By Lauren Danser Ellerbee
YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO MUSICFEST ALL YEAR, EXCITED ABOUT THE CONSTANT EAR CANDY OF THE MUSIC YOU LOVE, IN THE MOST SCENIC VENUES YOU CAN IMAGINE, WHILE SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING STEAMBOAT SPRINGS’ SIGNATURE CHAMPAGNE POWDER® SNOW.
But wait, there’s more!
1. TAKE SKI LESSONS FROM A PRO
Whether you’re completely comfortable on the slopes, a first-time never-ever skier or somewhere in between, take advantage of Steamboat’s top-notch ski and snowboard instructors. SnowSports School Manager Jim Hillmuth says, “No matter what your level of confidence is, lessons will improve your skills,” he says. “Plus, we’ll show you the ins and outs of the mountain.” Nothing like a backstage pass to the mountain!
2. GO SNOWMOBILING
One of our most memorable days in Steamboat was spent with Steamboat Snowmobile Tours’ fun and friendly guide, Ben Strozier. He picked us up from the Steamboat Grand — amid a snowstorm, no less — and entertained us all the way to the gorgeous Routt National Forest. Once we arrived, we suited up and climbed onto our snowmobiles, winding through beautiful forested trails that culminated in one spectacular view after another.
3. DRIVE YOUR OWN DOG TEAM
For an unforgettable experience, call Grizzle-T Dog & Sled Works for a dog sledding adventure! After arriving at the kennel you’ll learn how to lead your team of powerful Alaskan huskies
— “The first rule of dog sledding,” says guide Kris Hoffman, “is hold on!”
— through an absolutely breathtaking scenic trail. Then it’s back to reality … if reality is returning to your cozy lodging in picturesque Steamboat Springs.
4. RIDE INTO THE SNOWY MOUNTAINS BY HORSEBACK
If you’re craving peace and quiet amid the splendor, try a mountaintop horseback ride. Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch will provide you with gentle horses and gorgeous views. The guides took great care to ensure we were comfortable, safe and happy throughout the ride
5. RIDE THE OUTLAW MOUNTAIN COASTER (AT LEAST TWICE)
As soon as I saw the Outlaw Mountain Coaster, I was 10 years old again. I climbed aboard my coaster car and relaxed during the automated meander up the mountain — and then it was all (exhilarating, fast, gleefully) downhill from there. I squealed like the internal child I am and disembarked with a whoop, ready to roll again and again.
See Steamboat from Up High
6. FLY WITH WILD WEST BALLOON ADVENTURES
One of the best aspects of having MusicFest in Steamboat Springs is that it’s a feast for your senses: authentic music and gorgeous scenery everywhere you look. For a different take, see Steamboat Springs by hot air balloon
7. TAKE A GONDOLA RIDE
Ride the new gondola with a different purpose than skiing, and a fresh pair of eyes. Try the MF Stoker Sunset Happy Hour at Thunderhead Lodge. Soak up the scenery alongside tasty libations and nibbles!
8. COZY UP BY THE FIRE
Head to one of several outdoor fireplaces at the base of the mountain. Grab your favorite hot beverage (and person), and drink it all in! After all, that’s what winter is for.
9. TRY A DIFFERENT WINTER sPORT AT THE HOWELSEN ICE COMPLEX
Had enough snow? How about some ice! Show off your skating skills, or lack thereof, at the Howelsen Ice Complex. Or, try an on-ice activity… bumper cars!
10. CLIMB NEW HEIGHTS
Test your rock climbing skills on the 40-foot Kilimanjaro Climbing Wall in Gondola Square. Whether you’re an expert or a climbing newbie, there are three routes to accommodate all skill levels. See if you can ring the bell at the top!
11. TAKE A WINTER PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR
Create your own vacation keepsake and learn some skills at the same time: take a winter photography tour. Snowshoe or drive to Steamboat’s most iconic spots. Either way, a professional photographer will help you tell the perfect visual story of your trip.
12. TRY YOUR HAND (OR FEET) AT SNOWSHOEING
Take a leisurely stroll by snowshoe through the winter landscape. There’s a free guided tour on Mt. Werner, and there are plenty of snowshoeing opportunities around the Yampa Valley. Try fan favorite Rabbit Ears Pass!
13. LEARN HOW TO DRIVE, ALL OVER AGAIN
If you’re planning on driving to areas beyond Steamboat Springs, it’s a great — and fun — idea to brush up on your winter driving skills. Bridgestone Winter Driving School’s classes offer practical basics for safe winter driving.
14. VISIT FISH CREEK FALLS
No matter the season, the falls at Fish Creek are an always-popular scenic destination only minutes from downtown Steamboat Springs.
15. RIDE A FAT BIKE
If you’re a seasoned cyclist, don’t let a little snow stop you. Fat tire biking allows avid riders to get their fix, even in the dead of snow-filled winter. Both Wheels Bike Shop and Ski Haus have gear to rent, so get out on the trails!
16. PUT ON YOUR BOWLING SHOES
Grab your buddies and head to Snow Bowl Steamboat for some indoor fun! It’s where Dickson Productions staff compete with the MusicFest sound crew for their annual Snow Bowl trophy — and bragging rights!
17. GONE FISHIN’
Love to fish? Go ice fishing! Both Steamboat Fishing Adventures and Big Ed’s Fishing Ventures can provide you with all the gear you need. Get your Colorado fishing license, dress warmly, then sit back, drop a line, and reel ‘em in.
18. TUBE DOWNHILL ATSADDLEBACK RANCH
Channel your inner child and experience the thrill of tubing down Yee-Haw Hill! Located at Saddleback Ranch, the hill is equipped with a tow-lift system to transport you and your tube to the top. Then, speed down one of three runs, and … do it all over again!
19. GRAB THE BEST BURGER IN TOWN
If you’re anything like us, you’ll try to pack as much fun into a day as you can muster … and that can make a gal downright hangry. According to everyone we talked to, the hands-down best burger joint in Steamboat is Back Door Grill. From classic burgers to more adventurous concoctions, there’s something for everyone. While you’re there, don’t forget to look for the MusicFest dollar stapled to the wall, and add your own to the collection!
20. INDULGE IN A SPA DAY (AKA “AAAAHHH DAY”)
I’m a woman who loves activity and adventure — and relaxation. Enter the spa day. Yes, it’s delightful and necessary, and since you insist, I will have a facial. The Spa at the Grand offers a full menu of treatments, from mud wraps and salt scrubs to sports therapy or Swedish massage. Whatever your pleasure … treat yo’self!
SOOTHE YOUR ACHING MUSCLES
21. .…AT STRAWBERRY PARKHOT SPRINGS
There’s nothing better than taking an afternoon soak in steaming mineral water! Sweet Pea Tours swept us away to Strawberry Park Hot Springs to continue our day of relaxation. They provided us with cold water to and from the pools and possibly the most entertaining driver around. (Thanks, Jorge Espinoza!) Upon arriving at the springs, we eased into the hot mineral water and enjoyed the cool mountain air and scenery.
22. … OR AT OLD TOWN HOT SPRINGS
For the hot springs experience closer to the ski resort, give Old Town Hot Springs a try. Open year-round, it’s in the heart of downtown Steamboat and boasts eight mineral pools, an aquatic climbing wall, two waterslides and —massage therapy.
23. ENJOY MOUNTAIN AMENITIES
As you absorb all that MusicFest has to offer, take a second to appreciate all this goodness at your fingertips. From the ski resort’s first-class customer care and deluxe lodging to all its bar and restaurant options, there’s no better setting for MusicFest’s signature specialty shows and one-of-a-kind performances.
24. GET YOUR CRAFT COCKTAIL ON
If beer’s not your style, you’ll be happy to know the bartenders of Steamboat Springs can craft a cocktail — and how! You don’t even have to leave the mountain: The Timber & Torch will serve you well with their creative, tasty beverages. But for a day and/or night on the town, try Sunpie’s Bistro. The Hurricane is the cocktail of choice here, but be warned: it’s sweet and smooth and guaranteed to sneak up on you.
25. SIP LOCAL SUDS
When in Rome — or Steamboat, as it were — sample the local beers. You’re never far away from a delicious Breckenridge Brewery option at MusicFest. Or take a field trip: stop by one of Steamboat’s local beerhouses, like Mahogany Ridge, Storm Peak, Butcherknife or Mountain Tap. All craft their own brews, and all are incredibly popular with both locals and visitors. Have a pint for me, friends!
26. TAKE THE BLOODY MARY CHALLENGE
Perhaps that day and/or evening of cocktails calls for a remedy of sorts, hmm? Hair-of-the-dog help is nigh. Board the gondola and head to Hazie’s for the perfect Bloody Mary. Feeling restored? Maybe Hazie’s is just the first stop on your Best Bloody Showdown tour. That’s right: there’s a Bloody Mary competition. Purchase a Bloody Mary at each of several locations for your chance to earn a T-shirt. Head to the Welcome Center for details.
ENJOY A DINING EXPERIENCE
27. TRY A SCANDINAVIAN INSPIRED CUISINE AT RAGNAR’S
For a small town, Steamboat Springs offers big-time cuisine. One of our favorite meals was at Ragnar’s on the mountain. We took a dusk gondola ride to the top and were greeted by a jovial staff. A snowcat-driven sleigh delivered us to the warmly lit restaurant, where live acoustic music created the perfect ambience for us to enjoy our beautifully prepared and presented plates of food. We topped off the evening with dessert and a nightcap, fortified and ready for the next day’s adventures.
28. EAT ITALIAN ON THE MOUNTAIN
For another fine-dining experience, try Four Points Lodge. Once again you’ll take an evening gondola ride to the top of Mt. Werner, this time boarding the snowcat itself for a ride to the restaurant, where you’ll enjoy northern Italian cuisine. Cheers to yet another meal completely devoured.
29. ENJOY A SLEIGH RIDE DINNER AT THE HAYMAKER
Start your evening with drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the Haymaker lodge before boarding your horse-drawn sleigh. Then cozy up for a winter wonderland ride through the Yampa Valley hills. When you return to the lodge for dinner, you’ll be treated to an elegant, scrumptious three-course meal. Such a fun and delicious way to spend an evening
30. EXPLORE THE ART SCENE
Downtown Steamboat is home to eclectic, original art galleries and shops, as well as its own art museum. Stop by the museum to enjoy exhibits focusing on Northwest Colorado heritage.
31. BONE UP ON LOCAL HISTORY
Head to the Tread of Pioneers Museum to learn more about this area you’ve come to love. See artifacts from Routt County’s pioneering days; the “History of Skiing” exhibit; and the firearms collection in the “Western Room.”
32. STEAMBOAT MOUNTAIN VILLAGE
Need a few supplies? Or souvenirs? Steamboat Mountain Village has you covered. Find sunscreen, snacks and sundries at Gondola General; or visit any one of several outfitters to hit the mountain in style. There’s even a sweet shop nearby.
33. FM LIGHT & SONS
If you’re headed into town, FM Light & Sons is a must-stop shop. The century-old store offers quality clothing and souvenirs among its original fixtures. Take a picture next to Lightning the Horse for the quintessential keepsake.
34. LYON’S DRUGS
I love an old-fashioned drugstore. From the soda fountain to the pharmacy and everything in between, I could have spent hours in there, but I managed to leave with only what I went in for: scented salts for my highly anticipated bath in the Grand Hotel’s hot tub. Still, if given the chance, I could have … had a milkshake, consulted the pharmacist about diet supplements, chosen a card for my mom and a blanket for my niece, and picked up my Aura Cacia cedarwood mineral bath (among a dozen other choices). But maybe you can have it all. Oh, sweet nostalgia.
35. OFF THE BEATEN PATH
If you believe, as I do, that nothing pairs more perfectly than coffee and books, then Off the Beaten Path is the place you’ve gotta be. Located on 9th Street, the store stocks just about every book genre you can think of, with a healthy dose of puzzles, games, cards and chocolate thrown in. And note this: their coffee drinks and pastries are amazing, and if you’re so inclined, beer and wine are available to boot.
So what’re you waiting for, y’all?
You’ve got the trip of a lifetime to plan. Good people, great music and the of times — full speed ahead!