23 Best Things To Do In Steamboat Springs In Winter (By A Local) 2023
Looking for the best things to do in Steamboat Springs this winter?
Of course, you know all about Aspen, Vail, and Breckenridge… But if you’re visiting Steamboat Springs, you’re in for a real treat. We might be a little biased (we’re long-time locals), but after visiting all the other great ski towns in Colorado, Steamboat takes the cake.
Steamboat is self-declared as “Ski Town USA”, and we think it lives up to its name, especially in the winter months. So, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Steamboat Springs in winter.
Best Things To Do In Steamboat Springs In Winter
You don’t have to be an avid skier or snowboarder to fall in love with Steamboat Springs in the winter. This incredible little mountain town has something for everyone to enjoy, regardless of age or activity level.
These are our favorite winter activities in Steamboat, Colorado:
1. Ski & Snowboard On Mount Werner
Steamboat Springs is nestled deep in the Rockies in northwest Colorado, along the Yampa river. The town itself sits at 6,695 feet, while the top of Mount Werner, Steamboat’s main ski mountain, reaches 10,570 feet, making this place a premier destination for champagne powder snow.
The Mount Warner ski area opened in 1963 and has 170 ski runs, accessible by 18 ski lifts. The main three lifts are the Gondola, Thunderhead Express, and Christie Peak Express. You can spend days exploring all the slopes and still not cover everything.
There’s even more snow to cover if you enjoy backcountry skiing in the back bowls of Steamboat.
Pro Tip: For some extra fun, why not rent ski bikes? Yes, that’s right, bikes on skis. You can take your ski bike on lifts with you, then ride it down the slopes. It’s an absolute blast!
2. Ski & Snowboard On Howelson Hill
What most people don’t realize is that Steamboat actually has another little ski mountain and it’s called Howelson Hill.
Although Howelson Hill is much smaller, it still deserves attention. It’s actually Colorado’s oldest continuously operating ski area dating back to 1915. It also has the largest natural ski jumping complex in North America.
Located across the Yampa river, opposite Steamboat’s downtown area, Howelson Hill is a fun day out for the whole family.
And while it’s been the training ground (or snow we should say) for over 100 winter Olympians, it’s the perfect place for beginners to practice their ski or board skills, without all the crowds of Mount Werner.
Note: The Howelson Hill ski area is completely free on Sundays. It’s the perfect way to save some extra money when visiting Steamboat.
3. Go Snow Tubing At Saddleback Ranch
If your legs are worn out from intense skiing or boarding, there is another fun way to get down the slopes with no skills required… Go snow tubing at Saddleback Ranch for a super fun day!
Located just 15 miles west of Steamboat Springs, Yee-Haw Hill at Saddleback Ranch is sure to be a highlight of your winter vacation. This tubing hill has 3 runs that you can speed down on in your inner tube, then there’s a tow lift system to take you back to the top.
When you need a break from the cold, you can grab a warm drink and bite to eat at the Warming Lodge at the base of the hill.
4. Hike Up Emerald Mountain
Overlooking Howelsen Hill and Steamboat Town is Emerald Mountain. This small mountain is only 8252ft (2515m) and it’s the perfect spot for an afternoon hike, even in the winter. There’s a 3.8-mile out-and-back trail to reach the top, it’s a moderate hike that most young kids can manage too.
This is a favorite outdoor exercise spot amongst locals. People hike, run, and mountain bike here year-round. Due to the high traffic, the wide trail is always well-maintained and easily accessible even when covered in snow.
5. Soak At Strawberry Hot Springs
Located about a 20-minute drive from downtown Steamboat, Strawberry Hot Springs is an absolute must-do winter activity! There are two large natural hot spring pools, one is a few degrees hotter than the other. Then there’s a cold-water pool to plunge into if you need some relief from the heat.
Nestled deep in Rout County National Forest, Strawberry hot springs are the perfect place to reconnect with nature. Facilities include bathrooms and heated changing rooms, but after dark, there is extremely limited lighting, so you’ll need to bring a torch to find your way back out.
Note: You will definitely need a 4×4 vehicle with snow tires to reach these hot springs. If you don’t have an appropriate vehicle, you can book a shuttle.
6. Cross-Country Skiing
If bombing down steep ski slopes isn’t quite your cup of tea, Steamboat offers several great cross-country skiing tracks too! The main cross-country skiing locations are Rabbit Ears Pass, Stagecoach State Park, and Pearl Lake State Park, here you’ll be fully immersed in nature with incredible views.
Then there are also 4 specific ski touring centers: Steamboat Ski Touring Center, Lake Catamount Ski Touring Center, Howelsen Ski Area, and Haymaker Nordic Center.
Pro tip: If you want to save some money and still enjoy some amazing cross-country skiing, head to Oak Creek. A small town 21 miles away from Steamboat, Oak Creek has free Nordic ski trails and free equipment too!
7. Ride In A Hot Air Balloon
If you’re looking for a truly unforgettable winter activity, you should definitely book a hot air balloon tour! Wild West Balloon Adventures is a family-run business in Steamboat, operating year-round.
Riding in a hot air balloon is a bucket-list-worthy experience. And what better way to take in the beautiful snow-covered mountains, valleys, and forests surrounding Steamboat Springs?
Flights usually last 45 minutes, while the whole experience takes about 2 hours. Tours cost $275 per person.
8. Go Snowshoeing on Rabbit Ears
Rabbit Ears is the iconic pass you go up and over driving into Steamboat on Highway 40. Not only is it full of hiking and biking trails in the summer, but it’s also home to some amazing powder-filled snowshoeing tracks.
Most trails are marked and designated for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Depending on how much snowfall there has been, the trails can be full of untouched, fluffy powder or packed down. There are a number of snowshoe rental places in Steamboat such as Christy Sports and Ski Haus.
9. Snowmobile Tours
For another adrenaline-pumping activity on the snow, you should check out Steamboat Snowmobile Tours. The team of expert tour operators provides a free shuttle service from your lodging to the beautiful Rabbit Ears Pass.
There are tours for all ages and abilities. So, whether it’s your first time on a snowmobile or you’re an expert rider, you’ll have a fun-filled day zooming through the snow in Routt National Forest on the Continental Divide.
Helmets, gloves, snow bibs, and hot drinks are provided. And your guide will take you to some of the most scenic spots with plenty of photo opportunities.
10. Visit Fish Creek Falls
Located about 3 miles from downtown off of Fish Creek Falls Road, you’ll find the parking lot and trailhead to the falls themselves. The 280ft tall waterfall is a sight to behold, especially in winter! During the coldest months, Fish Creek Falls freezes over and becomes a recreation spot for ice climbers.
Fish Creek Falls is accessible year-round. There is a short 0.8-mile loop trail to get to the falls. But, for those with walking difficulties, there is also a wheelchair-accessible viewing platform, just a quarter mile from the car park.
11. Visit The Hot Springs At Old Town Hot Springs
If you don’t want to make the long drive through the forest to reach Strawberry Hot Springs mentioned earlier, you can still enjoy the hot springs experience right in downtown Steamboat. Old Town Hot Springs has been a center for recreation and rejuvenation in the local community for over 100 years.
Today, the facility boasts 8 outdoor pools fed by the healing Heart Spring, a climbing wall, a spa, and a world-class fitness center. You can choose just to soak in the warm waters, or get some exercise in the Lap Pool. There are also water slides and a kiddie pool.
12. Haymaker Sleigh Ride Dinner
Golf course in summer and winter wonderland in winter, Steamboat Springs’ Haymaker Golf Course offers enchanting sleigh rides around its grounds.
Two gorgeous draft horses will take you dashing through the snow across the rolling hills of the Yampa Valley, and you’ll be able to take in amazing views of the surrounding mountains.
You can then get cozy inside the Haymaker Clubhouse and enjoy a delicious mountain-style 4-course dinner, gazing out at the sunset. Reservations must be made in advance and a private 2-person sleigh is also available on request.
13. Rent Fat Tire Bikes
If cycling is a favorite vacation pass-time of yours, great news! You can still enjoy this hobby in winter. Steamboat is a town full of avid cyclists (you’ll notice the hundreds of bikes around), so there are many bike paths that are well-maintained throughout the year.
You can rent a fat tire bike from one of Steamboat’s many bike shops and cycle along the 7.5-mile Yampa River Core Trail. The Core Trail snakes along the Yampa River and takes you through downtown, all the way to the Howelsen Ski Area.
14. Go Dog Sledding
It’s time to Mush! You can drive your own team of sled dogs or go on a fully guided experience. The team at Snow Buddy Sled Dogs will take you on an epic adventure through the backcountry wilderness of Dunckley Pass in the Little Flat Tops mountains.
You will be involved in the whole experience, even harnessing and hooking up your team of dogs to the sled. During this half-day adventure, you will cover 12.5 miles of gorgeous winter scenery… and of course, you can get pictures with the adorable Alaskan huskies.
14. Attend A Concert At Schmiggitys
Schmiggity’s is THE music venue in Steamboat Springs. It caters to locals and tourists alike. Our good friends, Pat and Kim, run this venue and bring in some pretty awesome artists.
Whether you’re looking to participate in karaoke or see one of the many live bands, you can’t go wrong at Schmiggitys!
Note: If you’re lucky, you might see Mike get on stage at Schmiggitys to play a song or two!
15. Attend The Steamboat Winter Carnival
Steamboatians love to party and they especially like having things to look forward to during the long, dark winters. So, to help combat cabin fever in the middle of winter, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (SSWSC) founded the Winter Carnival 109 years ago.
The Winter Carnival is a celebration of Steamboat’s western heritage and pays homage to the town’s traditional winter sports. Highlights include skiers being pulled by horses ridden by cowboys right down the main street, Pro Alpine ski jumping, obstacle course cross-country skiing, and many nighttime festivities.
The next Winter Carnival will be held on February 8-12, 2023.
Indoor Things To Do In Steamboat Springs In The Winter
While Colorado gets plenty of winter sun, Steamboat Springs can get very cold in the winter – the average low in December is 4°F (-15.5°c). So, if you don’t feel like strapping on all your ski gear and want a little break from the harsh temperatures, here are some fun indoor activities to do in Steamboat:
16. Go Bowling at Snow Bowl
It opened its doors in 1977, but Snow Bowl Steamboat was completely remodeled in recent years. There are now 12 state-of-the-art bowling lanes that you can reserve for personal use, groups, or league play.
Snow Bowl also has an extensive menu from hearty sandwiches to tacos to classic BBQ dishes. You should also keep an eye on their events page while you’re in town because Snow Bowl often hosts great concerts too.
17. Drive Bumper Cars On Ice
It’s probably been a while since you were last in a bumper car… and we bet you’ve never been in a bumper car on ice! Now you can book ice bumper car sessions at the Howelsen Ice Complex in Steamboat.
This is a super fun activity for all ages. You can slide, spin and bump on the ice. Reservations are recommended as slots fill up fast and each ice bumper car session lasts 20 minutes. You can also rent ice skates and skate around the rink before or after the bumper cars.
18. Visit The Crooked Key
If you want to put your brain to the test, you should definitely pay a visit to The Crooked Key, Steamboat’s very own escape room. Collaborate with family and friends to find clues and solve puzzles in one of the themed game rooms. You need to make it out in 1 hour or less!
Our friend Paul owns The Crooked Key and he’ll be sure to make your escape room experience professional and memorable. With 3 different game rooms to choose from, Steamboat’s escape room is a great venue for birthdays, bachelor parties, and other special occasions.
19. Rock Climb At Old Town Hot Springs
Whether you’re an experienced climber or a total beginner, you can put your skills to the test at the 37-foot climbing wall in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Located inside the Old Town Hot Springs complex, access to the climbing wall is included with your gym day pass or membership.
There are both auto-belay climbing and top rope climbing options. And while there are no age requirements, climbers must be within a 25-310lbs (11-140kg) weight range and children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult. Weekly climbing classes are also available to book.
20. Foodie Tour
Although Steamboat Springs is a relatively small town with a population of around 13,000 people, there is a surprising number of amazing restaurants. So, if you’re visiting Steamboat on vacation, you could indulge and go on a foodie tour to discover some of the best dishes in Colorado.
On the Downtown Steamboat Springs Food Tour, you’ll get to visit hand-picked, locally-owned restaurants where your foodie guide will arrange tastings and talk you through the menu highlights. The tour lasts 3.5 hours and any dietary requirements can be catered to.
21. Massage & Spa
After a few intense days on the slopes, a massage and spa treatment sounds ideal, right? Steamboat Springs has several spas to choose from. The luxury resorts like The Steamboat Grand or the Sheraton Resort have their own in-house spas, but we personally recommend Aspenwood!
Additionally, Old Town Hot Springs is a great place to enjoy a professional massage, followed by a soak in the healing mineral waters of the springs.
22. Go Shopping Downtown in Steamboat Springs
Depending on how long you’re staying in Steamboat, we definitely recommend allowing yourself an afternoon just to wander along Lincoln Avenue and explore the boutique shops.
Downtown Steamboat is home to many independently owned stores, full of curiosities. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to unique gifts and souvenirs. Some of our favorite shops are Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Off The Beaten Path Bookstore, and the famous F. M. Light & Sons, founded in 1905.
23. Enjoy Après Happy Hour With A View
Whether you’ve been on the slopes all day or had a lazy afternoon, Slopeside Grill is THE spot for happy hour. Located right at the base of Steamboat’s ski mountain, this ski-in-ski-out bar and restaurant offers incredible views of Mount Werner and surrounding peaks.
Happy hour runs from 3-6 pm with live music on the outdoor patio. Slopeside is a great family-friendly spot, beloved by locals and tourists. It’s the perfect spot to unwind and people-watch. There’s also an outdoor ice bar in the winter!
When Is The Best Time To Visit Steamboat Springs?
Steamboat Springs ski season usually runs from late October to the middle of April, depending on snowfall. So, you’ll be able to enjoy a winter wonderland and an awesome ski town vibe during this whole period.
However, if you’re traveling to Steamboat on a budget, you should be more mindful of your dates and book in advance. There is no getting around it, Steamboat – like most other ski resorts – can get very expensive.
The most expensive times to visit Steamboat during the winter fall around the main holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and Easter (depending on the date). So, if you want to keep costs down and still enjoy all of Steamboat’s winter activities, we recommend visiting during weekdays and avoiding the major holidays.
But if money is not an issue and you’re fully prepared to splurge on your winter getaway, then do book your trip around the holidays and get involved in the local celebrations. In particular, New Year’s Eve is a huge event in Steamboat! Every year the fireworks show at Howelsen Hill gets better and better.
Pro tip: When it comes to ski passes, costs can add up really fast. But if you want to save some money and still enjoy Steamboat’s amazing slopes, you can purchase discounted end-of-season 3-day passes.
What Is The Weather Like In Steamboat Springs In Winter?
Sitting at an elevation of 6,695ft with an average annual snowfall of 154 inches (the US average is 28 inches), Steamboat Springs definitely gets pretty chilly in winter. The coldest month is December with average daily highs of 35°F (2°c) and lows of 13°F (-11°c).
However, Steamboat has a dry climate, so it’s not a nasty, damp cold. As long as you have a good ski jacket, hat, gloves, and warm socks, you’ll keep nice and toasty.
Steamboat also gets lots of glorious bluebird days with plenty of winter sun. Even in the middle of winter, people sit outside and bask in the warm rays. But as soon as the sun goes down, you’ll want to get cozy next to a fireplace!
Conclusion: Best Things To Do In Steamboat Springs In Winter 2022 – 2023
Steamboat Springs truly is an incredible place year-round, but the town really comes to life in the winter. Whether you want to spend your entire trip tearing up the champagne powder, soak in the hot springs or go on snowy hikes, Steamboat has something for everyone.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading through this list of winter activities and learning more about this magical ski town. Start planning an epic winter vacation to Steamboat now!