Resorts like Jackson Hole and Taos have recently begun changing their marketing to be more “approachable” mountains, with newly remodeled beginner areas and re-vamped ski school programs. However, there are some resorts that were just born to be beginner friendly – they don’t even have to try. Steamboat Springs happily counts itself among that list.
Unlike many other mountain towns, Steamboat Springs prides itself on being a family-centric community, as opposed to visitor-centric. There are many locals who call the town home, and choose to raise their kids on the mountain because it is the perfect place for a youngster to learn how to ski. Of course, not all beginners are children, but it is true that a resort that prioritizes kids also inherently prioritizes beginners, as they are often one and the same.
Those new to snow sports need not feel uncomfortable or in the way at Steamboat – they are welcomed with open arms by the community.
Where to Go On The Mountain As A Beginner
Base Area, Preview, and Christie Lifts
There are a wide variety of options at Steamboat for beginners, starting with the bunny hill. If you haven’t ever skied before, get yourself a lesson (which I will talk about more below) and head over to the skiers left hand side of the base area. There, you can ride the magic carpet until you are comfortable getting on an actual chair lift.
Once you have graduated from the bunny hill, the next level up is Preview or going halfway up Christie Peak Express, which will both take you midway up the front side of the mountain to Preview and Stampede (both easy, green runs). These snow kissed routes are always groomed and both contain rollers, which naturally slow down beginners in order to keep them in control. Practice your pizza, hockey stop, and turning here.
If you are ready for longer runs that are still a modest green shade, go all the way up Christie Peak Lift (don’t be intimidated by the dramatic runs within sight from this lift- there are many easier routes that can be accessed, they just aren’t visible.) Once you reach the top of the lift, there are a few options that will scoop you back to the bottom: try Sitzback, Yoo Hoo, and Boulevard on for size.
All three of these smooth, groomed trails will lead you straight to seven different greens.
Sunshine and Sundown Lifts
Comfortable with basic ski skills? Then you, my friend, are good enough to ride the Gondola up to Thunderhead Lodge, located about 3/4 of the way up the mountain. From there, head right on Spur Run (a green) toward Sundown Express lift. Take the lift up, and from the top head right toward the beginner/intermediate area around Sunshine Express lift.
This south face has a plethora of runs for newbies and those that ski once or twice a year. Try out Tomahawk for a fun up and down, zoom through the olympic trees to get a glimpse of Steamboat’s Olympic history, or go over to baby powder to test your skills in easier ungroomed terrain.
Thunderhead Lift and Storm Peak Lift
Resorts that offer “beginner terrain” often limit it to a specific area at the bottom of a mountain, away from other skiers. Although Steamboat has sanctioned areas for newbies, there are also ways for higher level beginners to get to the summit of the mountain and test their skills among the rest of the skiers.
In order to reach greater heights, take Thunderhead Lift or the Gondola up to mid-mountain. From here, you can choose to go back down on an easier, groomed blue– such as Vagabond– or keep going up to the top on Storm Peak Express.
Once you reach the summit, zoom down Buddy’s Run to Rainbow for the easiest way down (be warned, these are both groomed blues– so they are a tad more difficult than the other runs mentioned thus far). Be sure to hit your ski pole on the Bud Werner statue before your descent for good luck!
Ski School and Other On-Mountain Activities
Steamboat Ski School
If you are a beginner itching to get onto the aforementioned runs, the best thing you can do to improve your skills, feel confident, and increase your confidence on the mountain is sign up for a ski lesson. Steamboat has a plethora of options to choose from:
- If you want your child or teenager to improve their skills, sign them up for a private or group lesson. The groups range from the kids vacation center (2 ½ years to kindergarten), to trailbusters (1st grade to 17 years old.).The little ones meet at KVC, located at the lower level of the Gondola building. For those 1st grade and up, skiers meet on the snow by the school house at the blue flags, and snowboarders meet uphill of the school house at the green flags.
- If you are a beginner adult, there is absolutely no shame in getting a lesson to improve your skills. You will make the mountain safer and have a better time by doing this. You can choose to do a private lesson (meet at the gold meeting flags by the Gondola Stage), or opt for an adult group lesson– sure to be a ton of fun!
Apres-Ski Happy Hour
Once your legs get tired (which is bound to happen if you haven’t been skiing much) don’t push it! They are telling you it is time for apres-ski. So, pop off those boots and get ready to relax with a happy hour beverage and food. There are a number of great restaurants to choose from at the base of the mountain.
Take your pick…
- Kid Friendly: Check out Timber and Torch– Steamboat’s newest casual dining restaurant at the base of the mountain. Their outside area is equipped with a fireplace, a bar, and plenty of space for kids to express themselves and wander safely around. The inside are has beautiful wooden furniture, small and large tables, and televisions so you can catch the afternoon game. Their happy hour runs from 4-6 p.m. Try their Timber & Torchos nachos paired with a tasty marg.
- Best Drinks: You can’t find a better drink list on the mountain than the one at Truffle Pig– who’s mixologist has been nationally recognized for his innovative, delicious cocktails. With a long happy hour that begins early, running from 2-5, its the perfect spot for tired skiers to hang out and watch the front of the mountain. Don’t miss their truffle pig fries (they’re to die for) and the award winning Sm’oaked Old Fashioned.
- Exciting Atmosphere: There isn’t a more hopping place in the afternoon in Steamboat than T-Bar– especially if it is sunny outside. This tiny mountain classic has a fun vibe, with chairs and tables sprawled about outside, live music, and great food. Try one of their small bites, like the hot smoked brie or the empanadas, paired with a craft beer.
Tips and Tricks for Beginner Skiers at Steamboat Springs
As a beginner, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here is some advice you can follow to help you along the way:
Buy tickets early or get a pass: If you plan on going skiing more than a few times at a few different resorts, it is totally worth it to get a season pass. Ticket prices can be alarmingly expensive, so many people are opting for the two best passes on the market: the Ikon Pass and the Epic Pass.
Both of these offer an amazing amount of skiing at many different areas across the country, and even a few spots in other countries (such as Chile, Canada, Japan, and Australia!). However, if you only plan on skiing for the weekend, then make sure to buy your tickets in advance and get them in bundles (such as a three day pass or a ten day pass).
Sign up for a lesson: Although I said this already, I cannot emphasize it enough. Beginners who do not sign up for a lesson are generally a risk to all other skiers on the mountain, because they turn sporadically and can be out of control. It is the job of more advanced skiers to look out for beginners, but beginners can help out by getting a lesson that teaches them the skills of skiing, helping them to be in control, predictable, and coordinated on their skis or board.
Plus, getting a lesson means that you are with a professional expert all day, who will not only show you how to ski, but also where to ski, so that if you want to go off on your own the next few days, you have some options to choose from.
Don’t Push It too Hard: As a beginner skier, it is easy to go too far and injure yourself if you haven’t skied in a while. Your muscles will not be used to the movement, and you may be a little tense or uncomfortable from not having skied in a while. Take a lot of breaks, know your limits, and know when to stop.
Don’t ever let anyone take you down anything that you are not comfortable with, as it could lead to injury of yourself or others.
Have fun! Don’t forget to enjoy yourself out there! Remember, once you have paid for the ticket it is a sunk cost, so do what you want to do while you are on your vacation. If you want to ski all day– go for it! If you want to ski till noon and then have an early apres-ski filled with margaritas and fries–go for it! This is your time, so do with it what you want!
Tired of Skiing? Best of the rest…
There are many other things to do in Steamboat once you get tired of skiing. Here is a short list of options:
You can also go into the town proper and experience a plethora of shops and restaurants!
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Feature image credit: Murray Foubister