If you’ve ever wanted to transport yourself into a winter dream reminiscent of the enchanting snow-covered landscape of Narnia, then the mountains of Steamboat Springs Colorado are worth adding to your travel bucket list. Our trip felt like living in a snow globe, it was a frosty magical dream. We did all the ski & snowboard things, but it was the experiences off the ski slopes that really took this trip to an otherworldly level. (I sold that so hard, didn’t I?)
We decided to take a second flight once arriving in Denver from Orlando, flying directly to Steamboat, and I think it was worth the extra moolah to not have to navigate around the winding icy roads. But you can easily rent a car (be sure it’s 4-wheel drive!) and drive from Denver.
If you plan to ski or snowboard, you will need to purchase your lift tickets way in advance. They will sell out. For real. Plan ahead and pick the dates you’ll want to get on the slopes and then set aside some free days to experience some other pretty awesome adventures.
Click HERE to check out reservations & pricing. I also highly recommend asking about night skiing. It’s 1/3 of the price to go after dark, with limited slopes open, and way less crowds. It’s also just really cool to snowboard at night. This was a great way to let our kiddo get comfortable snowboarding too, he had way more space to perfect his technique.
We also came across another pretty sweet mountain, Howelsen Hill, that a few of us snowboarded down. If you’re lucky you might also catch a glimpse of Olympians practicing some sick jumps. We were fortunate to be able to catch their practice and it was incredible. They also had fun hills and terrain where you could bring your sleds and have some fun, the kids loved this. They have an ice complex with ice skating too. So don’t forget to check out Howelsen Hill when you’re in Steamboat, you’ll still have to reserve lift tickets in advance, but there seemed to be more availability than the main mountain and a bit less crowded.
It’s hard, like super hard to choose my absolute favorite thing we did, because everything we did was pretty perfect. But if you are absolutely forcing me to pick then I would say it was our afternoon visit to Strawberry Park hot springs. You absolutely have to have 4-wheel drive and snow tires to drive out there, so don’t even try without. The drive is super sketchy, and I am pretty sure it’s actually the law. They do offer shuttle tours/pickups so if you aren’t comfortable driving, then I recommend looking into that, you can book it right from their website. I also recommend leaving the kids behind for this one. Big kids will probably enjoy it but the little kids will likely take away the magic (sorry little kids, but it’s true). I was conflicted about bringing ours, and once we were there and watching the small kids whine about the heat of the water and the freezing outside temperatures, I was SO glad I left mine. Sorry boys, mommy still loves you!
You have to reserve your time slot in advance too, so be sure to set aside a half a day to experience this. I can’t even really convey how magical it was, we were there with fresh snow covering the entire landscape and white fluffy flakes falling all around us. There are several pools with differing temperatures, from super-hot to basically cold. I did it all. It was super relaxing and genuinely awe-inspiring. Something I’ll never forget. The pictures I’ll post for you will prove it. Do it. You’ll thank me.
I would say a very close second on my favorite things list was snow tubing at Saddleback Ranch. We have snow tubed several times in different states and on different mountains and this one will always be our favorite I suspect. It was just THAT good. The paths were steep and long and there were several to choose from, no long lines, a lift to take you up each time, and the staff was awesome. We were allowed to go down together on several tubes as a family, which makes it so much more fun. There have been several tubing trips we’ve done that are strictly one person at a time, only one or two paths to choose from, long lines and frankly, boring. This was not that.
We also went to Saddleback Ranch for snowmobiling and that was epic too! GAH, too much epic-ness on this trip! I highly recommend you research tours in advance and get something reserved for your group, the larger your party, the more you’ll want to plan ahead for this. I will say, it was cold, like painfully cold. So be sure you have good boots, socks and warmers to stick in your boots. The handles on the snowmobiles were thankfully heated so that helped a ton. But have good gloves, good gear and be prepared for the cold. They basically have all these things to rent too. If you have littles ones, they’ll have to be on the snowmobile with you, which is what I would have preferred anyway. We got to go fast and do some open runs in a giant field blanketed in snow in addition to going through unbelievably beautiful tree lined trails. This experience was on our favorites list too, the whole family agreed.
7 honorable mentions for this unforgettable winter adventure:
- Exploring downtown Steamboat– there are many adorable shops with super nice shirts, hoodies, souvenirs, and yummy restaurants for days.
- Hiking– we found a few trails and went on some beautiful hikes with frozen waterfalls and snow-covered forests.
- Sledding– there are lots of little places to explore and sled down, the kiddos loved sledding and honestly so did I. Most rental vacation homes will have sleds in their garages for visitors to use or there are lots of shops around town that rent them out.
- Alpine coaster– If you’ve never been on an alpine mountain coaster, let alone one in the snow, do it. It’s awesome. We went on one right by the main ski area, a bit pricey but well worth the experience. We popped for two rides and the kiddos still say this was one of their favorite things to do. And now on all our mountain trips, we are constantly searching for and hitting up the local alpine coaster.
- Do you wanna build a snowman? Why yes, yes I do. Lots of fluffy snow to play in, so be sure you have good quality waterproof gloves to play in the snow with your kids and build you an Olaf and some snowy friends for him.
- Horse & carriage ride– after all our fast-paced adventures, this was a nice slow, relaxing day. There are a ton of places around town, all probably about the same, that offer different types of carriage rides- from dinners, to cocktails, to morning rides with hot cocoa (which is what we did). If you are kid-less, I think a nice romantic carriage ride with dinner would be a dream. If you have children, I recommend one of the shorter rides, because it is a slower activity and I don’t think the kids would enjoy hours of it.
- Ski School– Half our group decided to take some ski & snowboard lessons since it had been a few years and I highly recommend taking advantage of the slope’s lessons to get comfortable if it’s your first time or if it’s been a while. They are quite pricey but usually include your lift tickets for the day. Our kids opted out of the ski school and just sort of learned on their own, mostly during the night ski. But I still recommend signing up for a ski school for the littles, if anything it will give you a full day to yourself on the mountain. Again, this is something you’ll have to book in advance because they will fill up.
This one was a long one, but I hope it was worth the read! I really wished there was a blog like this one to read through before our trip, it was super overwhelming choosing all of the activities we wanted to do. We spent 8 full days in Steamboat and it seemed like the perfect amount of time.
I hope you enjoyed reading this one and I hope it inspires you to get out there and make some snowy sublime memories. I’ll leave you with my usual top 10 list. Keep on adventuring and I’ll see you on my next ride, where should we go next? I am thinking somewhere warmer…
10 things to pack for your Steamboat winter wonderland adventure:
- Snow boots, I can’t stress enough the importance of a good quality snow boot. Invest in them! You won’t regret it. I recommend checking out your local kids consignment shop for the kids, we found a great pair for one of our boys and still had to order a pair for the other. But it saved us a little $$.
- Snow jackets with an inside layer, all snow jackets are NOT created equally. I recommend getting one with a nice fleece lined jacket inside, you’ll need multiple layers in your jacket to stay warm.
- Gloves/Socks/Beanies/Face Coverings/Mittens, you’ll need snow gloves and also mittens or sleeker gloves for just walking around. We’ve got some great Sublime Rides beanies on our site so check them out, I was happy I brought several beanies for each of us because we would drop them, they would get wet, etc. Plus, it was nice to mix up with different outfits. And face coverings for your ski/snowboarding sessions and for snowmobiling. You will NEED face coverings!
- Goggles, you can rent goggles at most slopes but I recommend just buying your own. They are one of the least expensive things you’ll buy, and I ended up using mine way more than I even thought I would, on the alpine coaster, sledding, etc. They kept that cold wind out of my eyes.
- Bathing suits, yes bathing suits! If you want to hit Strawberry Park, you’ll need a bathing suit and even if you don’t many of the resorts have heated pools and hot tubs. We even packed towels you can throw over your head with hoods, to keep ourselves warm getting in and out.
- Boot & hand warmers, you can buy these when you get there too but I find it easier just to order yourself a box off of amazon and put it in your checked bag. We used these like crazy and they really helped to keep our toes warm. One lasts pretty much all day but you’ll need at least one per day per person in your group, so be sure to get enough.
- Portable sled, I mentioned you can rent one most places which is true, but we happened upon this portable roll up sled that we now bring on all of our snow trips, it fits kids better but I am still able to use it too, it’s a bit harder for grown men. But it’s a blast and rolls up right in your suitcase, many times we pull over when we see a good hill and take this sled out to do a few runs. Check it out – SLED.
- Snow pants, you’ll need these even if you aren’t planning to ski. You really only need to bring one pair (especially if you have access to a washer/dryer) to save yourself space. We all wore our long johns underneath. But even just walking around in the snow outside will get your pants soaked, so be sure to wear your snow pants most places. You’ll need these for tubing, sledding and snowmobiling too. There are lots of cool styles now, I still love a bib style because it keeps my shirts from riding up and making my back cold. I love a classic snow bib pant and they come in such fun colors now!
- Portable games & cards, we had such a great time as a family sitting by the fire at night, having hot cocoa & wine and playing games while the snow fell outside. Check to see if your rental has provided games and if not, pack some of your own.
- Electronics, you’ll need Bluetooth headphones for your flights so don’t forget to pack enough for the whole family so they can watch movies, etc. Most planes don’t even have TVs anymore, so you’ll have to connect to their Wi-Fi through your own devices so pack extra tablets, phones, etc. I also brough my Bluetooth speaker for listening to music at night. This is a great trip to take some cool action shots, so if you have a Go Pro or other high-quality cameras to take good videos, I recommend bringing them. Even a waterproof case for your smartphone, because it’s so easy to drop your phone in the snow while trying to capture that perfect shot.