Family Vacations to Steamboat, Colorado

Overview - Steamboat, Colorado
Learning the ways of the slopes. (Courtesy, Colorado Ski Country)

Steamboat Family Travel Tips

  • Ski and snowboard on six peaks.
  • Try ice climbing.
  • Soak sore muscles in the area’s natural hot springs.
  • Raft mild or wild sections of scenic rivers.

Steamboat is big. With six peaks and nearly 3,000 skiable acres, the area is famous for its champagne powder. (The term was actually coined here). Steamboat’s runs have produced more winter Olympians—69—than any other resort in North America.

All that’s impressive, but Steamboat rates high with parents and kids for its family-friendly policies. Steamboat pioneered the first Kids Ski Free program back in 1982. The 2006/07 season marks the fifth year the resort also reduces the bite skiing takes out of your budget with its Kids Fly Free program. When a parent purchases a minimum of two nights lodging, lift tickets, and roundtrip air, one child 12 and under flies free on United Airlines (through February 3), on Northwest Airlines (through February 16) and on American Airlines (through February 15). Read the fine print for rules.

To quell your worries about where your kids are on the mountain, Steamboat, in the 2004/05 season, rolled out the MountainWatch, a wrist band that uses wireless radio frequency technology. When the wearer swipes these at any of the kiosks, the skier’s location is instantly known. Every child in the ski and snowboard school gets one free and families can rent the MountainWatch for a nominal fee.

Steamboat also offers a comprehensive children’s program. The Kiddie Corral keeps ages six months to six years busy. There are ski and play programs for ages two through kindergarten and ages three and a half to four and a half. With Sundance Kids, four-year-olds and those in kindergarten start ski clinics. There are additional programs for ages five, six, seven, and older. Non-downhill denizens can take guided snowshoe treks and go cross-country skiing.

Along with hot air balloon, snowmobile, and sleigh rides, Steamboat offers tubing at night and area ranchers lead you on horseback rides through the snowy landscape. Try ice climbing with Rocky Mountain Ventures, and then après the adventure soak sore muscles in the pools at Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs. For dinner, treat the family to the Western BBQ, a buffet followed by country and western music and family line dancing.

Summer in Colorado’s mountains is glorious and Steamboat is no exception. The Gondola Square Adventure Zone features miniature golf, a 24-foot climbing wall and also a nine-hole disc (Frisbee) golf course. Hike wooded mountain paths dotted with wildflowers, pedal along 50 miles of mountain bike trails, and raft a section of the Colorado River with relatively tame Class I-III rapids. For an adrenaline rush and memorable bonding with your teens, paddle the Class IV rapids of the Eagle River Dowd Chute or try the Yampa River Cross Mountain, a run with four stomach-churning Class IV sections.

Tip: July through mid August, enjoy the sounds of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms at the Strings in the Mountain Festival of Music.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 6 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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