Chase champagne powder with Heavenly Haze in Steamboat Springs

Steamboat’s legendary Champagne Powder® snow. Photo/Larry Pierce

Surrounded by a whole lot of great wide open, Steamboat Springs is 150 miles from Denver and a world away. The rugged and rolling landscape of the Yampa Valley in northwest Colorado is just the place to get lost for a few days.

The vibe is equal parts ski bum and cowboy, with a dollop of funky quirk: The city council named a bridge over the Yampa River the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge in 1993. The moniker generated a little controversy, but more publicity, and the Godfather of Soul even attended the dedication ceremony.

Unlike some ski destinations, Steamboat is a real town with a population north of 12,000 residents. Actually, it’s more like two towns in one: The historic, thoroughly cowboy downtown and the sleek base village for Steamboat Ski Resort, just three miles east. On the west side is Copper Ridge, a mixed-use and industrial area that’s home to a number of dispensaries and craft breweries. Let’s look around.

Nestled quietly 7,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies at the foot of the Steamboat Ski Area lies the 100-year old town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Steamboat is a unique mix of western heritage and skiing tradition that sets it apart from every other resort in the world. | Photo Steamboat/Larry Pierce
Nestled quietly 7,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies at the foot of the Steamboat Ski Area lies the 100-year old town of Steamboat Springs, Colo. — a unique mix of western heritage and skiing tradition. | Photo Steamboat/Larry Pierce

The Map

The Best Steamboat Cannabis Dispensaries


2093 Curve Plaza, Unit C, (970) 879-4420

Why go? With more than 120 types of flowers, edibles, and extracts, this slick shop on the west side of town is focused on customer service and convenience. There’s both medical and recreational marijuana, and even a pickup window for online orders.

Golden Leaf

1755 Lincoln Ave., (970) 870-2941

Why go? Just west of downtown, Golden Leaf is known for its soil-grown flowers, as well as an emphasis on sustainable practices. With medical and recreational counters, the 75-plus item inventory covers all the bases from bud to edibles to topicals.

Rocky Mountain Remedies

2730 Downhill Plaza, #106, (970) 879-6047

Why go? Near Billo, Steamboat’s longest-lived dispensary opened in 2009. It has diverse medical and recreational menus, and a great handle on the genetics of each strain, like the award-winning Heavenly Haze, and developed a vape pen in-house dubbed the RemPen.

Steamboat Eats and Shops

The densest concentration of restaurants is along Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street in downtown Steamboat Springs. Local favorites include: Winona’s, a go-to for breakfast and lunch and home to a beloved bakery; Steamboat Smokehouse, a family-friendly barbecue joint with a full bar; Harwigs, a stalwart for French-inspired fare, complete with a wine cellar and live lobster tank; and Old Town Pub, a casual spot with burgers, ribs, and live music. For coffee and tea, stop in Steamboat Coffee House.

Between the restaurants and taverns, there are a number of interesting stores to browse, none more iconic thant F.M. Light & Sons, one of the top shops for Western duds and cowboy boots since 1905. Just off of Lincoln, Off the Beaten Path is a terrific independent bookstore.

Thanks for the admiration, @epicwine ?? #steamboat #steamboatsprings #boots

Posted by F.M. Light and Sons on Monday, February 5, 2018


Steamboat Skiing and Snowboarding

Steamboat Ski Resort is known for its dry champagne powder — it’s typically fluffier than the resorts to the south — and the remote location makes for shorter lift lines than you’ll encounter at busier resorts along I-70. With 165 named trails on 2,965 skiable acres, there’s something here for everybody, from blue cruisers on Sunshine Peak to expert and extreme terrain on Mount Werner. Don’t miss Morningside Park on the back side of the mountain, with a variety of tree runs and sidecountry terrain.

Steamboat is gaining a national reputation as an great mountain for snowboarders with Champagne PowderÆ snow , trees, cruisers, terrain park and North America's longest superpipe, Mavericks. Champagne Powder® snow was coined in Steamboat Springs in the early 1950s and continues to attract skiers and riders from around the globe. The resort received more than 335 inches (28 feet) of snow a year. Photo/Larry Pierce
Champagne Powder® snow was coined in Steamboat Springs in the early 1950s. The resort received more than 335 inches (28 feet) of snow a year. Photo/Larry Pierce

But it’s not the only game in town. Adjacent to downtown, Howelsen Hill is the oldest ski area in not just Colorado, but the entire country: Carl Howelsen opened it as a ski-jumping venue in 1915. Today, it’s a fun little area that’s the center of activity for the local students, many of whom go on to compete on the world’s biggest stages for snowsports: 88 (and counting) Winter Olympians have had connections to Steamboat, more than any other town in the U.S. It’s also affordable, with $25 adult lift tickets.

Cross-country skiers and snowshoers have plenty of options: There are numerous Nordic centers (including nine trails at Howelsen Hill) and trails on public land within a short drive.

Steamboat Culture Spots

Steamboat has long had a rich and vibrant arts scene that rivals its better-known opportunities for outdoor recreation. Strings Music Festival is one of the best concert series in the West, with summer performances ranging from chamber music to country staged at its pavilion on the east side of town as well as the Yampa River Botanic Park. On Lincoln Avenue, the free Steamboat Art Museum focuses on Western landscapes and wildlife art. Nearby, the Chief Theater is the prime downtown venue, with a calendar of drama, music, comedy, and other events.

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[CURRENT EXHIBIT] Last two weeks! Come and visit us Downtown! COLORADO NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT June 30, 2017 to August 12, 2017 “Colorado is unparalleled for its spectacular beauty, incredible light, diversity of terrain, and variety of the seasons,” said Rod Hanna, SAM board president and curator of the exhibit. “This exhibit will not only present some of the top nature photographers of our area, but will continue to fulfill our mission to present fine art to the public, with a primary focus on the culture and heritage of Northwestern Colorado. Western Colorado provides such an unique opportunity to capture nature at its best and we are so fortunate to live and work in this incredible environment.” Ph 1: Caudle Ph 2-3: Steinberg Ph 4: @abbyjensenphoto #colorado #cophotography #conaturephotography #coloradonaturephotography #co #steamboatsprings #steamboatartmuseum #steamboatartist

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Steamboat Hot Springs

Right downtown, Old Town Hot Springs, fed by the 102 degree Fahrenheit waters of Heart Spring, features eight outdoor pools, a pair of waterslides, and an indoor fitness center. North of town, Strawberry Park Hot Springs is one of Colorado’s most iconic soaking destinations, with a gorgeous natural setting and overnight accommodations in the form of cabins and a converted caboose, as well as a campground in summer.

Steamboat Craft Brew It Up

The local craft brewing scene has been gaining steam in recent years. Open since 2003, Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill is the oldest, with a central location and a menu focused on “dipping entrees” and sauces ranging from guava habanero to Thai BBQ. The beers, including Dave’s Downtown Brown and Alpenglow Amber, are routinely excellent. Mountain Tap Brewery opened on Yampa Street in 2016 pouring German and Belgian standbys as well as experimental small-batch beers. Beyond the liquid refreshments, wood-fired pizzas are the specialty of the house.

On the west side, Butcherknife Brewing Company is known for its big, hoppy IPAs. Storm Peak Brewing Company is a production brewery with a flair for the exotic (spruce-tinged saison, anyone?) and a slick taproom.

Steamboat Transportation & Getting Around

The downtown is walkable, supplemented by free buses. U.S. 40 becomes Lincoln Avenue through town. GO Alpine offers shuttle service from Denver International Airport and Yampa Valley Regional Airport in nearby Hayden.

Steamboat Springs Transit operates a free bus system between downtown and the ski area as well as other routes around town. Most routes run from about 6am to 9pm.

The biking/walking/jogging Yampa River Core Trail runs 7.5 miles along the Yampa River, roughly parallel to U.S. 40 (Lincoln Avenue), through town.

The Steamboat420 dispensary shuttle offers free rides from the ski resort to Rocky Mountain Remedies.

Steamboat Lodgings — Where to stay

Vista Verde Ranch, located outside Steamboat Springs.
Vista Verde Ranch, located outside Steamboat Springs.

Most of Steamboat’s accommodations have a no-smoking policy. For cannabis-friendly lodgings, the best bets are vacation homes through Airbnb and VRBO.

At the base village, the Steamboat Grand is a big and bold ski lodge with a wide range of room layouts. Resort Lodging Company manages a number of condominiums and other lodgings. On the eastern fringe of downtown, Rabbit Ears Motel is a reliable family-owned lodging with an unforgettable neon bunny out front. In the historic core, Hotel Bristol has been welcoming guests since 1948.

Places mentioned in this story:

Butcherknife Brewing Company, 2875 Elk River Rd., (970) 879-2337

Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave., (970) 871-4791

Hotel Bristol, 917 Lincoln Ave., (800) 851-0872

Howelsen Hill Ski Area, Howelsen Pkwy., (970) 879-8499

Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill, 435 Lincoln Ave., (970) 879-3773

Mountain Tap Brewery, 910 Yampa St., (970) 879-6646

Old Town Hot Springs, 136 Lincoln Ave., (970) 879-1828

Rabbit Ears Motel, 201 Lincoln Ave., (970) 879-1150

Resort Lodging Company, (877) 302-2628

Steamboat Art Museum, 801 Lincoln Ave., (970) 870-1755

Steamboat Grand, 2300 Mt. Werner Cir., (877) 306-2628

Steamboat Ski Resort, 2305 Mt. Werner Cir., (970) 879-6111

Storm Peak Brewing Company, 1885 Elk River Plaza, (970) 879-1999

Strawberry Park Hot Springs, 44200 County Rd. 36, (970) 879-0342

Strings Music Festival, 900 Strings Rd., (970) 879-5056

Yampa River Botanic Park, 1000 Pamela Ln., (970) 846-5172