SlopeLab’s Review of Steamboat Ski Resort

SlopeLab Ratings

Overall
0%

Detailed Scores:

Beginner Terrain
70%
Intermediate Terrain
100%
Advanced Terrain
90%
Expert Terrain
60%
Tree Skiing
100%
Bowl Skiing
30%
Crowds
80%
Snow Rating
80%
Ski Town
90%

Steamboat Mountain Stats

369 inches

2,965 acres

3,668 ft

(Summit) 10,568 ft | 6,900 ft (Base)

SlopeLab's Photo Gallery of Steamboat

Steamboat Overview

Ahhh… The Boat.

As one of the original “destination” resorts, Steamboat is filled with a storied history. And yet, for some strange reason, it’s often overlooked in favor of Colorado’s more widely recognized “brand name” resorts. *ahem-VAIL-ahem*

In part, that’s because Steamboat sits 2 hours away from the hoopla of Colorado’s I-70 corridor. While the crowds at Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, and Winter Park brag about their trips, those in the know quietly enjoy Steamboat’s historically under-the-radar position.

Steamboat Trail Maps:

Steamboat Trail Map
Steamboat trail map (click for full size)

Steamboat Lift Info

Lift High Speed? Vertical Rise (ft.)
Gondola
Yes
2,165
Storm Peak Express
Yes
2,159
Sundown Express
Yes
1,936
Priest Creek
No
1,863
Pony Express
Yes
1,653
Thunderhead Express
Yes
1,641
Four Points
No
1,361
Bar-UE
No
1,351
Sunshine Express
Yes
1,251
Christie Peak Express
Yes
1,102
Christie III
No
1,052
Burgess Creek
No
939
Elkhead Express
Yes
762
Morningside
No
545
South Peak
No
305
Bashor
No
305
Rough Rider
No
138
Preview
No
121

Steamboat Terrain Overview

There’s a lot to say about Steamboat’s terrain. But there’s one thing about Steamboat’s terrain that needs to be said louder and more clearly than any other:

Steamboat might have the best tree skiing in the world.

Period.

A lot of mountains claim tree skiing, but you’ll quickly realize that finding good tree skiing is a whole lot harder than it sounds. Depending on your skill level, the trees at most mountains will either be too steep, too flat, too spaced apart, or too tightly bunched.

But Steamboat’s trees? Goldilocks would be proud…

That’s because no matter your skill level, you’ll find trees at Steamboat that are just right. In fact, the trees here are so perfectly spaced apart, you may start wondering whether Mother Nature herself placed them there.

If she did, she decided to branch off (pun intended) from her usual design by dotting the mountain with two different tree species, which adds to the fun by providing two different tree skiing experiences. On some runs, you’ll field after field of big, often snow-covered Evergreen trees. On others, perfectly spaced Aspens, whose bare trunks just-so-happen to act as the perfect obstacle course for your carving pleasure.

Mother nature was really looking out for us on this one!

Steamboat for Beginners:

Steamboat is a top tier option for beginning skiers.

From the main village, the mountain greets green skiers with two solid options for comfortable terrain.

For the most direct access, beginners can take the Christie Peak Express quad chairlift. As the name implies, the chairlift gradually climbs to Christie Peak, which sits just over 1,000 vertical feet above the main village. While this peak represents just a small fraction of Steamboat as a mountain, for beginners, it’s a resort unto itself. Several green runs wrap around the peak and peacefully head back down to the main village. It’s a fun amount of variety for those new to the sport.

Alternatively, beginners can take the Gondola from the main village. If they do, they’ll find themselves another 1,000 vertical higher than Christie Peak. From here, Steamboat showcases its best quality for beginners – green terrain meandering in multiple directions. It’s a luxury that the beginner skillset often roadblocks at most mountains. But at Steamboat, confident beginners can explore quite a bit of the mountain. It’s really a cool experience, and most beginners will love this sense of adventure.

A highlight of that adventure is likely to be the Sunshine Express lift, which lies in the far Southwestern corner of the mountain. The sunshine area features one fantastic long green groomer, but also several modest blues that can be eyed from the chairlift, and if they’re up for it, tackled by the most confident of beginners.

Steamboat for Intermediates:

If you asked intermediate skiers to design their perfect mountain, chances are, it’d look eerily similar to Steamboat.

That’s because by any objective measure, Steamboat is an intermediate skier’s paradise. Off every single lift lies multiple fantastic options for blue (and even specially marked blue-black) terrain. Those blue-blacks gives confident intermediates a guided gameplan for moving on to advanced terrain, if their heart so desires. How much better can it get??

To get specific, runs like the Sunshine Lift Line, Vagabond, and Longhorn offer some of the best groomer experiences I’ve ever come across. And we haven’t even talked about those trees yet…

With Steamboat’s reputation for tree skiing, it’s no surprise that Steamboat offers intermediates some fantastic options between the branches.

Although it’s not specifically marked on the map, the sides of Sunshine Lift Line includes several pockets of gradual sloping, widely spaced tree runs. The result is a uniquely beautiful mix – tree runs with bumps not quite big enough to be moguls, yet not quite flat enough to be a groomer. Instead, the tree skiing here is something resembling a hiking trail (or at times – a banked racetrack!) with trees whizzing by on both sides. Confident intermediates will have a blast!

Best of all, the adventurous skier can find these sorts of tree lines all over the mountain.

Advanced Terrain at Steamboat:

Steamboat offers up plenty of black diamond terrain for the advanced skier.

The Front Side of the mountain is littered with steep black groomers. One of my particular favorites is Valley View and Lower Valley View, which link together for over 2,000 vertical feet of down-hill-race-course style groomed steeps.

Meanwhile, the backside of the mountain (the Morningside Park area) unveils The Boat’s true specialty. That’s because, not surprisingly, advanced terrain at Steamboat shines brightest under the shade of its trees.

Similar advanced tree runs can be found all over the mountain, but we’ll throw a particular shout out to the area under Pony Express Lift and Storm Peak Express Lift.

Oh, and we haven’t even talked about “Shadows” – a front side track of perfectly spaced aspens that just might be one of the most famous tree runs in the world. (It’s the featured image at the top of this page) Words don’t quite do it justice.

Expert Terrain at Steamboat:

Expert Terrain at Steamboat lies almost exclusively in the North-East corner of the mountain’s front side.

Here, Experts will find a collection of short chutes wrapping around The Christmas Tree Bowl, most likely named for its dense collection of evergreen trees. Hike out further east, and you’ll find yourself in the remote, backcountry-like terrain featuring the likes of The No Name Chutes and North St. Pats.

That said, the common knock on Steamboat is its lack of extensive expert terrain. In some respects, this is a fair assessment. While the terrain does exist, those runs are usually disappointingly short, difficult to get to, or otherwise not quite as extreme as true experts might hope.

How is the snow at Steamboat?

0
Average Inches of Annual Snowfall

Come on in, the snow is fine!

In fact, Steamboat snow is more than fine. Steamboat snow is some of the best in all of Colorado!

That’s because Steamboat boasts a snowy track record that’s among the elite, even in a state packed with ski resorts.

While statistically, you’re not as likely to see the massive snow events at Steamboat as some mountains in other parts of North America, what you do get is a healthy dose of frequent snow cover. The result is relatively consistent snowfall, making the mountain one of the safer bets in Colorado for skiing great conditions.

Those conditions are aided by one last important characteristic. Steamboat’s snow, which comes from the arid deserts of Northwestern Colorado, is among the driest and highest quality in the country. It’s a phenomenon that’s led Steamboat’s marketing department so far as to trademark a special description for their white stuff – Champaign Powder™.

Personally, I thought that claim sounded a little pretentious. A few days later, I found myself in a surprise powder day, with my skis floating over some of the lightest snow I’ve ever experienced.

I’ve been converted – count me a believer in the Champagne Powder!

Where is Steamboat?

Steamboat Springs sits three hours from Denver by car, in the Northwest corner of Colorado.

It’s a position that puts the mountain slightly off the beaten path from the usual I-70 Corridor resorts. While most cars exit I-70 towards Winter Park, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapaho Basin, or otherwise continue on to Vail and Beaver Creek, Steamboat travelers will exit onto Route 9 and continue on the road less traveled. For nearly two hours…

Of course, travelers can always fly into Yampa Valley Regional Airport. This is Steamboat’s dedicated airport, which now sees direct flights from 14 major cities and 5 major airlines. The added convenience cuts down the drive time to less than 30 minutes from airport to slope side.

Steamboat Springs as Ski town

In some ways, Steamboat is a tale of two ski towns.

Located directly at the base, you’ll find the mountain village infrastructure. Here, vacationers will be treated to some of the most extensive (and affordable) collection of ski-in/ski-out accommodations in the country. Condos line the green runs funneling to the bottom of the mountain, and the Gondola lift line is snaked by B&B’s, Lodges, and other rentals.

While you won’t find the hardcore nightlife or extensive dining options of Whistler or Aspen, Steamboat’s mountain village does host a few bars perfect for an afternoon Apres session. The village mostly revolves around the Slopeside Grill, a big sports bar at the base of the Gondola, complete with a “Snow Beach” aka a massive patio facing the ascending mountain. But maybe Steamboat’s most legendary spot, The T Bar, is tucked away about 100 feet higher on the mountainside. Here, you’ll find a tiny hut that’s skier owned. A true throwback to skiing’s history.

For more widespread options, head 3.5 miles to downtown Steamboat Springs. Again, you’re unlikely to find the wild nightlife, but you will be treated to a historic main street that contributes to one of the most authentic ski towns in America. Dining options are aplenty here, with several fantastic choices whether you’re looking for casual pizza or elegant filet mignon.

In between the two ski towns, the road cuts through all the comforts of home. While a Walmart and chain restaurants might not be the ideal ski get-away, it’s certainly a nice convenience for picking up that inevitably forgotten something-or-other.

Lastly, no discussion of Steamboat Springs would be complete without a tip of the cap to Strawberry Hot Springs. Although it’s a nearly 30 minute drive from the mountain, these naturally fed hot springs make for a soothing soak after a long day on the hill.

When is the best time to visit Steamboat?

January to Mid-February

Steamboat typically boasts one of the best early seasons in the country, making it one of the safer bets for a Christmas ski trip.

Overall snowfall peaks from mid-January to mid-February. After February, pre-planned trips become much riskier due to the mountain’s relatively low elevation and western exposure.

How are the crowds at Steamboat?

Steamboat’s location 2 hours off the beaten path of Colorado’s most popular I-70 resorts means you probably won’t ever experience the legendary lift lines you’ll see elsewhere. (Cough… Vail… Breck…)

Typically, The Boat has plenty of room. Compared to other destination resorts, runs are relatively uncrowded, and lines are usually tame.

That said, the mountain’s emergence in recent years as a flagship location on the Ikon Pass has increased volumes somewhat. And of course, there’s always the enthusiastic and surprisingly large army of local residents, eager to take advantage of any Champaign Powder Day!