I’m in Colorado so how can I dare miss out on Steamboat and real cowboy skiing!
When I think of Steamboat I automatically think of the original Mickey Mouse, but believe me, there’s nothing Mickey Mouse about skiing here.
Steamboat is the resort name for Steamboat Springs, a town of 10,000 happy people in Colorado. It’s a proper town, with charm, character and all you would expect of a real community, but alongside it lies some of the most terrific skiing on offer in North America. Influenced by Intrawest during its past, Steamboat as a ski resort lacks nothing and everything is close to hand either on foot or via the system of free shuttle buses.
For me it was a short hop from Winter Park, but for most UK visitors it is a four hour shuttle ride from Denver Airport, which when added to the flight time still keeps it within one day of travelling from London and the journey is really rather pretty. With British Airways offering direct flights from Heathrow to Denver, this makes Colorado the most accessible big ski destination in the US for the UK skier.
My massive condo is only 200 yards from the main lifts, 200 yards from the rental shop and 200 yards from the Truffle Pig (bar) my new rest and recuperation centre. I could find alternatives closer, but I have style and sophistication and during happy hour it’s $2.50 for draft beer.
Being a touch on the tired side I examine my condo for a bedroom with en-suite, find one and set up home. In the morning I discover I have picked the smallest option, but it’s still more than adequate for my needs. The idea of subletting the other two bedrooms did cross my mind!
Steamboat is a very convenient place to get around once you have your bearings, but on arrival you can take my lead in looking pathetic and letting everybody help you out – which they are happy to do.
First night’s dinner is in the Ore House, amazingly I am not the first person to ask “who nicked the WH?”. This is traditional Colorado food, designed to satisfy the greatest hunger and where requesting a doggy bag is not frowned on. I devour an Elk, well part of one at least. We debate what name it may have had in life, but settle for its current name – Peter Entrée.
There is a massive amount of terrain available for skiers and remarkably there is a high proportion of skiers to boarders here and every single person on the slopes is wearing a helmet.
Escorted by my guide I get to use the ski school line with means zero queuing, always a plus and suddenly we are on a six-pack ascending towards the first run of the day. I had been promised champagne powder and blue skies. Well nature had other ideas and let’s be fair it can happen anywhere. Today is not a powder day and the sky displays 50 shades of grey, but my guide Ryan and I make the most of the morning.
Good planning means taking an early lunch on the mountain with an extra beer. The afternoon shows a lot more promise, visibility is better and we ski like heroes. There is everything to choose from here, but we stick to long open cruising blues to see as much of the mountain as we can before the lifts close at 4pm.
We look down on the village before finally returning to the Truffle Pig, there is so much space for a town with such a small population, we could fit Birmingham into this landmass!
Again, Steamboat is anything other than a one-horse town, I know, as I am about to meet the horse in question. A short drive over to Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch, it’s time to match a man with his horse. This operation is headed by Ray Heid, one-time American Olympic skier and all-round athlete; in 31 years only once have the horses not been out on their daily trek.
I am introduced to ‘Scooter’, he looks down on me and doesn’t seem to regard me as a threat. Before long half a dozen of us are clip-clopping through the snow along well trod paths which only the horses seem to know of. There is silence other than the occasional squashing of snow under hoof.
Ray is in his element, he loves this life, he loves meeting new people and he loves being able to live the dream. I have no illusions, my knowledge of horsemanship is on a par with my knowledge of creating old masters, but Scooter knows what he is doing so I leave him to it and breathe in the view.
Come the afternoon I head over to the hot springs and soak in the natural 130 degree pools, the bikini clad girls meant nothing to me, I hardly noticed them; I was there purely for medicinal reasons - really!
I want to go back to Steamboat, as I have only scratched the surface and for me it is one terrific location to holiday as well as ski.
I now have a taste for it.
• British Airways fly daily from Heathrow directly into Denver (www.ba.com)
• Denver is seven hours behind London meaning a 12 noon flight lands at 3pm
• Steamboat is about four hours from Denver Airport
• Always check the dates of US holidays (such as Spring Break) to avoid peak prices
• Be sure to carry adequate medical/health insurance when visiting the USA
• Younger visitors will be asked for ID when buying alcohol
• Del’s Triangle 3 info at www.steamboathorses.com
• For info on the hot springs go to www.strawberryhotsprings.com
• For $2.50 draft beer go to www.trufflepigrestaurant.com
• For full resort info go to www.steamboat.com
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