Steamboat, Colorado: Rank 11 West, 1997

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Let's move beyond the cowboy image and enjoy Steamboat for what it is: a great ski resort. Readers awarded Steamboat seven gold medals, five of them for the stuff of skiers' dreams: Snow Quality, Grooming, Terrain, Lifts and Weather. Steamboat's reputation for the best tree skiing and champagne powder in Colorado is well-earned; it doesn't get any better than Shadows on a powder day. On the downside, "there's not much steep terrain," one reader complains. For stylists who prefer comfort turns, the resort is replete with rolling, wide-open cruisers and an entire area¿Sunshine Peak¿for beginners. What Steamboat lacks in social glitz, it makes up for in variety. Families can choose from a host of down-home eateries, the best of which are Buddha's Burritos and Cucino's. Or you can kick off the evening at the Heavenly Daze Brewery, then head to La Montaña or Yamachan's. Nights often end at the Inferno. All too soon, rise, shine and fuel up at the Shack for another day on the hill.

What's New The American Skiing Company's purchase of the resort, but ASC's plans for Steamboat aren't yet clear. Purist alert: 260 acres of new expert terrain will be accessible only by hiking or traversing into Pioneer Ridge. Next season the Ridge will be lift-served. A new high-speed quad replaces the Thunderhead double and Arrowhead triple.
A Good Deal First Tracks Snow Saver package, four nights lodging and a three-day lift ticket, Nov. 21-Dec. 12, for as little as $225; (800) 922-2722.
Medals Gold Snow Quality, Grooming, Terrain, Lifts, Service, Weather, Lodging; Silver Expert Terrain, Value, Off-HillActivities , Family Programs.
High/Low Rank Snow Quality (8); Accessibility (58).
Don't Miss The annual Chute Bump Off, a 12-year St. Patrick's Day tradition; Sunday Disco Night at the Inferno.
Reader Remarks "Best area with the best people and the best snow." "Out of the way. Crowded, with limited expert terrain."