Escape the Crowds
● By Christina Freeman
Professional and amateur drivers learn to navigate icy conditions on dedicated tracks at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School on private land just outside of Steamboat Springs.
Step back in time and learn to drive your own dog sled team through snow covered pastures or kick back and let someone else do the mushing. Situated on the outskirts of town, family-owned and operated Grizzle –T Dog & Sled Works provides an activityfor the whole family. Under the guidance of Iditarod musher Kris Homan and his wife, Sara, glide through prime Colorado ranching country while watching out for wildlife, which might include elkor coyote. Operating seven days a week; shuttle service is provided. www.steamboatdogsledding.com / 970-870-1782
Ice-covered waters do not deter ardent fishermen in this community. Find the essence of winter solitude at the tailwatersof Stagecoach Lake, located 16 miles south of town. Gettingthere requires hiking, or opt to snowmobile in from the backside through the Sarvis Creek area with a guide to fly fish below the dam. Winter’s best catches are rainbow and brown trout. Fish like a local and layer up with warm clothing and a hat. See Fishing/Guide Services, VG 51.
When the spectacular 200-plus foot waterfall at Fish Creek freezes for winter, it transforms into a natural venue for ice climbing. Head for the falls with expert guides at Rocky MountainVentures, the area’s only permitted guide service. Half- and full-day sessions cater to beginner or intermediate climbers age 13 and older; operating from early December to early March. No experience is necessary and equipment is provided. www.rmclimbing.com / 970-870-8440
Escape the crowds and carve through untouched powder on Buffalo Pass with Steamboat Powdercats. Join skilled backcountry guides in a comfortable, heated snowcat for a day of unforgettable skiing. A homemade lunch is served in a warm log cabin or advanced skiers have the option to eat on the go. Intermediate and advanced groups welcome.www.steamboatpowdercats.com / 970-879-5188
Get a feel for Western life in the saddle on a guided horseback ride. Marvel in the solitude of crossing snow-covered fields, or trotting through undisturbed forests led by your very own cowboy. www.steamboathorses.com / www.saddlebackranch.net / www.hahnspeakroadhouse.com
Feeling the need for speed? Maximize an adrenaline rush, cruising endless backcountry meadows and tree-covered terrain.
Spectacular scenery abounds when exploring North Routt County and Rabbit Ears Pass, whether with or without a guide. Tours are recommended for beginners. A number of experienced operators oer day trips or packages including dinner and cabin stays.
Those travelling with their own sled can navigate a network of trails. One hundred forty-six miles of groomed trails await north of Steamboat Springs through Routt National Forest, Steamboat Lake State Park and along County Road 129. The three primary trailheads are Steamboat Lake State Park marina, the end of Seedhouse Road and the Columbine Quarry at the intersectionof County Road 129 and Forest Service Road 550. The east side of Rabbit Ears Pass is designated for snowmobilers only. Bualo Pass is another option; a free backcountry use permit is required and parking is extremely limited. See Snowmobiling, VG 52.
Never fear driving on ice. Get behind the wheel at Steamboat’s Bridgestone Winter Driving School, the only one of its kind in America. Professional instructors bring a wealth of knowledge with experience in performance rally, autocross, touring car, pro solo, Firehawk, World Challenge, Formula Ford Championship Series, Formula 2000, hill climbing, ice racing, vintage road racing, stock car racing and precision driving. Put theory into practice driving one of the school’s Lexus cars over snow- and ice-covered tracks, while negotiating sharp turns and elevation changes. The driving school is open daily from mid-December through the first week of March (closed Christmas). Shuttle service is included, leaving from the Steamboat Grand. www.winterdrive.com / 800-949-7543
ONWARD AND UPWARD
Take to the skies with an early morning hot air balloon ride and watch the city awaken for another day from 3,000 feet above the valley floor. Operated by the same owners, Pegasus Balloons and Wild West Balloons offer rides every morning, weather permitting. www.wildwestballooning.com/ 970-879-7219
Looking to cover more terrain? Opt for a helicopter tour with Zephyr Helicopter Company. Scenic tours include the south valley, Emerald Mountain, Never Summer Range and Mount Zirkel Wilderness – or customize your own trip. All excursions take up to five people, depending on weight. www.zephyrhelicopter.com / 970-879-0494
Get o the beaten path on a fat bike; think mountain bikes with four-inch wide tires and low pressure. A snowy surface can offer surprisingly excellent traction, making otherwise un-walkable trails, perfectly rideable. For a groomed trail option, try Howelsen Hill with the purchase of a lift ticket. Bike rentals are available at local bike shops. www.steamboatsprings.net/howelsenhill 970-879-8499