Skiing in the Steamboat Springs winter wonderland. Photo courtesy Flickr user Sebastian Peleato

If you’re headed to Colorado for your ski vacation, here’s a tip from a Colorado native: Skip the traffic jams of Interstate 70 and head northwest of Denver to Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat has long been a popular ski destination among locals like me, and it’s the growing into the favorite spot for visitors, too. My husband and I recently ventured out to Steamboat Springs for a long weekend getaway, and we were amazed by what we experienced. 

If you’re seeking a luxurious spa getaway with a snowy twist, here’s why this is your town.

First, the most obvious: These mountains are famous for a reason. Snow conditions are perfect; Steamboat’s known for its “champagne powder,” named such because the light and fluffy snow tickles your nose like champagne. Steamboat’s snow typically has less water than snow in other ski resorts, which makes it airy and almost bubbly. Like, well, “the bubbly.” (Steamboat had me at “champagne.”) 

If you’re a skier, you likely know Steamboat for Howelsen Hill, the oldest continuously used ski area in the state (since 1915) and North America’s largest, natural ski-jumping spot. It’s no wonder Steamboat’s nickname is Ski Town USA.

Second, it’s easy to get to Steamboat without the hassle of traffic jams on a winding mountainside highway (no thanks!). This year, JetBlue expanded to offer three new nonstop flights to Steamboat, from Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Long Beach, Calif. These new flights make Steamboat’s winter air program the most robust of any mountain resort in North America, according to Rob Perlman, president and COO of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. In total, Steamboat offers 10 nonstop flights.

Also new this ski season: impressive improvements in Steamboat’s food and beverage scene. This year, you’ll find a roaming snowcat food truck (aptly named the Taco Beast, pretty much the best name ever) and a revamped base area restaurant. What used to be called Bear River Bar & Grill will be completely transformed into a place called Timber & Torch, named for Steamboat’s Olympic heritage and great trees. Munch of drunken mussels with local craft beer or signature craft cocktails. (Note: Still, my longtime favorite place to dine in Steamboat remains a river-side restaurant named Aurum. Enjoy a cocktail after dinner outside on the patio next to the crackling fire pit.) 

Steamboat, as a town, continues to blossom. It’d only been two years since my last visit there and I barely recognized Yampa Street. Yampa, a street running alongside the scenic Yampa River, was also recently revamped. Where there used to be ugly power lines are now white party lights — the frame of new and updated restaurants with a (frozen in the winter) river view.

A sunset at the Governor’s Penthouse, a home arranged by Moving Mountains. Photo by Aimee Heckel

Both times I have gone on a staycation to Steamboat I have traveled with a locally run company called Moving Mountains, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Moving Mountains is seriously the source for where to dine and what to do, but best of all it provides exclusive access into the best places to stay. As further proof that Steamboat is blowing up and the hottest place to visit in Colorado, Moving Mountains’ summer demand had doubled every two years, as of recently, and there’s been a consistent 10 to 20 percent growth throughout the winter. Eight years ago, Moving Mountains offered a selection of about 10 luxury homes that it managed — homes that visitors can rent. Today, it boasts 80 different properties. 

When you arrive in Steamboat, everything is simple and streamlined. You check in with Moving Mountains, where a staff member will give you a packet of information about the town, your customized itinerary, your keys and any other info you need. Someone is always available via a quick phone call if you have a question or need help (I couldn’t find the entrance to our private underground parking garage, which was really embarrassing because it was right there.) You get the privacy and feeling of owning your own vacation home in the mountains, but with the added service of a five-star resort, plus a best friend living right in town.

The Moving Mountains property you have to try to score is the Governor’s Penthouse. This three-bedroom, 2,100-square-foot condo overlooks the Yampa River one block from downtown with direct views of the ski slopes. You access it via your own private elevator. The kitchen is fully stocked with everything you need for a dinner party, the beds are cozy with lovely mountain views and the common areas are perfectly decorated in mountain chic style with a hint of industrial. But the massive balcony, with a hot tub, fire pit and outdoor dining area, is the real star of the show here. At the end of our day, we sat out under the stars with a glass of wine and let the hot tub relax our sore muscles.

Moving Mountains’ specialty is luxurious, independent homes (like the dreamy Governor’s Penthouse) that visitors could never otherwise access. It’s like an upgraded AirBNB concept, plus a concierge to help you plan your trip, and access to all kinds of conveniences; Moving Mountains will do your grocery shopping for you or arrange a private chef to cook you healthy meals (organic, kosher, vegan, centered around local produce and meat or whatever you want).

Inside the luxurious penthouse arranged by Moving Mountains. Photo by Aimee Heckel

The company offers various chefs with experience working around the world, and each has his or her own unique style. Based on your requests and needs, you will be paired with the best-suited chef, whether you want a casual dinner of burgers, or pan-seared elk medallions served with a lingonberry demi-glaze, or a grilled wild salmon. Meals are typically served in four courses: hors-d’oeuvres, a starter, entree and dessert (mmm, pannacotta served with balsamic berries and amaretti).

We didn’t choose to have a chef cater our dinner because we wanted to explore downtown Steamboat. Moving Mountains provided restaurant recommendations, and we ended up at a casual sushi restaurant across the street. Warm saki really hit the spot on a chilly day. I was happy to not have to painfully sift through restaurant reviews online. Because Moving Mountains is run by locals, they can tell you the (real) best places to eat, drink and shop. No more guessing games and time wasted on Yelp. 

Don’t want to spend your vacation time cleaning, planning meals, grocery shopping and organizing the activities for the day? Moving Mountains can handle all of the inconveniences so you can focus on relaxing, skiing and having fun.

A whirlpool tub inside a penthouse from Moving Mountains. Courtesy photo

Customized itineraries make it easy to incorporate spa travel and wellness into your trip, and Steamboat’s the perfect place for that. As the name indicates, Steamboat Springs is home to some of Colorado’s best, naturally occurring mineral hot springs. The best known hot springs here is Strawberry Park Hot Springs, a series of scenic hot springs pools deep in the forest outside of town. Imagine basking in the hot water with mountains jutting up on either side of you. If you’re lucky, Moving Mountains may be able to connect you with a massage in the poolside tipi or Watsu (sort of like a floating Shiatsu massage) in one of the private pools. 

If you stay after the sun goes down, Strawberry Park Hot Springs becomes clothing optional. You can sit under the starry night sky under the gently-falling snow — completely nude. Yeah, we did that. And yeah, it was incredibly freeing. I felt a little nervous at first but the pools were big enough to not notice other people and it was so dark. We found a little rocky nook in one of the larger pools, near an extra-warm mini waterfall, and felt our travel aches melt into nature. 

The Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat. Photo courtesy Flickr user Brian Bennett

A lesser-known fact (I had no idea): Steamboat is actually home to about 150 total hot springs. There’s also the Western-style Old Town Hot Springs. This is less of a spa destination, however, and better suited for families. It offers multiple waterslides and pools, a fitness center, party deck and climbing wall. If you do end up at Old Town, make sure you rent a private cabana. We decided to skip this option since my husband and I were traveling without the kid. 

By the end of our long weekend getaway, we wanted to stay for another week or three or three years. I couldn’t believe that Moving Mountains had exceeded my already-high expectations.