Written by Christy Belton
Despite its rich history spanning more than 140 years, Steamboat Springs, located on the Continental Divide in the northwest corner of Colorado, is a well-kept secret. Named for hot springs that made a sound early pioneers likened to the chugging of a steamboat, the community of 12,000 is the site of a top-ranked ski area and rich working lands. Winter sports enthusiasts, visionary entrepreneurs and multi-generation ranching families call the area home creating an authentic, nuanced tapestry of the Rocky Mountain West where everyone wants to be.
The first settlers arrived in 1874 drawn to rich Yampa River Valley and the ranching opportunities it afforded. Eventually, Steamboat Springs became one of the largest cattle shipping points in America. Today, the region still retains its agricultural heritage with more than 12 Centennial ranches having been in continuous agricultural production for more than 100 years.
More than 100,000 acres of land have been conserved in Routt County. Wild horses still roam west of town in Sand Wash Basin. One of the largest and best-managed elk herds in North America resides on nearby public land offering superlative big game hunting opportunities.
Steamboat Springs, with an elevation of 6,700 feet, has produced more winter Olympians than any other town in North America. In the early years, skiing was the primary form of transportation during the Rocky Mountain winters. It became a passion.
With an average annual snowfall of 350 inches and more than 300 days of sunshine, the area is a winter wonderland for outdoor pursuits. Nearby Steamboat Ski Resort, founded in 1963, encompasses 2,965 acres and six peaks with more than 165 trails. The Steamboat Ski Touring Center provides cross country skiers with innumerable trails so they can pursue their passion. Snowmobile enthusiasts can enjoy groomed trails and alpine riding in deep powder snow.
As temperatures rise and the white of winter turns to the green of summer, people continue to flock outdoors. The Yampa River provides white water opportunities as well as tamer opportunities to float. Fishing abounds in nearby lakes and streams. Cyclists can tackle the challenges of mountain trails and back road biking. Thousands of miles of trails crisscross the million-acre Routt National Forest encouraging hikers to load their backpacks. Equestrians can also explore Routt National Forest beginning their treks on one of the many trailheads located within five miles of Steamboat Springs. For those who prefer mechanized mounts such as ATVs and motorcycles, forest roads and trails beckon. If that’s not enough, there are three championship golf courses.
While the sense of community is built on a shared love of the outdoors, it is also built on a shared respect for the value of education. Steamboat Springs has some of the highest ranking public schools in the state and is home to Colorado Mountain College, a four-year college. Eighty percent of the community’s residents over the age of 25 have post-high school education.
The educated work force has attracted visionary entrepreneurs and business people to the area. As a result, the economy benefits from the presence of global companies such as SmartWool, Peabody Energy, Big Agnes, Honey Stinger and Moots Cycles. With such a high quality of life, employers report a very high level of employee satisfaction.
The community is easy in and easy out. There are two airports here: the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, located 20 miles west of Steamboat Springs, has both commercial and private jet service, and the Steamboat Springs Airport, on the northern edge of Steamboat, accommodates private air traffic.
With a community calendar of events that rivals that of much larger cities, most residents choose to stay home and enjoy what their hometown has to offer. The lengthy list includes Young Professional’s Network, Service Corps of Retired Executives, Seminars at Steamboat, Texas Music Week, Winter Carnival, First Friday Art Walk, and Perry Mansfield, the oldest continuous performing arts school and camp in the nation. Local residents and volunteers support the Yampa River Botanic Park, the new Bud Werner Memorial Library, the Steamboat Springs Art Museum, the Tread of the Pioneers Museum and Steamboat Springs Community Center.
Whether you’re a skier, a cowboy, an artist, a CEO, a retiree, an educator or an entrepreneur, Colorado Springs is a place worthy of calling home. The mix of people and the mix of amenities create an unsurpassed quality of life that is as inspiring as the landscape