I am a 22 year-old skier who grew up skiing at Steamboat for a week every winter until the end of my middle school years. My parents and I then took an 8 year break before returning. I was quite nervous that Steamboat would be vastly different, both on mountain and off, and that we wouldn't have the same wonderful experience that I remembered. All of those suspicions were totally unfounded. I arrived January 26th and left February 2nd, and I wish I could go back again this year. (Instead, I'm keeping it affordable and traveling to Killington in a couple weeks, since I'm an Easterner.)
By the time that I arrived, Steamboat had received over 300" on the season, and as it turned out, there was even more coming! Out of the 6 days that I was on the mountain, 3 were legitimate "champagne" powder days. According to the locals, one of the days was the best so far for the season. One could say that I got lucky (and I did), but I'm confident that even without the powder, the skiing would have been more than acceptable.
My parents surprised me with a group lesson on my second day out. Because I'm an advanced skier, and I didn't hit a holiday weekend, I ended up with a small group. In fact, I was the only one in my group! A day-long private on pow and bumps, for ~$90 is truly an incredible deal. And to tell the absolute truth, I wouldn't have minded an extra person at all. Would you? Also, the terrain was everything that I remembered. While some may claim that it's not the best mountain for the advanced or expert skier (and I would agree to an extent), there is still a lot on this mountain for everyone. I particularly enjoyed skiing the hike-to's off of Morningside Lift. East Face and Christmas Tree Bowls come highly recommended!
Lodging was the only spot where I had any issues whatsoever. I know that ski resorts can commonly claim "ski in, ski out" status if they are within 200 yards or so of a slope and there is an access trail. I stayed at the Ski Inn, and the property falls at the edge of this category. The accommodations themselves were cozy and reasonably priced, but the slightly uphill access trail was a surprise. This was especially a surprise for my parents, who were not too keen on the extra workout. We ended up using the free shuttle to the gondola base most days.
I bought a new pair of boots on the trip, and I can't recommend the Surefoot guys there enough. They're awesome; if there's a Surefoot shop in your city or resort town, check them out! Of course, MSRP is commonplace at mountain resorts, so be prepared. I only got a little bit better price because I work at a shop part-time. Service on-mountain was also everything I remembered. Unlike some other reviews I've seen, I *never* experienced any rudeness.
Finally: the town. My family has always had favorite spots to eat and shop. Off the Beaten Path bookshop is moving, but it's still there, and I have hopes that it will return to having as large of a selection as it did a while back. The Steamboat Smokehouse is great; feel free to toss your peanut shells! I don't know what else to say in this regard, because I'm not a party/nightlife type, but I will say this: if you don't know, Ski TIme Square is essentially going to be demolished after this year, to make way for new developments (read: luxury condos, etc.) My only worry for Steamboat boils down to this: I hope that it won't end up pricing out the families and middle class folks that have loved it for years.
I know I wrote quite a bit, and I know that some people could call me nostalgia-biased. However, I also know that there aren't enough 'real' reviews of the mountains out there. I wouldn't ever claim that I could replace the basic information and idea provided by the industry magazines, but I hope that this kind of review could give someone thinking about a trip to Steamboat that extra little ^bump^.
Ski The Boat!!