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Steamboat Springs ... a great way to get to the slopes

Had annual wonderful week’s vacation in Steamboat Springs, CO, last week.  It tends to be the week that “gets me through” the rest of the year.  I love the snow, the mountains, the skiing … the whole atmosphere and “vibe” of town.

I guess my love affair with Steamboat stems from my history with the place.  Back when I was probably 9 or 10 years old, our family would head to Steamboat in the summer to visit friends who owned a fantastic cabin in Route National Forrest.  I remember sleeping in the cabin loft with my sister and my friends, Karen and Kirsten – shrieking at the bats that would fly about the eaves on summer evenings.  Also memories of my “Aunt Pat” waking us up every morning to the sound of the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun. Hiking up to mountain lakes for some trout fishing, horseback riding, the July 4th rodeo, visiting F.M. Light’s in town … all part of those wonderful memories of the “cowboy” mountain town of Steamboat Springs.

My parents began taking us on winter ski vacations in Steamboat back in the 1970’s – after skiing at various places throughout the west, from CO to NM.  I loved staying on the mountain at the Scandinavian Lodge, skiing right out our door onto the slopes.  Although we had skied at many Colorado resorts – Aspen, Vail, Winter Park… – Steamboat somehow became our favorite place, and the place we kept returning to.  Famous for their high altitude “Champagne Powder” along with maintaining their small-town atmosphere, it always seemed to be more laid-back and genuine than the developing glitz of places like Aspen.

Mark and I began taking our own boys to the mountain about 6 years ago.  Despite the fact that the boys don’t have the opportunity to ski as often as I did when I was younger, they’ve become very skilled and competent skiers – able to tackle every black diamond run on the mountain, along with a few of the double-black diamond chutes.  We’ve made a lot of wonderful memories skiing together, playing in the powder, finding our favorite outfitters and eateries in town.  As Mark recently commented, I think we both wish that we’d started the tradition years earlier.  And although we’ve seen the town changing, and some aspects have become rather uber-wealthy resort-ish, the town still manages to maintain a sense of charm that other resort areas are missing … at least in my opinion.

Dillon - Storm Peak, 2010

Dillon - cutting it up on Storm Peak

Although skiing remains at the top of my list of reasons to visit Steamboat, I have always been impressed by the great bike culture around town – whether summer or winter.  We’ve seen a great Xtracycle conversion with a PVC tube used for hauling skis, lots of committed cyclists riding through the worst of weather and road conditions, lots of people going about their daily routine in town – by bicycle.  One of my favorite sights in town one day this year, was this dad with his mini-pedalers and the family dog, riding down the main street.  Sweet! 😀

Dad, two tots and the dog - by bike; awesome!

never too young to start 🙂

Macs and bicycles ... a perfect combo!

macs and bikes - the perfect combo!

I really want a leopard-print saddle ... downtown "date bike"

Upon getting back home, the current issue of LAB’s (League of American Bicyclists) 2010 Bicycle Friendly America was in the mailbox.  I was happy to read that Steamboat had achieved Silver status as a Bicycle Friendly City (I believe they moved up from Bronze within this past year?).  According to the article:

The community boasts a 4 percent bicycling mode share; an ever growing network of on-road and off-road bicycling facilities – including 266 miles of natural-surface trails … The Open Space and Trails Master Plan includes over 25 miles of new bicycle routes and lanes to the city. More cyclists than ever are commuting and using their bicycles for errands around town.  The local political bodies responded by ramping-up their support for bicycling in the form of budget allocations and Community Development Code provisions for bicycle facilities and transportation systems, instead of thinking of it as a marginal or luxury issue for a special sub-group.

Last year we rented some bicycles and rode along the Yampa River bike path … a beautiful multi-use path that links several communities and provides a great way to get to and from the heart of downtown.  We’ve seen more and more people hauling skis by bike up to the base area of the mountain, as well bikes parked outside the grocery stores and restaurants around town.  It’s inspiring – and often amazing, given the weather and road conditions we’ve seen some of them out riding in.  Hat’s off!

So … vacation is over, and spring is well on its way.  Although the sight of blooming daffodils is lovely, I somehow still would rather see sparkling snow on a sunny mountain.  Just me.  😉

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