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Trip Report Christmas in Steamboat Springs

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A few months ago, DH and I decided to look for a place to get away for a few days at a ski resort, someplace close to the slopes to avoid having to lug our skis and heavy boots a long distance to the base. We decided to try Steamboat Springs, where we hadn’t visited before; we found prices to be more reasonable before the Christmas rush. It’s about a three-hour drive from Denver to Steamboat and the weather wasn’t terrific for driving a compact non-4WD over the daunting Rabbit Ears Pass but, of course, the storms did provide outstanding ski conditions once we arrived (over 100” of snow already this year!)

We spent three nights at the Ptarmigan Inn, a ski-in/ski-out lodge right at the base of the Steamboat ski area. The Ptarmigan may not have been the height of luxury or decor, but the inn was perfect for what we needed; clean, comfortable and very, very convenient accommodations. They had a restaurant and bar on site, a pool and hot tub and ski valet to store your equipment right by the back door. A price of $200 a night for a king bedded, slopeside view room was an incredible deal for what we got!

We had three dinners during our stay which we quite enjoyed. Our first night, we walked to the Truffle Pig at the base area. It is surprisingly one of the only full restaurants there, but it was a good choice. They have menu they describe as “casually elegant” with decent selection of entrees, salads, pizza and burgers, done in a fairly gourmet manner. Their location overlooking the slopes and village is superb and if the weather had been less snowy, we might have been able to enjoy their patio with a long fireplace to keep warm. I really liked their Lamb Bolognese with a wedge salad that I split with DH who had a simple but well executed burger.

The best meal of our visit was in town at the Mahogany Ridge Brewery. There is a free bus service all over town and considering the amount of snow that was falling, we preferred to leave the driving to the professionals! We easily walked to the main bus depot at the base and within 15 minutes, we were at the restaurant. We wanted to watch a football game that night and chose to eat in the bar. We had to wait a while for two seats at this popular spot, but it was worth it. We thoroughly enjoyed the excellent service of the two bartenders (who may have been the owners, given their interest in the food and drink and suggestions they gave us.) DH, the beer drinker in the family, really liked the brews and the food was outstanding. Many entrees include dipping sauces designed to accent the meat which I love. That evening’s specials included a “tater tot” appetizer that was amazing – I think there was truffle oil or something in it that made it delicious! I had the “Tandoori Tuna” entrée and DH had a bison rib eye both of which we raved about. I wasn’t sure what wine would go with my meal, and without hesitation, I got a taste of several wines to choose from. We even splurged on dessert, a Bourbon Carrot Cake that was about the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. This is absolutely a destination restaurant if you’re ever in Steamboat!

Our last night was Christmas Eve, and I reserved in advance a sleigh ride dinner at the top of the mountain at Ragnar’s. The sleigh ride was actually an open sleigh with about 30 people pulled by a large, noisy snowcat for a 15-minute traverse through the frosty woods from one peak to another. It’s a cold little trip, but we were warned to dress warmly, and they gave us blankets, so it wasn’t unbearable and actually quite pretty. Ragnar’s offers Scandinavian-centered cuisine and for the holiday, the restaurant had a prix fixe dinner with predictable, but tasty offerings. Since everyone there was “captive” to the sleigh ride transportation, everyone was served at about the same time. However, there seemed to be a longer delay than we would have liked between courses, but oh well, they had a decent fellow playing guitar to entertain us, and someone else was driving us home! We did have a little technical difficulty on the way back and actually had to transfer to another sleigh midway through the trip, but the glitch just added to the adventure. It was a very nice way to spend Christmas Eve.

Steamboat is definitely a destination resort for serious skiers, and they get the snowfall that even Summit County can’t match. On our first day of skiing, it had been snowing for three days and the Powder Hounds were out in force. I do not count myself in those ranks and find deep powder hard to ski in. One advantage, though, was that it was not frigid cold, even though it was very cloudy and the light was flat. I wasn’t thrilled with the layout of the slopes. Some parts of the slopes were hard to get in and out of, with areas of flat traverse. DH loves the bumps and was very content with the black diamond runs. I stuck with blues and greens and didn’t have the best time skiing this trip. I think that I like resorts like Keystone and Copper better for my very laid-back style of skiing. Serious skiers and riders were certainly thrilled with the conditions when we were there! One warning, though; Steamboat doesn’t discount its tickets and a full day on the slopes costs $119! Multi-day tickets cost less per day, but it ain’t a cheap sport.

I spent one afternoon shopping for last minute gifts in downtown Steamboat and found a great selection of stores. My favorite was the F.M. Light and Sons western wear store, the one you see signs for along the highway many miles outside the town. If you want cowboy boots, the real thing, this is the place! They also have a great variety of apparel and home décor items. It was perfect for Christmas shopping, and they even gift wrapped for free, even items that were brought in from elsewhere!

We left to drive home on Christmas morning, with the most vivid blue skies you’ll ever see (but much colder weather.) Amazing views of the valley as we climbed the pass distracted me from the icy road conditions. We talked about when we could return because I can imagine that summer in Steamboat would be equally appealing. Steamboat is an authentic town, with excellent lodging and dining choices and unparalleled recreation opportunities. It was a great place to celebrate the holidays and get away!

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