The face of Steamboat is changing and readers are noticing. Since the American Skiing Company acquired the resort in 1997, more than 1,000 rooms, two new lifts and 700 acres of terrain have been added. The most positive changes have been on-mountain. With the Morningside Park and Pioneer Ridge expansions of '97 and '98, respectively, skiers now have lift-served access to previously hike-to chute, bowl and tree-skiing. But there's a downside: "Looks like it is being overdeveloped with new hotels and condos," laments one reader. What hasn't changed is what was here before the first developer set foot in the Yampa Valley: the exceptional weather and remarkably light snow. "Bluest sky I have ever seen," says one reader. "A powder day here is a religious experience," says another. If tree-skiing wasn't invented at Steamboat, it certainly was perfected here. Taste Shadows and Bar-UE and you may never leave the woods again. Steamboat's greatest assets remain what Mother Nature bestowed upon it, but its laid-back atmosphere still earns great praise. Programs such as Kids Ski Free enables children 6-12 to ski with their lift-ticket-buying parents. Kids under 12 also ski and rent free, making Steamboat one of North America's top family destinations. "Great place, great snow, great scenery, very friendly," one reader sums up.
WHAT'S NEW The $80 million Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel & Conference Center has 328 guest rooms, 19,000 square feet of convention space, retail outlets, fitness center, outdoor pool, and underground and valet parking. Call (877) 269-2628.
A GOOD DEAL Between Jan. 2 and Feb. 14, four nights in a motel and a three-day lift ticket costs as little as $319. Call (800) 922-2722, or visit www.steamboat-ski.com.
MEDALS GOLD Family Programs, Service, Off-Hill Activities, Snow, Dining, Weather, Lifts, Terrain; SILVER Lodging, Nightlife, Grooming, Scenery, Value.
HIGH/LOW RANK Family Programs (4), Service (11), Off-Hill Activities (13), Grooming (13); Challenge (38), Value (41), Accessibility (50).
DON'T MISS Stand-up comedy at the Stoker Comedy Club (top of the gondola) every Friday and Saturday night.
READER REMARKS (+) "Mayberry R.F.D. I didn't know people could be so nice." "The best tree skiing in Colorado." (-) "Development may damage what has always been Steamboat's small-town appeal."