Why has it been so long? I asked myself this over and over again as I carved turns run-after-run down the fresh snow and groomed runs at Steamboat—Ski Town USA in Colorado. I guess the answer is simple: like so many of those things we love to do—our passions—all too often we find excuses not to do them.
For many years, during ski season, since returning from my three-year journey, my brother Jonathan has invited to meet him and my niece, Emily, and other friends for ski trips: in Utah, Colorado and elsewhere. This year I finally said “yes!” So we made our plans to visit Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Skiing has always been a passion. In university I served as the marketing/promotional director of the Syracuse University Ski Club (SUSKI), I’d also teamed up with friends and contributed to the winter rental of ski houses in Lake Tahoe and in Utah. Yet, for no good reason, it has taken me nearly ten years until I found myself clamping down the bindings of downhill skis.
I’ll admit that I was worried. Not only have I not skied, I’m ten years older, and that broken leg incident in Bolivia left me with some extra titanium rods and screws in my left leg. How would I do? Walking in clunky boots toward Steamboat’s tram was uncomfortable, and painful. I thought my leg was communicating a strong message: don’t do it.
Yet, at the top of the mountain, after adjusting my boots and gear, it didn’t take long for me to fly down the mountain—in good form and feeling good. “I’m surprised,” brother Jonathan admitted. His doubts about my abilities quickly faded. As the skier from Texas who joined me on one of my many lift rides said, “it’s like riding a bicycle.” Yes, it is.
I’ve skied Colorado a few times: Vail, Beaver Creek, and Telluride. This was my first time at Steamboat. For me, the bar is set high. I’ve perhaps logged more miles and carved more turns at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe and Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah than any other ski resort, so Steamboat, for me, had tough competition. Yet in the end, the mountain and its people and service excelled. I will be back.
Joining Jonathan, Emily and I were my good friend and WorldRider logistics manager, John Angus, as well as Jonathan’s college roommate David Almy and his wife Stacy and their family. Steamboat was the perfect place for such a reunion, especially since it now has a number of direct and nonstop flights, bringing skiers to Hayden (HDN), from LAX, SFO, EWR, SEA, and many more. Other destinations are a quick and easy connection. Steamboat even offers free Thursday night-skiing to skiers arriving on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
Skiing has changed in ten years. Technology has improved the support, not only from the shorter “shape” skies that make turning easier and quicker, but also from the speed of the lifts—many zooming up to six people to summits in minutes. Steamboat, and I imagine many other mountains, now uses RFID-enabled ski passes to speed the process of getting people up the mountain. Steamboat ambassadors are at nearly every turn and will help skiers (and boarders) find their way.
Though thousands of people joined me and my family on the mountain just after New Years, Steamboat is so big and expansive, often it seemed we were skiing alone. I never waited more than five minutes in a lift line. Though in the past I wouldn’t hesitate going down steep “black diamond” expert trails, I stuck to the groomed “blue” intermediate runs—with a couple black diamond or blue/black runs.
At the base of Steamboat are hundreds of restaurants, ski stores, coffee shops, and bars—so much that you truly never need to leave the ski area for food and entertainment. We dined at the Truffle Pig Restaurant, a casual place featuring modern American dishes, live entertainment and a surprisingly diverse wine list—something Jonathan, John and I enjoyed exploring—choosing a reasonably-priced bottle from France—a Northern Rhone from Vacqueyras. Even so, it’s worth exploring night life, craft breweries and hundreds of other restaurants in downtown Steamboat Springs. We truly enjoyed casual fried chicken, frogs legs and more at Low, just 10 minutes from the mountain.
You don’t even need a car if you come to Steamboat to ski. If you stay in any of the are Steamboat Resorts, a free shuttle is just a phone call away. Other hotels and resorts in the area offer shuttle service, and there’s always Uber. Everything is just a mile or two away.
It’s hard not to write about food, but I’ll spare you the details. I must share my most surprising discovery after I realized how much I still love skiing: the food on the mountain at Steamboat is spectacular. In the past, and typical of captive audience tourist destinations, food is typically expensive, mass-produced and questionable in quality. Not at Steamboat. Steamboat’s Four Points—a mid-mountain food court serving quality food including Thai noodles, fresh grilled salmon, caprese Chicken, tasty burgers and a bone-sticking and hearty warm-you-up dish of turkey pot pie. There is a more formal restaurant at Four Points that’s worth exploring for dinner, but during the day it’s about skiing—get in, fuel up, and get out.
As with any getaway or vacation, our time at Steamboat ended too soon. Though I’m sure our legs and lungs were ready for a break, it still was hard to bid farewell to family and friends and to a new must-visit ski destination.
I’ve got to gear up my presentation, tighten up my sample recipe and get Doc and the FORKS Tour Van all geared up for my winter Travel & Adventure Shows tour—hope to see you somewhere — on the slopes or at the shows.