The August sky appeared pure blue behind the white, giant, puffy clouds. The Yampa River, running through the 8,000 foot high ski resort at Steamboat Springs, Colorado, was surprisingly peaceful as our group, in individual plastic inner tubes, floated upon it, passing thick patches of green brush and trees lining the shoreline. Occasionally, breaking the serenity, we’d find ourselves either bouncing over a large river rock or being pushed by the currents into the brush on the shore.
Those of us taking advantage of this relaxing experience that can turn the mind inward, creating an almost Zen-like mood, were members of the Kings Baseball Team of Carlsbad, California. We were in Steamboat Springs to compete in a baseball tournament. We were grandparents, moms and dads, with a dozen eleven-year-old boys and a couple of their sisters, who let out an occasional excited yelp to wake us as we rafted. It was a unique time for all of us to escape the pressures of day-to-day life. We were, for now, in pristine country rich with pure air and eye-popping scenery — along with the goal of winning some baseball games.
When you think of a ski resort like Steamboat Springs, your thoughts turn to winter and alpine scenes with snow-covered lodges and hotels, ski chair lifts and ski jumps. You most likely don’t think of the off-season, when rich green covers mountains, temperatures become warm and summer-day activities take place. You don’t think of the astro turf ski jump, with skiers flying down the five hundred or more foot run, then gliding through the air to land gracefully on their skis, while our team played a baseball game right in the foreground.
You most likely don’t think of the many summer bicyclists and hikers who enjoy the wholesome air and postcard scenery, or of floating down a river as we did. You might not think of horseback riding through the beautiful country, as some among us did, taking in more of the spectacular deep blue-green mountain peaks and those picture-perfect clouds –clouds created because of the high altitude, which made for the clear, very light blue sky and huge clouds.
Our hotel for this stay was the Steamboat Grand, a large resort hotel with pine-covered walls, giving us the feeling of a large ski lodge. It boasted big windows to view the mountains and large rooms with full kitchens and family-size tables that seated eight or more. There was something very welcoming about the rooms, making it easy to imagine the high season of winter when the spaces would be full of skiers just off the slopes, bundled in ski clothing and hats to insulate them against the cold.
But here we were in shorts and short-sleeved shirts with temperatures in the high seventies. Ski lifts and gondolas were operating, so if we wanted to explore the slopes without snow, it was possible to circuit the hill-tops for a view of the town.
We found restaurants both in the hotel and a short walk away. We also found a complex with three or four pubs, and even an upscale place or two — along with Italian restaurants, steak houses, bars by the river and lots of live music – great places for adults on their own.
But for us, with tournament games sometimes lasting late, and with the rather limited tastes eleven-year-old boys have, we usually ended up dining on kid-friendly food with either the featured six-dollar pizza in one nearby pub, or easy-to-fix sandwiches created in our hotel rooms.
The boys and their sisters filled the large pool on the hotel’s first floor, being reminded not to run on the slick concrete by all of us adults who, with the kids, became more like extended family hour-by-hour.
Visiting a ski resort during off-season has many benefits. No place is crowded. Accommodations are priced lower and the pace is less frantic. For us, this time was a chance to build treasured memories with boys who, in a summer or two. would find themselves more interested in girls than in baseball or spending time with their parents, for they would soon become young teenagers.
Some in our group had driven more than a thousand miles from southern California to Steamboat Springs. Others, like us, had flown into Denver’s distinct white tent-peaked terminal and taken a shuttle bus — a four-hour ride to the resort town — crossing the Continental Divide, and, at one point, seeing the vast plain from the mountains that extend to four states and the great prairies. The shuttle trip offered some fine vistas and many “ohs’ and “ahs” as we motored through the mountains and over rushing streams. (It is also possible to fly to the local airport in, Hayden, Colorado, with service from many parts of the United States.)
Steamboat Springs is noted for its wonderful, natural hot springs. About two miles north of the town you’ll find large springs with parking and several pools. While lovely in summer, the springs would be magical in winter, a perfect spot for sore muscles after skiing. In the town itself, you’ll find another hot springs with a water park which some of the boys tried, presenting us with positive reports.
Not having spent much time at a ski resort, I wasn’t prepared for the rugged land and unforgettable views. The stars, to me, seemed like sharp points in the night sky; and the occasional summer lightening strikes – their jagged white-hot bolts bouncing upon the ground, greeting us with an enormous crack – added even more impact to the atmosphere.
Steamboat Springs is an ideal family destination, and from my experience of being there in summer, I know it must be worth a winter visit –for the splendor of the snow in the majestic mountains; for the resorts, and for the restaurants.
I brought home many memories from this trip. The most poignant are those of my grandson, not just for his great pitching and catching (even though his team finished out of the running), but for his laugh, as he scrambled from the river, and for my time with his father — my son – as he and I chuckled at our good fortune to be in Steamboat Springs at this moment in our lives. For me, the feeling of father, son, and grandson all together is like no other joy.
www.steamboatsprings.com offers packages and lodging information
www.steamboatgrand.com website for our hotel
www.steamboat-chamber.com website for chamber of commerce
www.goalpine.com transport from Denver airport to and from Steamboat Springs