For the past four years I have convinced myself that my family “needs” to go on a yearly ski trip as if we were depriving ourselves of an extremely valuable skill. Because we live in Florida I get lured by the beautiful images of smiling couples skiing down the snow covered slopes wearing the most stylish gear I have ever seen. I can hear the children laughing as they play in a perfect winter wonderland. I can feel the warmth as we sip hot cocoa by a cozy fire. Well, reality is just a tiny bit different from those perfect images–for starters, we look more like Ralphie from A Christmas Story trying to constantly pick ourselves up from the ground. Still, there is something about the simple quiet beauty of winter in the mountains that always lures us back every season.
This year friends of ours invited us along on their annual ski trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The area has a rich western heritage and is one of the largest ski resorts in Colorado. They have been visiting Steamboat for years and spoke highly of the area. Steamboat has ranked within the top ten family ski resorts by Ski Magazine and Forbes Magazine for the past 3 years. With all the great reviews I couldn’t wait to experience it for myself!
We used our Delta Skymiles for the easy approximately 3 hr flight from Alanta to Hayden. GOAlpine is the preferred transportation provider of Steamboat. They offer either shared ride shuttle service or private vehicle service. We made previous arrangements for a private ride and our friendly driver met us promptly at the baggage claim area. Hayden is a very small airport so walking to the car and loading up all our luggage was hassle free. The drive into town took approximately 30 minutes.
Our friends highly recommended The Christie Club ski-in/ski-out luxury condos and we quickly found out why. Unit 325 is the epidome of a ski vacation home and it became our home for the week.
The spacious and comfortable 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom condo had everything a family could possibly need. Up-stairs, the 3 bedrooms all have King sized beds and all bathrooms have large tubs to soak your cold tired bones at the end of the day. The fourth bedroom downstairs has 2 sets of bunk beds. It was convenient to have an in-unit washer and dryer and all laundry products readily available. Lucky for me, they also offer daily housekeeping! At the end of your day on the slopes there is slopeside valet service with ski storage, a private clubhouse, heated outdoor pool, three outdoor hot tubs, private ski locker rooms, and if you still have some energy to burn, a fully equipped health club. Want to dine downtown or pick up some snacks at one of the many grocery stores in town? An on-call shuttle provides door to door service! I had a list of activities and areas I wanted to explore and the attentive staff was always eager to help with my plans. Everything that you could possibly need or want was provided with a smile to go with it. Christie Club is simply amazing!!!
Let me be honest…I’m a horrible downhill skier (I’m an island girl after all!) It’s a miracle that I have never broken a bone on my body. I didn’t want to press my luck any longer and for this reason cross country skiing was on my must list of activities to try. I called the concierge and she scheduled a private lesson and my transportation. The family run Steamboat Ski Touring Center offers groomed cross country ski and snowshoe trails for all skill levels. The ski school offers group or private lessons with an option to have lunch included in the price (delicious soups and coffee!) I also had to rent the equipment. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. During my 1 1/2 hr lesson, I learned all the basic techniques and proper form. My instructor also guided me through my first full trail and recommended others for me to practice on. I loved every minute of it! I was never scared of falling and hurting myself or others. Best of all, the boots and the gear are so much more comfortable! It was wonderful being able to explore a white winter wonderland comfortable and stress free while also getting tremendous exercise. Yes, even though it looks easy, you WILL get quite the workout! I was not properly dressed. I had too many layers and my ski jacket was way too bulky (Ralphie). I ended up buying a lighter jacket and cross country ski pants at their shop because I knew this was going to become my winter sport. I loved it so much the next day I brought my friends to explore the trails with me…this time with proper gear.
An afternoon relaxing in all natural hot spring pools while over looking a beautiful snow covered forest was exactly what my body needed after skiing. Once again, I called my wonderful concierge at Christie Club and she reserved my Strawberry Hot Springs adventure with Sweet Pea Tours and also took care of entrance fees. Professional shuttle transportation to the hot springs is highly recommended. The hassle free door to door service and the 4-wheel drive vans were perfect for the 40 minutes each way drive. The driver will collect the entrance fees to the springs for those that have not already payed. The driver also gave each of us a large bag for our wet belongings and water. Take the water–you will NEED to hydrate! I chose the 1:30 pm pick up with a 3:30 shuttle back. After dark it is clothing optional at the springs and kids are not allowed. I didn’t want to be there either…locals don’t recommend it. I was concerned that the 1 hour 30 minutes we had at the springs would not be enough time. It actually was more than enough time to soak in 106 degree waters! I was almost dizzy at the end. Again, drink plenty of water!
Facilities at Strawberry Hot Springs are very minimal but are kept very clean. There are restrooms, a very small heated cabin for changing, and picnic areas. There are no lockers available. There is a very limited concession stand with beverages available. There are areas available for scheduled massages. There are various pools to soak in ranging from 101 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. I wore my bathing suit under my clothes to make it easier to quickly change. I also packed a towel and a robe. The robe helped make the freezing walk from the changing cabin to the pools somewhat bearable. I found a bench near the hottest pool to put my things on and jumped in 106 degree water…and it felt so good!!!!!! I made my way through the different temperature pools. The tranquil and beautiful forest surrounding the waters made it seem like a I was in a dream.
Another fantastic way to explore the outdoors is snowshoeing. Snowshoes allow you to get to areas even the most experienced skier can’t reach. If you can walk, you can snowshoe–that simple.
My girlfriends and I chose the Guided Gourmet Tour with Steamboat Tours. The price of the tour included snow shoes, the gondola ride, 2 knowledgable guides, buffet lunch at Hazie’s, a glass of wine, tax and gratuity. The tour meets at 9:30 a.m at the Information Center in Gondola Square. We were fitted for our snowshoes, met our lovely Ambassador Guides and boarded the Gondola up to Mt. Werner by 10:00 a.m.
We explored the Vista Nature Trail which was about 1 mile long. The Ambassadors did a great job teaching us about the area and answering our questions. We walked at a comfortable pace and it was invigorating. The views of Yampa Valley were spectacular! The sun was shining and the famous Champagne Powder Snow was glistening in all its glory. It was a perfect afternoon on the mountain!
Our table and Buffet at Hazie’s were ready as we arrived. It was nice to skip the lunch crowds! There were 2 ladies on our group celebrating birthdays and the staff brought out special desserts for everyone as we sang. It was a very nice way to end our morning together.
After lunch you are welcomed to continue exploring the snowshoe trails on your own, or take the gondola back to the Information Center to return the snowshoes.
Steamboat has a wide variety of terrains for every comfort level. While I had been having my own outdoor adventures the rest of my family had been conquering the mountain trails during the day and night. Steamboat offers night skiing across 5 trails using state-of-the-art lighting. I had the option of taking a private ski clinic under the lights but I always opted for my favorite type of skiing–Apres Ski.
On our final day, thanks to our awesome friends, my oldest son finally conquered 3 black diamond trails! I am so proud of him because he is a lot like me. He has a healthy fear of falling down ice covered mountains; however, he conquered his fears. I found my own ways of conquering it. You see, it is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. This is why every year our family goes on a ski trip. We are so out of our element up in the mountains but that is exactly where life begins—at the end of our comfort zones. A very valuable lesson for all!