Hotel vs. Condo
When it comes to lodging, there's something to fit every budget and whim, from slope-side hotel rooms to budget hotels in town. Most condos offer free shuttles to the mountain. Some, such as the Torian Plum, even boast a concierge. But for the ultimate headache-free lodging, choose the Sheraton, a ski-in, ski-out hotel with ultra luxurious beds and balconies with a view. You can store your skis downstairs in the Steamboat Ski & Sport for free (for Sheraton guests and those who rent their equipment from Steamboat Ski & Sport). Slope-side rooms are always pricier, but if you have kids who need help carrying all their gear, it's really worth it.
From February 8 through 12, Steamboat hosts the oldest continuing Winter Carnival west of the Mississippi. And on February 11 and 12, the town trucks in tons of snow and covers several blocks of Main Street, where horses tow kids through the street on skis. On Saturday night (February 11),Howelson Hill lights up with action. Children parade down down the mountain on skis, waving glow sticks, and ski jumpers carry burning torches. The Lighted Man, a skier wearing an 80-pound suit of lights and a backpack spouting flames and fireworks, provides the grand finale.
The Lighted Man
The tradition of The Lighted Man began in the winter of 1936, when some guy got the bright idea to cover himself and his skis with lights, strap on a pyrotechnic backpack, and ski down the mountain, lit up like a Christmas tree, shooting fireworks from his back. Year after year, to the delight of children and the amazement of the local fire department, he managed to streak his way down the mountain without catching himself on fire. When he got too old for the stunt, he passed the, ahem, torch, to his son, who carries on the annual tradition, a highlight of the 93rd Annual Steamboat Spring Winter Carnival.
BEST DEAL IN TOWN: Howelsen Hill
For an insider's glimpse of local life, check out Howelsen Hill, a small mountain in town where the locals go. You can hang out in the heated Historic Howelson Lodge and watch Steamboat schoolkids practice slalom and ski jumping on weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. When they're not at practice, it's the best deal in town: an inexpensive lift ticket buys you a couple of hours on the mountain and the chance to try night skiing on well-lit slopes. Lift-ticket prices are $15 adults, $10 seniors and youth, and $5 ages 6 and under; a "Nooner special and night skiing lift tickets are $5. The lifts open to the public on 4-6 p.m. Monday and Friday, and 5-8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's a small mountain, with a couple of runs and a few jumps for snowboarders, but there's enough to entertain you for a couple of hours. If you're not into downhill, you can don a pair of snowshoes and hike up the mountain for free. It's a good, low-impact workout, and your reward at the top is a breathtaking view of the town and the ski resort. Howelsen Hill: (970) 879-8499
INSIDER TIP: How To Get First Dibs on Fresh Powder
If carving the first path through virgin snow is your idea of heaven, the First Tracks program was made for you. For a fee of $35 (added to the cost of a daily lift ticket), you can get an early-morning guided tour of the mountain--before the ski lifts open to the masses. (970) 871-5375