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Steamboat Ski Resort

With a recent transformation project, the resort is elevating its guests’ experience
Skier skiing through fresh powder

Located in northwest Colorado, Steamboat Ski Resort is 160 miles (267 kilometers) northwest of Denver. Nestled in the Park Range of the Colorado Rockies, Steamboat boasts six peaks: Mount Werner, Sunshine Peak, Storm Peak, Thunderhead Peak, Christie Peak and Pioneer Ridge. The sprawling 3,000 acres of terrain offer trails for all skill levels. The world-renowned trees on Pioneer Ridge, Sunshine and Storm peaks are the resort’s distinct badge of honor, presenting “Champagne Powder” snow for powder hounds.

With its 60th anniversary in 2023, Steamboat is celebrating the values that make its operations successful. “The Steamboat Way” is a way of living that pays homage to the west, “a place where living simply prioritizes reaping over sowing and giving over buying,” said Arthur Chapman in 1917. Steamboat encourages its guests to slow down, strengthen and make new connections and be free to blaze their own course. It encourages unity between the guests, the mountains and the snow. These values culminate to make guests feel at home and want to return whenever possible.

60 years of ski history

Steamboat Resort’s early history is intertwined with the rich tapestry of the Yampa Valley’s past. The region, now called Steamboat Springs in Colorado, witnessed the nomadic Ute people and Indigenous tribe finding solace in the valley’s embrace during summers in the 14th century, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that the region’s allure beckoned early settlers. Three French fur trappers navigating the Yampa River in 1865 were drawn by a mysterious chugging sound reminiscent of a paddle wheel steamer. They stumbled upon a bubbling mineral spring that would soon lend its name to the settlement – Steamboat Springs. The therapeutic allure of the mineral spring remains a cherished haven of relaxation and healing.

In 1874, James Harvey Crawford discovered Yampa Valley while hunting along the Gore Trail. Captivated by its beauty, he settled there, inspiring others like Perry A. Burgess and William H. Walton to join. The town’s core formed in 1883 around H. H. Suttle’s sawmill, driving growth with homes, businesses and a newspaper.

Skiing in Steamboat Springs: How it all started

Steamboat’s skiing history began with settlers using skis and snowshoes for survival and mail delivery. In the early 1900s, it became a winter playground, especially after Norwegian Carl Howelsen’s arrival in 1912. He introduced ski jumping and mentored local youth, leading to the first Winter Carnival in 1913. In 1917, the ski slope was named Howelsen Hill. Skiing’s appeal grew, prompting exploration of slopes like Rabbit Ears Pass, where runs were carved by the Forest Service down to Valley View Lodge in 1938.

In 1955, Jim Temple, a member of a local ranching family, spearheaded Steamboat Ski Resort’s development, which opened in 1961 with a Poma lift and $2 tickets, but faced a setback in the 1961/62 season. The resort reopened in 1963 with a double chairlift and an A-frame warming house.

Skier strapping helmet on with Thunderhead in background.

Storm Mountain was renamed Mount Werner in honor of local Olympic skier Wallace “Buddy” Werner who was killed in an avalanche in Switzerland in 1964. The resort went under significant upgrades in the ’60s, including the Four Points lift – the first in the country with a bullwheel loading and unloading, which took skiers up to the base of Storm Peak – and a modern restaurant atop Thunderhead Peak, ski patrol facilities, a $10 million development by LTV Recreational Development Inc., double chairlifts installed at Headwall and Burgess Creek, and maintenance vehicles, driving a million-dollar development that boosted local tourism.

In 1977, Steamboat hosted the International Winter Special Olympics, attracting global athletes such as Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner (now known as Caitlyn Jenner). In 2014, night skiing was introduced with Snow-Bright Lighting. This innovative system of 85 light towers and 375 full-color spectrum lights illuminates snow textures while minimizing glare. In addition to night skiing, the Christie Peak Express chairlift also improved, giving access to 1,100 vertical feet across trails.

Steamboat became part of the Alterra Mountain Company when it purchased the former Intrawest ULC properties. In 2021, the resort embarked on a multi-year, multi-million-dollar renovation – Full Steam Ahead – which takes the resort’s pioneering spirit and vision, and elevates guests’ experience for years to come. With several improvements, the renovation includes a new on-snow gondola terminal installed off the promenade, installation of a lower leg of Wild Blue Gondola, installation of the Range Food & Drink Hall in Steamboat Square, reorientation of Christie Peak Express Chairlift, the new Mountain Stage, snowmaking expansion and improvements, and an employer-based childcare center.

Champagne Powder

A treasured phenomenon emerges at Steamboat every year – the renowned Champagne Powder snow that covers the slopes. This alpine haven often witnesses the accumulation of pristine snow, due to its location within Park Range. As the first significant barrier to Pacific-born storms sweeping into the northern Colorado Rockies, this range acts as a catalyst for a meteorological symphony. Wintertime winds usher these storms from the northwest, guiding moisture-laden clouds on a journey imbued with cold encounters, transforming them into exquisite stellar dendrites – lace-like snowflakes. These clouds, laden with “supercooled water,” form the foundation of Steamboat’s iconic Champagne Powder. On frosty mornings, this unique blend of meteorological artistry adorns tree branches and chairlifts with delicate rime ice, a silent testimony to nature’s craftsmanship.

Nestled within this microcosm of peaks, including Mount Werner, Storm, Sunshine, Thunderhead and Christie, Steamboat’s geography dances in harmony with the incoming storms. The Park Range’s abrupt rise confronts these clouds, compelling them to ascend swiftly and cool, releasing their moisture in a spectacular cascade of snowfall. It’s as if nature herself is distilling the clouds, endowing the descending flakes with low water content. This phenomenon transforms the slopes into a playground of Champagne Powder dreams, an irresistible call for ski aficionados to embrace the mountain’s allure and revel in its extraordinary skiing experience. In the heart of this snowy wonderland, Mother Nature orchestrates a captivating symphony, turning water into a phenomenon that ignites joy and celebration – Steamboat’s one-of-a-kind Champagne Powder snow.

Educational programs for skiers

Steamboat Ski Resort offers an innovative, terrain-based approach to ski and snowboarding instruction, which will transform Steamboat’s SnowSports School this upcoming season. At the brand new Greenhorn Ranch, located near the previous Rough Rider/Bashor Basin area, guests have the opportunity to learn how to ski and snowboard.

As part of the resort’s Full Steam Ahead project, the SnowSports School was relocated to the Greenhorn Ranch, which will be accessible via the new Wild Blue Gondola’s mid-station. The facility is fully dedicated to guests learning to ski and/or snowboard. Snow Operating offers an exclusive and trademarked teaching system called Terrain Based Learning, which focuses on the terrain itself.

“By using the terrain to naturally teach skiing and snowboarding, new skiers and riders are able to feel sensations such as gliding and turning to acquire skills faster on the snow. While the shaped terrain provides a sensation to create learning, the instructor facilitates the process by pointing the skier/rider to those specific sensations,” Full Steam Ahead’s website stated.

Skier freestyle skiing on mountain.
Steamboat Ski Resort is nestled in the Park Range of the Colorado Rockies

Greenhorn Ranch has been transformed to offer the ultimate Terrain Based Learning experience. It will feature four carpet lifts, including the state-of-the-art Greenhorn Ranch Express, a high-speed quad lift. Among these lifts, two will be repurposed from the former base area, while a new addition will be the covered double barrel lift, providing access to two distinct terrain zones.

The Steamboat SnowSports School comprises Professional Ski Instructors of America, American Association of Snowboard Instructors, winter Olympians, national team members and more than 550 instructors trained in the latest teaching techniques.

“Our Steamboat pros embody all the things you love about Steamboat. They have an Olympian drive for excellence balanced perfectly with a welcoming and friendly nature that makes skiing and snowboarding with us a world-class experience,” SnowSports School director Nelson Wingard said. “At Steamboat we know passion for skiing and riding comes first, then the skills develop to support it. That’s our way, the Steamboat way.”

Winter air program

Steamboat features one of the most robust winter air programs in American history. The 2022/23 season winter air schedule is accessible from 16 airports via six airlines. Now, skiers can fly directly to Steamboat Springs from Nashville, with Southwest Airlines. Delta Airlines also brought back direct flights from Minneapolis/St. Paul. JetBlue’s Boston and Fort Lauderdale flights are also returning with a more condensed schedule, with additional operations per week, from two to four flights from Boston and from two to three flights from Fort Lauderdale.

Skier freestyle skiing on mountain.
Steamboat Ski Resort has offered freeskiing training options since 2000

“We are excited that it will be easier than ever to get to Steamboat from anywhere in the country with flights from 16 airports, including the addition of our newest airport, Nashville, on Southwest Airlines,” said Rob Perlman, president and COO of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. “To have service on all major carriers this winter speaks volumes to the quality and ease of accessibility of our air program.”

Alaska, American and United airlines also provide non-stop access from 16 major airports across the U.S.

Off-slopes activities

Steamboat Ski Resort offers a plethora of captivating off-slope activities that ensure an all-encompassing experience for visitors. For those seeking creative outlets, the resort offers an arts and crafts gym to channel their inner artist. Meanwhile, beer aficionados can explore local breweries and bowling enthusiasts can hit the lanes for a fun evening.

The region is also a paradise for cross-country skiing, while guided tours beckon adventurers to unravel the allure of the breathtaking Emerald Mountain trails. Those who crave relaxation can indulge in spa services and soak in the therapeutic hot springs. Other options include hot-air ballooning, snowmobiling and the exhilarating mountain coaster. The allure of dog sledding, horseback rides and sleigh rides offers an authentic western experience. Moreover, the chance to engage in fly-fishing, powdercat skiing, rock climbing and tubing ensures that every preference is catered to. As the sun sets, night skiing adds another layer to the skiing adventure.

To enrich the cultural experience, the area is adorned with galleries, theater performances and the Tread of Pioneers Museum, narrating the captivating history of the region. The resort also embraces gourmet dining and lively shopping opportunities.

Taking care of the slopes

Steamboat Ski Resort has 30 snow grooming operators working at the resort and 19 frontline Prinoth grooming machines, including Bison, Bison Winch and Beasts. There are also seven utility snowcats, including crane snowcats, cabin snowcats and a Taco Beast snowcat (a taco restaurant built on a snowcat). Grooming happens for two 10-hour shifts per night.

The resort is piloting a chainsaw training program with the United States Forest Service and has recently implemented a lift maintenance education program in conjunction with Colorado Mountain College. 

To learn more about the resort and its transformation project, visit