Here are a few impressions of Steamboat, from a trip made in March 2017. Note that I road only blue and green trails, which means there are large parts of the mountain I didn’t see. In lieu of a comprehensive review, I present a few impressions.
The RFID ticketing system is great. Higher end resorts are moving to this system of ticketing. Your ticket isn’t a piece of paper attached to a metal or plastic loop — still common in smaller resorts — but a plastic card with a chip. At Steamboat, it’s read at the gondola, which appears to be the entry point for most of the mountain. So there’s no need to hobble over to a lift attendant to show your ticket for scanning with a hand-held device.
The Sundown Express-Sunshine Express area is good for people seeking blue cruisers. If you want a wide-open intermediate slope that’s on the easy side of riding, head to Tomahawk. It wraps around the edge of the ski area, with several short offshoots that connect to a parallel trail, Quickdraw. Quickdraw, like Tomahawk, is on the mellow side. High Noon is a somewhat steeper trail served by the same lifts. If you’d like a stronger challenge, Sundown serves a few black trails.
The entrance to the Sunshine Express can be a long slog for snowboarders. Most approaches to the lift involve a long, narrow, crowded area with a switchback. I never felt comfortable with (and in many cases, able to) ride strapped in during the first half of the lift entrance, which, halfway through, has a switchback. So that required skating for about 60 yards, making a turn and then skating another 60 yards in the opposite direction. I’ve been told I could avoid that dance by approaching the lift from some trails I never took (particularly, Sunshine Lift Line), so if this concerns you, ask around when you’re there.
In the Sundown-Sunshine area, use the Sunshine lift rather than Sundown to make laps on blue trails. The unloading area to Sundown Express is uphill from the unloading area for Sunshine Express. So if you unload at Sundown, you will, depending on where you want to go, need to pick your way through the people unloading from Sunshine. Even if there are no people there, it’s a long skate to get to some key trailheads (Tomahawk, Sundial) from Sundown.
Bump runs are not marked. There are two kinds of people who would like to know where the mogul runs are: those who seek them out and those who want to avoid them. Unfortunately, mogul runs aren’t mentioned on the map. I did encounter the start of a mogul field on High Noon. If you find a grooming report, that will help you identify bumped runs. But other resorts use trail maps to ID bump runs; it would be nice if Steamboat did the same.
For more difficult terrain, go left; for more mellow, go right. The mountain is roughly organized this way: black and blue-black trails on the left (as you look up), blue on the right, and green in the middle.
Novices and early intermediates may have a challenge in getting back to the gondola base. From the top of the gondola (which goes only to mid-mountain, not higher), there are, in general, two ways to descend. One is to take one of two blue routes. Heavenly Daze parallels the upper path of the gondola. It’s smooth and relatively even from side to side, but steeper than some blues. The other blue is Vagabond.
For a green route down, look for Why Not, which is a narrow road with many switchbacks. It took me about 25 minutes to take this route, going at a moderate speed with no stops. Narrow roads may require more skill of some beginning riders than a route that’s more open, so the length of Why Not could be a problem for some people.
The final approach to the base is long and flat, no matter how you go. This can be a problem for new riders, who may be faced with the challenge of keeping up enough speed to continue on a relatively flat surface.
Don’t be afraid to download at the end of the day. The resort actively encourages tired skiers and riders to take the gondola downhill at the end of the day. If you’re tired, downloading is a smart move. Tired legs and a crowd of people does not make for a good combination.
There’s an advantage to being old. The resort offers a day-long tour to skiers and riders over the age 0f 50. It’s called “Mountain masters.” I didn’t take advantage of it, but someone who shared a condo with me did and reported that it was a good experience. In fact, I’m told that some people come from Europe specifically to participate in this free program. It’s open to intermediate skiers and riders, so if your travel partner is a novice, it’s also a good way for you to have someone to ride with.
May I get a trash can, please? Resorts want to burnish their credentials as green businesses. I understand that. But the resort took it to extreme lengths; I had to hunt high and low to find trash cans when I needed them.
Where are the benches for snowboarders? I don’t recall seeing one. That’s too bad, and it forced me to do the old “sit down and mess with my bindings” chore.
Where are the on-mountain workbenches for binding adjustments? I saw only one, and that was at the unloading area of the gondola.