Steamboat’s Tiniest Skiers
Steamboat’s legendary Champagne Powder® and infamous tree skiing may be its true claim to fame, but so too is the family friendly aspect of our beloved mountain. With 2,965 acres of permitted terrain, Steamboat boasts a variety of trails for all ability levels, including the smallest and most beginner skiers on the slopes.
Kids, toddlers and even babies in Steamboat start skiing at a young age, and Steamboat provides fantastic terrain and endless fun for their tiniest guests. Both of my sons first tried strap-on skis at 18 months of age, and by 2 1/2, they had their own skis and boots for the season. One little piece of advice is to start teaching kids at a young age how to carry their own skis. Kids naturally want to help, so give them a chance and a little responsibility, and you’ll be walking behind one of the most adorable moments you’ve ever witnessed.
Of course those moments may not last long, and Steamboat is well-prepared to help transport their tiniest guests around the base. Look for the red wagons in and around Gondola Square to haul your kiddos and your ski gear. It makes it easy on the parents and super fun for the little ones as they are learning what this skiing thing is all about.
Around the base area, you’ll notice various magic carpets for beginners learning how to ski. Those magic carpets are utilized by the Steamboat SnowSports School, which is also a great resource for teaching your kids how to ski. Check out the Kids’ Vacation Center for kids ages 2 1/2 to 6 years if you’re interested in putting your child in ski lessons. I used to be a ski instructor for young children through the Steamboat SnowSports School, and every day, fun turns were made and silly giggles were had.
Lucky for me, my husband was a competitive freestyle skier and coach for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, so when it comes to teaching our own kids, we’re all set (as long as they’ll listen, which, if you’re a parent, you know exactly what I mean). As we started both of our sons on real skis at age 2 1/2, we utilized Preview Lift and Christie Peak Express to access beginner runs like Preview and Stampede. One thing to know about young children and chairlifts is that a 1:1 adult to child ratio is key. The smallest kids could easily slip out of a chair, so focusing all of your attention on that one child is of upmost importance.
Another thing that is very important when skiing with toddlers is how to restrain them and keep them under your control at all times. We use the Wee-Ski Harness on our current 2 1/2 year old, along with an Edgie Wedgie to hold the ski tips together and maintain a balanced and controlled wedge position from the get-go. The so-called “jello legs” can be an issue with really young kids, but give your tot a chance to hold their own weight and make those little falls so they can learn position and balance at a young age. One thing to know, however, is to watch them super carefully so you don’t find yourself falling on top of them (trust me, we have learned through experience). Luckily, kids are naturally resilient, so if you do accidentally crash into them, they will likely forgive you and want to keep on skiing.
Once you’ve mastered runs like Preview and Stampede, try going all the way up Christie Peak Express with your little skier. Take Boulevard over to the Rough Rider Basin (pay close attention when crossing Eagles Nest), and you will make your kiddo’s day. In the Rough Rider Basin area, you can ski through the Sheriff’s Office, the General Store and even the Saloon (sorry adults, no beverages served in this saloon). Look for Swinger just after the Rough Rider Basin for one of the best little runs with young kids on the mountain.
When your child is a little more confident on his or her skis, Why Not is a great beginner trail from the top of the Gondola. All kids love a gondola ride, and as long as you’re prepared to spend some time making your way down the mountain with your tot, Why Not is the perfect choice. Make sure to stop at the tepees where Why Not meets Vagabond for a snack and a break before tackling the rest of Why Not back down to the base area. One little piece of advice when it comes to skiing Why Not with kids is to make sure that you are a confident enough skier to carry your child the rest of the way down if he or she bonks. Inevitably, the first few times we skied Why Not with both of our boys, we’ve ended up skiing part of the way down with them in our arms. The tired and moving snuggles with skis on are definitely moments you’ll remember (and ultimately miss when your child is older and you feel like you need them to carry you the rest of the way down the slopes).
When Why Not is a mastered run, adventuring over to the Sunshine Bowl area is a must. Slopes like Spur Run, Sundial, Tomahawk, Quickdraw, South Peak Flats and Broadway are great for really young skiers. Taking kids to the very top of the mountain is something they’ll remember forever, but make sure you all are ready for the adventure because it can be hours and hours spent making the trek over to Sunshine with little ones. If you do go on Tomahawk, make sure to find the giant pine tree in Baby Powder (just to the left of Tomahawk) that you can ski through, and make sure to look up because often there are birds singing in the branches above.
Rendezvous can be a good pit-stop for lunch or snacks if your kiddo needs a recharge in the Sunshine Bowl area, and if those little legs are just too tired, you can always ride the gondola back down (it’s especially fun when you start going down the gondola from the very top). Make sure to apres with some hot chocolate and whipped cream when your tot is all tuckered out from an epic ski day and he or she will absolutely want to go skiing again and again and again.
Skiing with your kids is something you will remember forever and cherish for always. Steamboat, being such a family friendly mountain, does an incredible job facilitating those special memories that will last a lifetime.
While I wasn’t able to ski today, I am excited to say that snow is in the forecast and it is currently snowing heavily in Steamboat. Today and tonight we can expect to see 4-8+ inches of snow, with the next storm tracking for Thursday night into Friday, possibly bringing another 4-8+ inches. Saturday may be a powder day and the weekend should hold some great snow conditions regardless. Get out there and make some turns with yourself or even your kiddo, you’re bound to have a great time!
Erin Campbell, Alpine Skier
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