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Last month our family visited Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a four night ski trip. It was our first time to Steamboat, so I’ve put together this guide – Steamboat Springs, Colorado: A First Time Guide for Families – that you can use when you visit! This post is jam-packed with tips, places to eat, things to do, and heaps of pictures (for those visual people, like me).
Why We Picked Steamboat Springs
So maybe you’re on the fence about where to book your first/next family ski vacation. A lot of thought and planning goes into any trip, and ski trips are no different! Here is the criteria met for us picking Steamboat as for family ski trip this year:
- Steamboat has ski-in/ski-out accommodations. My mom & step dad have a ski lodge in New Mexico. My dad & step-mom live in Southern Colorado. Our ski trips have only ever been in those two places and we had never had a ski-in/ski-out experience. If you have young kids, trust us when we say ski-in/ski-out is the way to go! You want to avoid at all costs having to carry multiple kid’s ski equipment + your own.
- There is an airport within a 45 minute drive of the ski resort. My husband wanted a ski destination where we wouldn’t have to rent a car. He wanted to be able to fly into somewhere and take shuttles all week. He grew up in New Mexico and is used to driving in the snow, but wanted to not have to worry about driving this trip. This would be a great bonus if you or your spouse are not used to this type of driving.
- Southwest Airlines flies into the local airport. I am a loyal Southwest customer and have been since I started flying with Southwest by myself at 5 years old between Dallas and Houston from mom to dad. Also, Southwest allows two bags of checked luggage free per person. I don’t know if you’ve ever packed for a ski trip before, but oh my goodness…those thick heavy sweaters take up some space! With five of us flying, it is nice to know we can check 10 bags free. I mean we don’t usually take that many bags, except for when we are moving to another country. We were able to check my husband’s snowboard bag as one of his pieces of luggage, seen below. AND – Southwest has a really good change/cancelation policy compared to other airlines, which is pure gold in our eyes. Just in January this year we had to heartbreakingly reschedule a week-long KID FREE trip to Mexico the night before our flight was to leave. My husband got food poisoning – how dare him. I quickly got on to Southwest’s website and was able to cancel our flights with no fee in less than 5 minutes.
Getting To Steamboat Springs
We are based in Dallas, Texas, but from wherever you live, you will fly into Denver, Colorado. Your plane may or may not get deiced, which was a really cool process I’ve never seen! Deicing the plane is where they spray a liquid on the aircraft to remove snow and ice. After that process, you’ll take a 22-28 minute flight from Denver to Yampa Valley Regional Airport/Hayden (HDN). Such a fast and easy flight!
Before your trip, reserve a shuttle ride from the airport to your accommodation in Steamboat with GO Alpine Shuttle. They will take good care of you!
When you arrive in Hayden, visit the GO Alpine desk near baggage claim. Check in with the staff and they will give you an estimated time of arrival where you will go outside to meet your shuttle. If you are wimps when it comes to the cold, like us, you will want to wait inside the airport up until the very last minute!
The shuttle has plenty of space for your luggage and also accommodates large snowboard bags.
The comfortable seating and large windows make for a nice ride from the airport to Steamboat.
Where to Stay in Steamboat Springs
When picking a ski-in/ski-out condo, there are lots of options in Steamboat! With a family of five, we need space. Short term rentals with a couple of bedrooms are our preferred accommodation type. Here is a link to the Ski Inn Condos where we stayed.
Our unit had an entry way with plenty of hooks for your snow gear and mats on the ground for snow covered boots. You might spend 2 hours of your day reminding your precious angels to actually use said hooks, but they’re there.
Building 3 has a great view! You are right next to the gondola, which can be very relaxing to watch.
There was a large kitchen in our unit, that was the most well-stocked kitchen I’ve ever seen in our 13 years of using short term vacation rentals. And we’ve stayed in a LOT of rentals over the years.
The master bedroom had a king, an ensuite with a shower, a blow up mattress in the closet, and a portable baby crib that’s folded up under the bed if you need it. That’s one less thing you have to bring with you on the plane! Winning.
The kid’s room had a queen size bed and a twin bed. There was also a second bathroom that is just off the kid’s bedroom (not in the room, but next to it) that had a nice sized tub/shower combo. The couch was a pull out couch, so there are plenty of beds for people!
We were on the ground floor, so the kids could walk outside and play all day and we could see them from the balcony. Building 3 is the closest to the trail that leads from the condo to the ski area. You can walk out the unit, get your gear on, and ski down to the base area of Steamboat.
If your family size is different than ours, or you’re just after another type of accommodation, click here to see more Steamboat Springs vacation rental options.
If you don’t need the extra space and are after a hotel instead of a vacation rental, click here to search for Steamboat Springs hotels.
Bottom left picture is the trail from our condo to the mountain. Our condo is directly behind the pole for the gondola. Bottom right is what you’ll see when you get to the end of the trail and look down towards the base of the mountain. It’s a great photo spot with Gondola Square in the background. You will ski down to the bottom and then get on the gondola, or another lift to take you up.
Where to Eat in Steamboat Springs
I enjoy cooking for my family, but don’t always enjoy cooking every meal when I’m on vacation. Can you relate?!
Here are some restaurants we enjoyed in Steamboat Springs:
Timber and Torch
We liked Timber and Torch so much, we went twice. The location is convenient – right at the base of the mountain. They have a great a view of the mountain. You could people watch here all afternoon! The food we tried was delicious and kid-approved.
Check to see if Timber + Torch is having a happy hour while you’re in town. We went and loved the live music!
I recommend the Snowshoe Margarita, which is basically a margarita with coconut milk. If you like margs and you like coconut milk, this drink will make you feel like you’re *almost* at the beach and not currently freezing your tushy off in the snow. If you’re after a warmer drink, try the T&T or the Snuggler.
For food, the tomato basil soup is the perfect post ski day partner. We loved it so much, we ordered a second bowl. Also, the Gorgonzola Fig Flatbread is so good you will wish you ordered one for yourself and one to share. If you’re feeling a little naughty, try the Truffle Parm Fries. *highly addicting. You’ve been warned.
Our booth had hooks to hang our jackets and a basket to throw all our gloves/mittens and beanies inside! Such a thoughtful and useful touch.
Make sure to get a picture in front of the SNOW sign at night before you take the shuttle back to your condo. The SNOW sign is located in the shuttle drop-off/pickup area.
Freshies is a great lunch spot in downtown, which is about a 10 minutes drive from the ski resort. Our neighbor friends in Texas told us about Freshies, and I’m so glad they did!
I loved their Brussels Sprout salad and Avocado Griller. The kids enjoyed the Homemade Chicken Salad.
Can I just say how much I appreciate when restaurants offer smaller portions of meals with a pick two/more option? When I’m traveling and visiting a restaurant that I might never go to again, I love to try several things off the menu. When they offer a pick two option where you can choose 1/2 of a couple menu items, it’s super helpful!
Would you believe the picture above and the one below on the right were taken less than 10 minutes apart?! Our sweet little ray of sunshine had a fast bout of altitude sickness. One minute she was happy and smiling, the next her eyes were rolling back in her head and body was limp. Super scary to see!
Thankfully Dr Dad knew what to do (I would not have handled the situation as well has he did). He got the little one some water, a wet rag, and stretched her out on the booth. We got her back to the condo, she rested the rest of the day, and was back to normal after a nap.
We all have dealt with altitude sickness at different times. My husband gets it the worst. On past trips, the altitude has put him and the big kids out for a day or two. It’s usually a headache, dizziness, and vomiting/nausea. One trip he stayed in the room the last few days and didn’t come back to feeling normal until several hours of our drive home, after we’d come down off the mountain. Not fun for anyone!
This trip, my husband and the big kids had been taking Altitude RX, a natural supplement that helps boost your oxygen, for a couple days prior to our trip. Super grateful to our brother-in-law for recommending this to us! This was the first time our youngest has had an issue with the altitude. We did not give her the Altitude TX prior to the trip, but wish we had!
I am not a doctor and I am not licensed to give medical advice, just sharing our experience. Please consult your natural health care doctor/functional medical practitioner.
Mountain Tap Brewery
While the food wasn’t a favorite at Mountain Tap, you might want to go just for the gondolas! You can eat dinner inside a gondola that fits 6-8 people. Make sure to get a reservation way far in advance for the gondolas. If you’re eating inside the restaurant, you most likely won’t need a reservation.
Downtown Steamboat at night is dreamy!
For your ski days, Steamboat has several on-mountain food options. My favorite was this Taco Beast food snow truck that was unfortunately closed. If you go, let me know how the tacos taste! We usually packs tons of snacks in a backpack and eat on the lift (bottom left).
What to Do in Steamboat Springs Besides Skiing
We aren’t a ski every day kind of family. We like to have at least one day to adjust to the altitude on the front end and one day before we go home to chill and do nothing. On our off days, we fill our time with different activities.
Here’s what you might want to do in Steamboat:
- Play card games. This trip Uno Flip and Mille Bornes were our family’s favorite.
- Cuddle on the couch by the fire.
- Go into downtown Steamboat and shop/explore.
- Walk around Gondola Square.
- Sit in the red chairs in front of Timber + Torch and people watch.
- Take a dip in your accommodation’s hot tub. This is my favorite option! My husband thought I was crazy and was a no from the moment I brought it up. After telling him how many fun memories I had as a kid getting in the hot tub on ski trips, he obliged for about 5 minutes. It was enough to snap some pics though! Thanks hubs.
- Stroll among the hot air balloons at the Balloon Glow. Check Steamboat’s Event Calendar to see if this is happening while you’re in town. This was so much fun! It makes for great times and some fun pictures. We were able to interact with the pilots and ask questions. There were also former Olympians walking around that you could get photos with.
Fun fact: Did you know Steamboat Springs, CO produces more winter Olympians than any other town in the USA?!
- Go sledding or tubing. Whether it’s an organized snow tubing experience, an Alaskan Husky sled dog experience, or sledding at your condo, this is a great activity for all! The kids talked me, my husband, and their grandparents to join in on the sledding fun! This was right next to our condo too, so we could pop inside to warm up when needed with homemade Paleo hot chocolate! (cacao powder, coconut milk, and coconut sugar that I brought from home) The picture below middle is our youngest using her cuteness to sucker her Goober (my dad) into pulling her up the hill. 🙂
Ski/Snowboard Rentals for Your First Time in Steamboat Springs
We went with Christy Sports for the kid’s gear rental, thanks to a recommendation from our neighbor friend. We loved how helpful the Christy Sports staff was and their great selection of gear. Christy Sports has locations in 10 different Colorado cities. They also have locations in New Mexico, Utah, Montana, and Washington.
Be prepared to wait in a long line if you pickup in the afternoon the day before your ski day. If your kids are like ours, you may experience whining and grumpiness while in line.
The kids had to try out their ski gear as soon as we got back to our condo. It was nice for them to have a little refresher course the day before hitting the slopes.
Skiing/Snowboarding in Steamboat Springs
The lift ticket pickup process is easy and straightforward. The Ticket Pickup Kiosk is located in Gondola Square. All you will have to do is purchase your lift tickets ahead of time online, pull up your confirmation when you arrive at the kiosk, and scan the QR code. The kiosk printed out all our lift tickets in under a couple minutes!
If you are skiing for 5 or more days, kids/grandkids age 12 and under ski free with an adult. You can read more about the Kids Ski Free program here.
If you have a 4th, 5th, or 6th grader, look into the Ski Passport Program. You pay $60 for the pass and the student is able to use the pass at 21 different ski resorts in Colorado. (Steamboat is one!) We also got two free days of rental gear from Christy Sports.
You’re all set and ready to go and enjoy the beautiful mountain! We were super grateful for 9inches of fresh powder. I am not a fan of skiing on compacted or icy snow, so the fresh powder was dreamy.
If you ride the gondola later in the day, you might get lucky to have it all to yourself so you can take some fun pictures like these! You can also ride down the gondola if you aren’t a skier, but want to go up the mountain to meet your family for lunch.
One thing we noticed about Steamboat we haven’t seen before is the trail map on the lift! You are able to plan out your next run while going up the lift. (picture, second row down on right)
This was little bit’s second attempt at skiing. She skied for the first time last year in Red River, NM at three years old! It was the same mountain where I learned to ski when I was three.
This year I sadly waited too long and missed getting her a spot for ski school. I am a strong supporter of ski school! The husband did his best to teach our 4 year old how to “pizza” and “french fry”, but I suggest signing your little one up for ski school if it’s their first time.
The Return Home
GO Alpine picked us up from our condo the morning of our return home and safely got us back to the airport.
The end of a vacation you can have mixed emotions. You might be ready to get home and back into your routine, but you also might want to stay another day or week! I definitely feel this way with our beach trips and get the vacation blues.
Thank you to GO Alpine for hosting us for a portion of our time in Steamboat! As always, all opinions on this blog are my own.
Since the kids missed some days of school for the trip, they worked on some school work with the free Hayden Airport wifi.
Our kiddos loved walking on the Apron (flight people, please correct me if I got the terminology wrong) to board the flight.
Hopefully you will get a window seat because check out the view when you’re flying from Hayden to Denver! On a blue sky day like we had, it’s absolutely gorgeous.
If you have some time to kill in the Denver airport, make sure to get by to check out this plane hanging in the terminal near the food court.
Managing Great Wolf Lodge with Three Kids