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Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Steamboat Springs is an iconic western town that lies alongside the Yampa River in the Rocky Mountains in a region originally occupied by the Yampatika band of the Utes. Founded in 1874 by James Harvey Crawford, Steamboat Springs was incorporated in 1900 and saw the arrival of the railroad in 1909. The name derives from one of several hot springs in the area that made a chugging sound that sounded like a steamboat. The ranching and mining industries that initially drove the economic development of the region continue to thrive; however, the area is best known today as a destination for downhill skiers. Many of the shops and restaurants that line Lincoln Avenue are located in original buildings that reflect the town's history, including F.M. Light & Sons, whose bright yellow signs remind everyone that they have been "Outfittin' the West for Over 100 Years."

Lincoln Avenue, Steamboat Springs, CO
Lincoln Avenue, Steamboat Springs, CO

Skiing began to draw enthusiasts to Steamboat in 1913, when Carl Howelsen, a Norwegian immigrant, introduced ski jumping. He built the first ski jump on what is today known as Howelsen Hill, the oldest continuously operating ski area in North America. Howelsen also founded the Steamboat Winter Sports Club, which trains athletes in alpine and cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and snowboarding. More than 100 of their athletes have competed in the Winter Olympics. The Club also sponsors the Winter Carnival, with traditional racing and jumping contests as well as on-snow mountain bike races and children racing down Lincoln Avenue on skis or snowboards pulled by horses. (Click the black arrows to scroll through the photos.)

The Steamboat Ski Resort, which can be seen from pretty much anywhere in town, was founded in 1963 on Mt. Werner. Today it is considered a major ski destination, with nearly 3,000 acres, 300 runs, and an average snowfall of 400 inches per year. Not to worry - both the resort and the town have top notch snow removal systems and their schools have never had a 'snow day'. There is also a very efficient bus system providing skier friendly transportation between the ski area and various lodging options, parking lots, and locations in town. Over time, the popularity of the area prompted the development of lodging on what was once open ranch land. Nowhere is this more evident than at the historic More Barn, which was built in 1928 and featured in a 1972 marketing poster depicting the rural western nature of the town. Today, the barn sits on a small parcel of land surrounded by condominiums.

Beyond the ski areas, there are many opportunities for photography and other adventures. The Wanderer took her camera for a ride on a 'bluebird day', a sunny day with clear blue skies that often occurs the day after a significant snowfall, and captured images of backroads and snowdrifts. On other days, she and her favorite travel companion snowshoed on trails near Rabbit Ears Pass, a high mountain pass on the Continental Divide, and on a trail to Fish Creek Falls, which had the loveliest public restroom building she had ever seen. Another favorite hike was the Yampa River Core Trail, a paved, dog friendly path that runs along the river just west of downtown. And for a good long soak in the famous hot springs, she enjoyed the Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs (no photos, as she did not want to accidentally soak her camera).

If you go:

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