One reader sums up Steamboat nicely: “Great snow, friendly people.” Want proof? While there are no friends on powder days at other resorts, Steamboat defies that conventional wisdom. A ranching town well before it became a ski area 50 years ago, Steamboat is home to friendly locals, and fur is hardly a wardrobe staple. “There’s little pretension,” says one reader. Its Western heritage shines in the Cowboy Downhill and Winter Carnival, with the world’s only marching band on skis. Readers knock its lack of steeps, a reasonable gripe save for Chutes 1 to 3 and Gates A to D off the summit. But Steamboat more than makes up for that in Family Programs (No. 5), Character (No. 14), and Snow (No. 11). Hint: Hit up Closets and Shadows after a storm. Ask a local to lead the way. — Eugene Buchanan
APRES SPOT >> The T Bar, an old patrol shack converted into a pub.
FAMILY TRAIL >> Narnia, a winding “secret passage” for the kids, filled with banks, bumps, and more. (Turn right at the tepee halfway down Vagabond.)
DON’T MISS >> A soak in the natural hot springs at Strawberry Park outside of town, where you change in a tepee, the waterfalls soothe sore muscles, and clothing is optional after dark.