PLAY: Still surrounded by working ranches, Steamboat is an ideal base camp for a horseback ride with the family-run Saddleback Ranch on its 8,000-acre property (rates start at $80). Guided rides offer views of the Flattops, Mount Werner and the Zirkels. You can take a sleigh ride instead (dinner also is available; rates start at $45 per person), some of which include rides down the on-site tubing hill. Not into horses? Hop on a guided snowmobile excursion instead (rates start at $115 for the driver). 37350 County Road 179, 970.879.3711
STAY: The sprawling villas at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort feel like home—if your home were ski-in, ski-out slopeside. Rooms offer views of the Yampa Valley and are newly updated, with flatscreen TVs and plush comforters on cushy beds. The lobby has been revamped almost like an upscale community center, with a game room, plenty of couches and computer stations. A meal at Sevens Mountain Grill is worthwhile for coq au vin and homemade gnocchi. Winter rates start at $746 (villas) and $229 (hotel) per night. 2200 Village Inn Court, 970.879.2220
APRÈS: Stellar service, a pretty setting and a seasonally changing menu are hallmarks of bistro c.v., owned by the same chef/manager couple who run the alsoexcellent Low in town. The well-conceived and well-crafted dishes include tempting combinations such as hand-cut linguini with pork belly and a poached egg, or a grilled Wagyu beef sirloin with flowering Chinese broccoli and celery root. The intriguingly varied wine list rotates to reflect the menu. 345 Lincoln Ave., 970.879.4197
Steamboat Springs is located 157 miles from Denver via I-70, Colorado 9 and U.S. 40.
PLAY: Apex Mountain School makes ice climbing look so easy that even kids can do it—which means this can be a challenging and fun activity for the whole family. Guided climbs, which include basics such as belaying and lowering, tackle Vail’s legendary frozen waterfalls, are offered for beginner to advanced levels and reach heights from 30 to more than 100 feet. Apex provides the basic climbing gear, including crampons and ice axes. Rates depend on the size of the group—from $470 per person for one to $166 per person with five participants. 970.949.9111
STAY: The amenities-oriented Antlers at Vail sits on the banks of Gore Creek and is just steps away from the Lionshead Gondola. It’s all about the condos here, from studio suites to four-bedroom penthouses, each containing a fully equipped kitchen, fireplace and private balcony. Enjoy a free shuttle around Vail, full membership benefits at Vail Athletic Club, complimentary loaner GoPro cameras, ski valet, snowshoe rentals and yoga, and the added bonus of “late checkout”—which means a free night Sunday after your weekend stay to avoid the traffic. Winter rates start at $485 per night. 680 Lionshead Place, 970.476.2471
APRÈS: From black truffle deviled eggs and charred baby octopus to a harissa-sparked pork chop with okra succotash and Rocky Mountain trout steeped in smoked almond milk, Mountain Standard sets the bar high and exceeds it at every turn. No surprise, though: It comes from the creators of Vail’s beloved Sweet Basil. The eatery is filled with cushiony leather-clad booths and dark woods; service is spot-on. 193 Gore Creek Drive, 970.476.0123
Vail sits 100 miles west of Denver via I-70.
PLAY: Ten minutes from Winter Park Ski Resort, the tubing hill at Colorado Adventure Park brings out the kid in everyone with its single and double tubes that fly down this hill that offers varying steepness, starting as soon as snow conditions permit. The magic carpet lift makes it easy to return to the top, and the Snowscoots, mini snowmobiles that kids ages 6 and older can drive themselves, are a popular option ($10 for 10 minutes). The warming hut sells beer, wine and s’more kits. Rates start at $18 for an hour of single tubing; second hour half price. 566 County Road 721, 970.726.5779
STAY: The folks at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash have transformed the former Gasthaus Eichler into the warm and charming (and affordable) Vasquez Creek Inn. Situated next to Vasquez Creek and within walking distance of town, the 15-room lodge has a creekside hot tub and the chic Volario’s, a Spanish-influenced Northern Italian restaurant. Extra perk: free trail passes for Devil’s Thumb. Winter rates start at $150 per night. 78786 U.S. 40, 970.722.1188
APRÈS: Margaritas full of fresh lime juice, well-made Mexican favorites and a retro-diner feel make The Ditch on 40 a great choice after a day of winter fun. Try the burger topped with a chile relleno. 78941 U.S. 40, 970.363.7113
Winter Park sits 67 miles from Denver via I-70 and U.S. 40.