my kids learned to ski at age three, and ski schools were (and are!) a big part of our winter experience. Wherever you’re planning a spring skiing vacation, here’s what to look for in a ski or snowboarding school:

  • A way to measure progress:

A good ski school will have a way to measure your child’s progress, so you can know where he or she stands in terms of skill level for the next day or next ski trip. Most ski schools use a numbered level system from 1-9, and the better ones will describe each level on their ski school website for parents to peruse. However, this is only useful if you know where your child falls on the scale. Look for a ski school that gives you either a written or digital report card of your child’s progress every day. For example, Northstar California and other Vail Resorts use Epic Academy, tied to Epic Mix. After each day of lessons, parents can click on a child’s Epic Mix profile and select Epic Academy. It’s easy to see exactly where the child is in terms of progress. More importantly, it’s easy for his or her instructor to see the next day or next ski trip.

  •  Consistency:

Ideally, a great ski school will guarantee your child has the same instructor for every day of his or her trip. Who does this? Keystone Resort’s ski and ride school, for one, when kids are enrolled in Club Keystone. If you’re visiting another resort that does not guarantee the same instructor, you can ‘buy’ your own guarantee with a private lesson. A way to save: start with a group or semi-private lesson, and if your child hits it off with his or her instructor and you’d like to continue the relationship, book a private lesson for the subsequent days. Our son’s Burton Snowboard Academy instructor let us in on this tip: even if she’s scheduled for a group lesson, if a family requests her for a private lesson, she’s automatically reassigned.

  •  Ski school-only dining space:

This one seems minor, but makes a big difference. Ski schools with their own dedicated space for kids in lessons maintain more order and have more relaxed kids (and parents). During our ski experiences, we’ve loved when kids in ski and snowboard school have their very own lodge where they eat their lunch, have hot chocolate breaks, and warm up by the fire pits. Why does this matter? Well, have you been in the public lodge during lunch hour? Chaos. Kids in lessons are already working very hard…they deserve a chill place to relax, and their instructors deserve a chill place to keep track of them.

  •  A snow option for the little ones:

I don’t know how it is in your family, but in ours, the toddlers and preschoolers never appreciate being left out. While on-mountain daycare can be a lifesaver, once kids aren’t babies anymore, they really love the option of feeling like they’re on the slopes, too. At Northstar, for instance, sign 4-6 year olds up for lessons, and they’ll get to play in the Riperoo Riglet Park. The emphasis should be on fun: great ski schools let potty-trained kids play in the snow, try on equipment and give it a whirl, and make a snowman or two. If kids this age have fun, then everyone has won!

  • A great ratio:
northstar ski school

Enjoying Northstar’s ski school experience.

We’ve all seen ski instructors on the slopes trailed by a long, long line of little skiers following like duckies. While cute, this is not ideal. Instructors cannot hope to teach individually to a large number of barely independent skiers or snowboarders. A good ski school will offer a semi-private option of four or fewer kids. At Northstar, this is called Ultimate 4, and in our experience, it’s considered the standard, not the exception. They’ve got Ultimate 4 at Breckenridge, as well.

Safe Travels,

VacationRoost Ambassador Amy

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I-70 Corridor: Ski 7 Resorts in 7 Days

I-70 map of Colorado

I-70 Corridor is home to seven world-class resorts.

Summit and Eagle Counties are home to seven world class ski areas: Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Vail and Winter Park making it easy to ski more than one resort during your Colorado vacation. We’ve mapped out the I-70 corridor to give you an overview of what to expect at each resort — including terrain and amenities — along with the best way to combine resort visits during one trip.

A few possible itineraries include:

  • 7 Nights: Spend four nights in Dillon or Frisco and three nights at Winter Park. Then ski half day at Arapahoe Basin before heading to the airport on your last day.
  • 2 Night Romantic Getaway: Stay in Vail or Beaver Creek and ski at each resort one day.
  • 2 Night Weekend Reunion: Stay in Keystone for a weekend of great nightlife and fun with friends.

Visit our sister company’s website to learn more about each resort and to find deals on vacation rentals.

Safe Travels,

The Mountain Reservation Team

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Ski Butlers – Beaver Creek/Vail

Psyched about the Ski Butlers experience!

My brother and his friend recently came out to visit me for a few days of skiing.  Rather than lugging their old, outdated gear from NYC I suggested they rent gear from Ski Butlers.  I explained to them that the rentals would get delivered right to our house and that they would get custom fit in the comfort of our home.  They had never experienced a service like this.  They didn’t even know it existed.  Ski Butlers promptly arrived at the time we requested (right around cocktail hour on the evening of their arrival) and had them set up and ready to go in no time.  Not having to spend an hour in the rental shop the first morning of their visit was great as we were all eager to hit the slopes…especially seeing as it dumped overnight!  You simply can’t beat the level of service, quality of equipment, and the ease of renting through Ski Butlers.

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