Stand on Steamboat Springs' main thoroughfare, Lincoln Avenue, and you’ll see the typical mountain town sites—towering peaks dotted by ski lifts, trendy shops that sell everything from organic soap to bicycle gear, and unique restaurants housed in mining-era brick buildings. Then look down Fifth Street toward the Yampa River and you’ll see something that characterizes the town in the form of Brent Romick Rodeo Arena that hosts the Steamboat Springs Pro Rode, which has ties that go back 100 years.
The best way to describe Steamboat is cowboy chic—tough enough around the edges to be interesting but with a cultivated core. Jill Waldman, owner of The Main Event, a boutique event planning company, says, “Steamboat offers a unique and authentic Western experience. It also has a hometown, down-to-earth feel. It’s where real people live real lives. That sense of community gets infused into a visitor experience.”
This town of year-round residents has a history that goes back centuries. However, it owes its name to early 1880s French fur trappers. They heard what sounded like the chugging of a steam-powered paddleboat and traced the noise to a natural mineral spring. They named it Steamboat Spring and the moniker was pluralized when it transferred to the settlement.
In the 1900s, ranching was the primary industry and the community became one of the largest cattle shipping centers in the West. Soon, herds of tourists started showing up to “ooh” and “aah” at the stunning scenery and take a dip in the mineral waters. Then in 1910, Norwegian Carl Howelsen brought skiing and ski jumping to the area, which gave visitors another reason to come back time and time again.
Today there are even more reasons to plan a meeting or event in Steamboat. Waldman says, “There is so much to do summer and winter—hockey, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, dog sledding, live concerts—the possibilities are endless.”
There aren’t quite as many choices when it comes to large group event space. The Steamboat Grand features great options with 17,000 square feet of indoor meeting, banquet and pre-function space, all on the first floor. The nearly 5,500-square-foot Korbel Grand Ballroom can be split three ways and features mountain décor, and the main entrance of the hotel opens onto a large lobby with events able to spill over into the terrace and foyer. A 100-squarefoot gazebo is also available. Attendees can relax during chair and foot massages at the high-end spa just steps from meeting rooms or head to their rooms or the slopes for a respite since the property is situated across the street from the gondola and offers 327 studios, parlors, hotel rooms, condominiums and penthouses, some with saunas.
Joseph Deitz Jr., planning committee chairman for Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup (RMMR)—a gathering of more than 400 Ford Mustang enthusiasts from 17 states who race, tour and display their iconic cars—has scheduled events at the Grand for 20 years. Last year nearly 2,500 spectators came for the Saturday car show. He says, “RMMR participants especially like the outdoor pavilion where we hold our welcome social event. The Grand gets it right and makes the daunting effort of running an event that much easier.”
The slopeside Sheraton Steamboat Resort & Villas sits at the base of Mount Werner, in the heart of summer and winter activities. The property features a threesection ballroom, as well as 16 meeting rooms that can accommodate a total of 1,000 attendees. There are unique outdoor venues as well as a light-filled foyer. According to Vince Rosa, director of group sales, at the end of the ski season on April 16, 2017, the resort will convert all of its hotel rooms into studios and one- and two-bedroom units, and repurposing the meeting space to create more amenities for guests. One board-style meeting room will still be available.
When it comes to lodging, properties run the gamut from condominiums to cabins. The Holiday Inn is located minutes from historic downtown and houses Rex’s American Grill & Bar with a small private room and lovely outdoor lawn. Resort Group, Steamboat Resorts and Steamboat Central Reservations can help planners secure blocks of rooms.
Smaller groups can book a variety of venues including restaurants that reflect Steamboat’s history as well as the town’s modern sensibility. Aurum Food & Wine overlooks the Yampa River and has created a modern menu, as well as flexible spaces indoors and out that can accommodate up to 20 to 70 guests (or 175 with a full buyout of the restaurant ). Truffle Pig, at the base of the slopes, cooks up American alpine cuisine. The restaurant can handle 100 plated on the patio with its sweeping view of the ski area and 25 in the wine cellar, and other inside spaces can host up to 150 seated or 200 for a reception.
Near historic downtown, Ore House at the Pine Grove offers a rustic hayloft in what used to be the building’s original barn. It can handle 120 attendees for a seated meal. The menu features elk loin and other steaks, along with melt-in-your-mouth prime rib.
Other unique venues and activities include the city-owned Haymaker Golf Course’s clubhouse with stunning views of Mount Werner and the Yampa Valley with a maximum capacity of 90 when including a threesided veranda.
The Main Event has put together a popular team-building activity modeled after the Great Race called the Amazing Steamboat Relay. It’s a premier corporate event for up to 60 participants that combines teamwork, quick thinking and problem-solving exercises, all while gaining a historic understanding of Steamboat Springs. Another option is tapping into the cowboy ambiance at Saddleback Ranch during group horseback cattle drives for up to 20 riders or chuck wagon dinners for up to 100.
Year-round, Steamboat Resort bustles with activity. In warmer months the hills are dotted with mountain bikers and hikers, and families that ride the gondola and play at the Coca Cola Adventure Zone. Groups can book tee times, take hot air balloon rides or tube down the Yampa River. When snow falls, skiers zigzag down the slopes and take advantage of the winter wonderland, which for groups can include either Ragnar’s or Haymaker’s sleigh ride dinners.
Whether they explore heritage or enjoy Steamboat in the present tense, it’s a place people return to time and again. Dietz suggests, “Steamboat offers a great combination of mountain adventure to challenge your body and peaceful scenery in a lodge-like elegance, that combined, contributes to productive ideas and team-building.”