Colorado Travel Guide: Vail & Steamboat Springs
Three weeks ago, I went on a 7-day ski trip to the beautiful state of Colorado. I haven’t skied out west in years so this was an adventure I was beyond stoked about. Over the week, my friend Kaitlin and myself visited two mountain resorts: Vail & Steamboat Springs. Today I’m sharing everything from where we stayed, to what we saw, to where we dined in both Colorado cities.
Our first Colorado stop was Vail, which has been on my “Out West Bucket List” for a while. I’ve heard from several people that it’s a fun mountain to ski, so we added it to the agenda once we determined it would be an easy 2-hour drive from the Denver airport (granted we were very lucky with the weather when we drove – make sure you rent a car with REAL 4-wheel drive!)
The reason we decided to drive from Denver is because it was cheaper for us to fly in/out from NYC there; it also helped that Kaitlin had some points to use towards our rental. Once we determined how long each drive would be – Denver to Vail to Steamboat Springs to Denver – it just made sense with our budgets.
Vail Mountain is ENORMOUS – bigger than any I’ve ever skied before. It took us about an hour to get from one side of the mountain to the other, and another hour to get back to base once the day was over. It’s also one of the higher elevations you can ski, which poses a threat of altitude sickness.
Even though we’re in good shape and most conditions don’t bother us, we decided to get a prescription for altitude sickness pills prior to hitting the mountain just in case. Honestly, BEST DECISION EVER. It was reassuring to know we’d be ok, especially after we hit the Back Bowls and found ourselves short of breath afterward. I don’t even want to imagine what it would’ve been like without the meds!
WHERE WE STAYED
Lion Square Lodge
We spent 3 nights at the Lion Square Lodge at the Gondola. What sold us on this particular hotel was the proximity to the gondola that took us right up to the mid-mountain. It was literally within steps of our room! We also enjoyed having access to a hot tub & steam room post-mountain, as well as a room with two queen-sized beds for each of us.
We stayed in Lionshead, one of two designated ‘resort towns’ at the base of the mountain. The other ‘town’ – Vail Village – was a quick shuttle bus ride away. It’s also where we went out 2/3 nights while in Vail. Lionshead has its share of fun spots to eat & drink too, but it’s a tad smaller than Vail Village.
WHERE WE DINED & APRÈS SKIED
Bart & Yeti’s
Longtime institution lures locals with a rustic feel, an outdoor deck & traditional pub grub. We met the cutest pup at the bar & he truly made our day – loved how dog-friendly the place was!
Down-to-earth eatery & tequila bar offering a range of Latin American & American eats, plus a deck. This spot is located right in Lions Square Lodge, making it super convenient for us!
Popular sports pub offering American grub, a wraparound bar & large deck with mountain views. We definitely spent 90% of our time in Vail at this bar!
in Vail Village
Cozy, casual venue with coffee & sandwiches during the day & beer, wine & music at night. Had the best breakfast sandwich on a decadent croissant!
Vibrant spot for live entertainment & upscale American cuisine including burgers, steak & barbecue. This was our dinner spot 2/3 nights!
Funky, energetic live music club with rock-legend artwork & LED lighting. We stopped here the first night out & it really set the vibe for our entire stay!
What inspired this entire ski trip was the fact Kaitlin’s mom (& step-dad) booked theirs to Steamboat Springs during her (mom’s) birthday week. Not only did I learn how to ski on this mountain as a kid, but my mom grew up skiing here as well. My Grandfather owned a ranch outside the town & she learned how to ski along with her cousins who still live here!
Needless to say it was the perfect reason to invite her (& my sister) to meet us in Steamboat after Vail, allowing us the opportunity to meet up with her cousins (which would make them my second cousins) and spend time with them we otherwise haven’t had in 20 years!
20 years ago, my mom wore this exact vintage Bogner ski suit during my first visit to Steamboat, & first time skiing out west. I’m so lucky & proud to be able to wear it today, on the very same mountain where both my mom & myself fell in love with the sport of skiing.
WHERE WE STAYED
Ski On/Off Condo via VRBO
My mom graciously booked us three a cozy condo via VRBO, right off the ski on/off slope trail. It was super convenient for us to make it down to base each morning, as well as return after a long day of skiing or an evening dining at the base. Lucky for us Kaitlin & her parents were staying in the lodge next door, which made cocktail hour & pre-gaming very fun!
WHERE WE DINED
Aurum Food & Wine
Seasonal, elevated American dishes, plus cocktails & wine, in a chic riverfront space with a deck. We went here the first night for Kaitlin’s mom’s birthday celebration. Hands-down best menu for everyone, offering both vegan & vegetarian dishes along with its general cuisine. Plus, we enjoyed great live music afterward in the cozy bar!
*Recommend making a reservation in advance for parties larger than 4, as tables are SUPER limited & book up fast!
Salt & Lime
Upbeat Mexican hangout with a rooftop patio serving classic eats with beer, cocktails & tequila.
Timber & Torch
Newly opened for the season & the centerpiece of Gondola Square right at the base of the mountain. Features two indoor/outdoor bars, an outdoor heated patio and an exterior fireplace. The bistro-inspired food, 24 beers on tap, craft cocktails and live music will fire up your evening.
Authentic Mexican cuisine with a variety of healthy options plus an impressive margarita menu selection.
Sister-Sister: Twinning in our Sweaty Betty base layer sets (the warmest & coolest ones around) & UGG snow boots.
WHERE WE APRÈS SKIED
Dude & Dan’s
Airy watering hole serving comfort chow, craft beer & cocktails in lofty digs with big screen TVs. Best part is the “Dog & Cat Wall” in the back – you can pay $5 to get your fur baby’s portrait hung on the wall & all proceeds go towards a local animal rescue.
Big plates of classics, such as burgers, ribs & pizza, in a rustic eatery with slope views & a bar. Live music played every day & can easily be accessed from the slopes on your way back to base.
Renowned indoor/outdoor après-ski destination for drinks, American eats & party music. Another slope-side access bar & probably our favorite one we went to.
WHAT WE DID
Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs
Just outside of Steamboat Springs, nestled alongside Hot Springs Creek, lies one of the most spectacular mineral springs in the world. Our cousin Duncan told us about it & I’m so happy we made the trip out there – it truly was magnificent!
There are 3 main springs with 3 different temperatures – cold, luke warm, and hot. We made rounds of submerging into the cold spring and swimming over to the hottest spring, which gave our circulations a crazy sensation but is apparently good to do for it.
We couldn’t stop laughing at our mom, who looked like she just had an oversized fleece on over her snow boots – aka no pants. Yes, it was a “had to be there” moment..
Overall, this Colorado trip was one that has inspired a new annual tradition – skiing out west with family. It was such a treat to spend time with cousins we rarely get to see because of distance, and having the opportunity to strengthen these relationships has been the biggest moment of appreciation for me.
In 2020, we’re planning another trip to Steamboat Springs & instead of Vail, opting for Telluride instead. I can’t wait for next year’s season already!
It seemed like an amazing trip! I’ve never skied before as the only place with snow in my country is a couple of hours away and we would only go there for one day so we couldn’t really spend much time doing anything other than playing in the snow. I don’t think snow is my thing though, I much prefer warm weather and a sandy beach haha
This looks like an amazing trip!! I’ve been to colorado once and for sure felt the altitude. I should look into the prescription for when we are there in June!!
Beautiful photos and it looked like an amazing trip!! Makes me want to go back to Colorado and ski!! Thanks for sharing your tips girly!
Great pictures! I’ve never been to Colorado but it looks amazing!
Natural hot springs are the way to relax after skiing. A little tough to get there without a 4×4 depending on your driving skills. But a must do in Steamboat!