Off the Slopes
By Alesha Damerville
Image from Stagecoach State Park
Mush through the snow behind a pack of Alaskan huskies or sit in the sled while someone else takes control. Family owned and operated, Grizzle-T Dog & Sled Works is located 11 miles west of town and affords visitors the opportunity to experience dog sledding under the direction of Iditarod-tested musher Kris Hoffman. Tours pass through ranch land, where Routt County wildlife often shows up. Beverages (including hot toddies) and cookies are served after each 2-2½ hour session. The dogs are friendly, and there’s plenty of time to snuggle and take pictures with them after the ride. Grizzle-T operates seven days a week and provide shuttle service from Steamboat condos and hotels. www.steamboatdogsledding.com
Sit behind the wheel of a Toyota and learn to navigate slippery hills and hairpin turns at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School– the only school of its kind in the nation. Tracks and classes geared for varying skill levels allow students to gradually achieve confident, Jason Bourne-level driving in adverse winter conditions. Open daily from mid-December through the first week of March (closed on Christmas). Shuttle service is included and departs from the school ’s office next to the Steamboat Grand. www.winterdrive.com
Hop in an inner tube and careen down a snowy slope at either Saddleback Ranch or Howelsen Hill. No need to exert yourselves between runs– tows pull riders back up to start the fun all over again. Shuttle service is available from Saddleback Ranch. www.tubingsteamboat.com www.saddlebackranch.net
FLY FISHING AND ICE FISHING
Don’t let winter conditions deter you from fly fishing– gently falling snow and icy waters make this a meditative pastime. Cast a line and reel in rainbow or brown trout at the tail-waters of Stagecoach Lake, south of Steamboat Springs. Fly fishing at Stagecoach Lake requires either hiking in or hiring a guide to shuttle you below the dam via snowmobile. If you’re more partial to ice fishing, drive 17 miles south of Steamboat to Stagecoach Reservoir, where ice-fishing equipment is available to rent. Wear layers and a hat to stay warm while waiting for a bite.
Experience the essence of Routt County’s Western heritage on a guided horseback ride. Listen to tales of the area’s iconic past while loping through snow-blanketed ranchland and aspen forests.
Accelerate by snowmobile through the backcountry ’s untouched caches of deep powder, climbing effortlessly to the most epic vantage points of the valley. Take your pick of snowmobile guides and rental companies, many of whom offer half-day and full-day trips in North Routt County or on Rabbit Ears Pass. Tours are recommended for beginner snowmobilers. Almost 150 miles of trails are available to those with their own sled. Venture through Routt National Forest, Steamboat Lake State Park, the area along County Road 129, and the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass, which is designated exclusively for snowmobilers. Trailheads are located at the end of Seedhouse Road, at Steamboat Lake State Park Marina and at Columbine Quarry (the intersection of County Road 129 and Forest Service Road 550).
Slick trails don’t have to keep you from your pedaling addiction– fat bikes use wide, large-tread tires to roll effortlessly through winter conditions. Howelsen Hill and Catamount Touring Center offer biking trails for a daily fee, but request that fat-bikers take note of cross-country tracks and avoid riding on them. See Howelsen Hill website for daily hours that fat bikes are not allowed on groomed trails. www.steamboatsprings.net/howelsenhill www.catamountranchclub.com
HOT AIR BALLOONING
Float high above the Yampa Valley on a peaceful morning, taking in a bird’s-eye view of Steamboat Springs and the surrounding terrain in a hot air balloon. Wild West Balloons and Pegasus Balloons, operated by the same owners, offer rides every morning as long as weather cooperates. Dress in warm layers to compensate for crisp, early-morning temps. www.wildwestballooning.com
If you’d prefer to explore a larger patch of Northwest Colorado, soar over frosty forests and snowcapped mountains on a tour with Zephyr Helicopter Company. Pick from a variety of scenic areas to fly over, including Emerald Mountain, the Never Summer Range and South Routt County. Zephyr accepts up to five passengers, depending on the passengers’ weight. www.zephyrhelicopter.com