Summer Resorts 2002-Southern Rockies: Steamboat, Colo.

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Steamboat, Colo.

The first European settlers arrived in the area in the early 1800s, naming it Steamboat Springs because the chugging sound of the natural hot springs reminded them of Mississippi River steamboats. Panting, not chugging, is the summer soundtrack these days as visitors enjoy a vacation's finest dilemma: the need to prioritize.

Float or flyfish the Yampa River. Play a round of golf at the Robert Trent Jones Jr. championship course. Families can bike or walk the four-mile Yampa River Core trail, which runs between the town and the resort, while hardcores should head to Mt. Zirkel. Or get above it all on an early morning hot-air balloon ride. Take a noon break and stroll the Western kitschy-but-quaint downtown hub, dropping into the Steamboat Smokehouse for a plate of ribs that would make Galveston proud. Digest with the aid of the Strings in the Mountains music festival, which runs July and August.

Once the sun sets, hitch up your jeans, mosey down to the ProRodeo and join a community where ranching remains an occupation, not the backdrop for a cigarette ad campaign. The next morning, take your mountain bike up the Silver Bullet gondola to the 9,080-foot summit of Thunderhead Peak. Breathe in the pure mountain air and enjoy views that haven't changed much in 100 years. Now's the time to catch your breath. ¿G.D.

DON'T MISS Riding the alpine slide down the face of Howelsen Hill. Watch out for the kamikaze critters that scamper on the slide's chute.

best deal From June 8 through Sept. 22, two nights' lodging, lift-served biking and a soak in the Hot Mineral Springs Pool starts at $137 per person, double occupancy. 800-922-2722, www.steamboat.com.