Exploring Steamboat Springs as a Local

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When tasked with thinking of the best vacation spots in the world, most people conjure images of exotic locales rich in history and culture. Some of the best adventures to be had, however, can be found much closer to home—no passports required! 

Steamboat Springs is home to some 13,000 residents, but more than 500,000 annual visitors come to the small, scenic mountain town to enjoy winter sports and other outdoor recreation each year.

People travel from all over to experience the world-famous ski mecca and everything Steamboat offers year-round, from natural hot springs and hiking to its vibrant après ski and cultural scenes. 

steamboat springs lake

One of the biggest benefits of being a Steamboat Springs local is that while tourists typically have to pack everything into a few days, you can live, work, and play here every single day. 

Test the Powder

There are countless reasons to love Downtown Steamboat Springs but to experience the town as a local, you need to experience its snow. There’s no question that Steamboat Springs is best known as a ski town, but the real reason why may surprise you.

Steamboat’s snow is known as “Champagne Powder” due to its unique characteristics—so unique, in fact, that Steamboat Ski Resort has trademarked the term. Where most snow at ski resorts contains up to 15% water, the snow in Steamboat contains just 6%, creating ideal ski conditions. 

steamboat springs skiing

One of the first things you should do as a Steamboat local is to experience this Champagne powder personally. Steamboat Ski Resort and Howelsen Hill both offer unique opportunities to do just that.

The resort is well known for its varied terrain and wide open views, plus being one of just a handful of Colorado ski resorts that offers night skiing. Whether an expert or a beginner, you’ll find gliding over the Champagne powder relatively easy and extremely fun. 

Howelsen Hill is one of the continent’s oldest ski operations, and its natural ski jumping complex is the largest in the US. It’s also produced the highest number of winter Olympians, with more than 100 training here. You’re in the right place if you hope to ski or snowboard somewhere with a winter sports legacy.

Beyond the slopes, you can also experience many other winter activities in Steamboat. Take in the area’s natural beauty by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails at Dry Lake Campground, Steamboat Lake, and the Lake Catamount Touring Center. Other popular winter activities include snowmobiling, sledding, and tubing. 

Get Out After Dark

In a place known primarily for its winter sports, you may think the fun stops when the sun sets, but nothing could be further from the truth. Steamboat is one of the few Colorado resorts that offers night skiing. Available on five trails at the resort, skiers of every skill level can ski at night and experience the slopes in a new way. 

Steamboat Springs has an excellent après scene off the slopes, thanks to several local bars, breweries, and other lively establishments. Some local favorites to whet that evening or late-night whistle include:

  • Barely Tap and Tavern
  • Butcherknife Brewing
  • Mahogany Ridge
  • Mountain Tap Brewery
  • Steamboat Whiskey Company
  • Storm Peak Brewery

If you’re up for it after a day on the slopes, go down to Lincoln Avenue, which has several venues for dancing, live music, and partying.

The Old Town Pub hosts headliners and jam bands, an excellent choice regardless of your typical scene. Just around the corner, Schmiggity’s Dance Bar features live music nightly. 

Explore the Unique Bodies of Water

You can’t live in a place like Steamboat Springs and not experience the eponymous natural hot springs. There are hundreds of these springs in town, one of which early explorers thought sounded like a steamboat engine—hence the name. Today, locals enjoy several hot springs in various degrees of development. 

Old Town Hot Springs is downtown and has provided enjoyment and relaxation for over 140 years. Eight spring-fed pools offer fun for all ages, including a lap pool, kiddie pool, waterfall pool, and a pool with two 230-foot waterslides. 

fish creek falls
Fish Creek Falls

If you’re looking for springs in a more natural setting, just seven miles north of town is Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs. Go for the day or make a weekend out of it by renting one of the onsite cabins or camping. Reservations are required and released on a rolling basis 90–120 days in advance.

In addition to its famous natural hot springs, Steamboat has other bodies of water that are worth checking out. Take a load off by leisurely tubing on the Yampa River, or work up a sweat going whitewater rafting, kayaking, or paddleboarding instead.

Locals also enjoy year-round hiking and exploring around Fish Creek Falls, 280-foot-high waterfalls that offer spectacular views of the mountains and Steamboat’s natural beauty. 

Experience the History & Culture

While Steamboat Springs is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, there’s plenty here for lovers of culture, history, and art. The town has a rich, colorful history rooted in American pioneering, the Gold Rush, and the winter Olympics, with several ways to experience it.

The Tread of Pioneers Museum features permanent, rotating exhibits that locals and visitors enjoy. Learn about James Harvey Crawford, the founder of Steamboat Springs, and the area’s beginnings in ranching and farming.

american pioneers

The free Steamboat Art Museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday. Check out paintings and sculptures by Indigenous and Western artists, and if you’re hoping to get your hands dirty, the museum also sponsors art workshops throughout the year.

The Steamboat Symphony Orchestra has delighted the ears of locals and visitors for over 30 years. The orchestra offers three concerts annually in addition to several collaborative performances throughout the summer. Committed to ongoing music education, the orchestra also sponsors programs for local music students of all ages. 

Live Your Best Life in Steamboat Springs

Although Steamboat Springs is a wildly popular tourist destination, life here as a local is one of adventure, relaxation, and experiencing culture on your own terms. From skiing and snowboarding down some of the world’s best slopes to soaking in natural hot springs and floating the Yampa River through the center of town, there’s no need to escape the everyday in Steamboat.

Every day is a new adventure with activities that stimulate and renew the body, mind, and soul.

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