By Jen Lucas, Pack Up + Go Contributor
Feeling the need to scratch the ski trip itch, a fellow winter-loving friend and I started planning our trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado in search of the famed Champagne Powder® snow.
Steamboat Springs, also known as Ski Town, USA®, is located 160 miles northwest of Denver. It boasts two ski areas, three State Parks and more than 150 natural springs, lakes, and rivers catering to a wide array of outdoor activities, no matter the season. The Champagne Powder snow, however, is the trademark of the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation, which is the only ski resort in the world with trademarked snow. Champagne Powder can be described as light, dry and smooth—so light you can’t make a snowball with it. Legend has it that the term originated in the early fifties from a local rancher who claimed the snow tickled his nose like champagne.
As if the snow weren’t enough, it just so happened that our trip fell on Steamboat’s annual Winter Carnival. The carnival, which takes place in early February, was started to help residents cope with cabin fever and to simply celebrate winter instead of loathing it. During Winter Carnival you can expect to see kids being pulled on skis behind horses down the main street and a group of skiers with red lights descending down the mountain. The last skier in line launches roman candles from his/her backpack to make for a great transition into the firework show that follows.
Our first adventure was to meet up with friends for dinner at the famed Ore House Restaurant. We quickly learned Uber was not established in the area and cabs were extremely scarce. The best way around town is by bus so we had to quickly learn the routes to avoid being late to dinner. Fortunately, bus stops are widespread and easy to navigate so we managed to only be fashionably late.
Officially named the Ore House at the Pine Grove, the restaurant is set in its original barn and is a staple in town with its rich history dating back to 1889. The Ore House has been serving steak and seafood to the community and tourists alike since 1971. The atmosphere is quintessential Colorado with wood burning fireplaces complementing the rustic, ranch-style interior.
After an amazing dinner, we decided to explore the nightlife that downtown Steamboat had to offer. The Main Street District consists of a few streets running parallel and offers a wide range of dining options, shops, and bars. With so many options to choose from, we started our journey at the eclectic Sunpies Bistro, which sits along the Yampa River and is well-known for their cheap, stiff drinks and Cajun fare.
The following day it was time to hit the slopes and experience this famous snow for ourselves. The ascent from Gondola-Square at 6900 feet to Mid-Mountain at 9,080 feet was proof that altitude sickness is, in fact, real. I had an immediate, pounding headache and forced myself to drink two bottles of water in the chalet before skiing. After serious hydration, I was back in action and had a blast on the trails. Even though the snowfall for the year was below average, this snow was unlike anything I had skied before. It allowed for an easy ride and an even easier fall!
After a full day of skiing, there’s nothing better than a dip in a hot tub or, even better, natural mineral springs, of which Steamboat has plenty. Our local friends recommended Strawberry Park Hot Springs, which is outside of Steamboat but worth the journey. No rental vehicle, no problem. There are a few shuttle operators, including Sweet Pea Tours and Hot Springs Shuttle, with vans to transport you from your front door to the hot springs. There are several pools to choose from, all with varying temperatures. Most range from warm to warmer to hot, but there’s also a pool with refreshing, ice-cold runoff from the river. The facilities include restrooms, a teepee, and heated cabin for changing and picnic areas.
Needless to say, there is something for everyone during every season in Steamboat Springs. I, however, look forward to another winter trip and more tickling of the nose from that Champagne Powder!