Come to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for perfect powder and a hassle-free vacation.

Relax and Ski (promo image)
Credit: Meg McKinney

We can't decide what we love most about Steamboat Springs--the perfect snow, the cowboy charm, or the fact that planning a trip here is about as easy as it can be. Here's how to get your fill of powder without an avalanche of planning.

Friday: Gear Up for a Whirlwind
Getting around in Steamboat is so easy that you don't need a car. Free shuttles abound, and the two major areas you'll want to explore--downtown and the mountain--are both walkable and easy to navigate.

Instead of renting a car, fly into Hayden, a small, friendly airport, and hop on an Alpine Taxi shuttle for a scenic 20-minute ride into town. Round-trip fare is $47.30 per person.

You'll find lodging to fit every taste and budget. ResortQuest condominiums and townhomes make a cozy base camp for groups and families, with ample space and a place to cook. But for utter convenience, you can't beat the Sheraton. Rooms here start at $239 this time of year.

Get settled, and then call Black Tie Ski Rentals. They'll bring your gear to you and pick it up at the end of your trip. Packages start at $33 a day for skis, boots, and poles. You can even rent bibs and jackets.

Now hop on a shuttle for a 10-minute ride to scout out the shops along the main drag. Don't miss F.M. Light & Sons, which has been selling Stetsons and boots for more than a century. Take home a local specialty: a Routt County Woolens blanket, made from the wool of locally raised sheep.

Walk to dinner at Old Town Pub, a local favorite. You're in the Wild West, so try the buffalo burger ($7.95), leaner than beef, but just as juicy.

Saturday: Cool Slopes and Hot Springs
After breakfast, take the gondola up the mountain. Warm up on a few runs, and then return to the gondola by 10:30 for a free guided tour of the mountain. Spot your ambassador in front of the "Meeting Place" sign at the top of the Vagabond Trail. The tour lasts about two hours, but you'll need to peel off early and catch a quick bite for lunch to be back in time to meet the resort's own Olympic ambassador.
Billy Kidd, a silver medalist at the 1964 Olympics, will give a free half-hour clinic to anyone who joins him on the slopes. Meet him at 1 p.m. at the top of the gondola, under the electronic "Billy Kidd Meeting Place" sign that says, "Billy Is Skiing Today."

By the time the lifts close at 4 p.m., your legs will feel like muscadine jelly. Grab your swimsuit, and head over to Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs to soak those sore quads in the 104-degree mineral pools. Sweet Pea Tours offers packages with round-trip rides and admission for $30.

Relaxed? Good thing you don't need to use those limp-noodle muscles for tubing. Skidding down the slopes on a doughnut will put you in touch with your inner 5-year-old.

Top off your perfect day with a romantic dinner at Café Diva. Order the surf and turf ($32). Offerings change frequently; we swooned over an elk tenderloin served with prosciutto-wrapped sea scallops.

Sunday: In a Western Town
Sidle into town for a lazy brunch at Winona's. Try the blueberry-granola pancakes ($5.25). For a different perspective, rent a pair of snowshoes for $5 at Backdoor Sports, and take a walk up Howelsen Hill.
Perk up with a cappuccino ($2.25) and a chicken pot pie ($6.95) at Off the Beaten Path. Now figure out how you're going to get out of work next week, so you can stay a little longer. The hardest part about this trip is going home.

For More Information
Call Steamboat Central Reservations at 1-800-922-2722 for the easiest ski trip you'll ever plan. The reservationist will help you choose accommodations, find discount packages, buy lift tickets and tubing tickets, and more.

"Relax and Ski" is from the February 2006 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.