STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - Just close enough. Just far enough away.
That combination has helped Steamboat Springs, a mountain town and snow-sports mecca in northern Colorado, stay grounded in the stunningly gorgeous Yampa Valley. Talking to the locals, you can sense their community pride. They're still holding tight to the town's cowboy roots and local traditions.
At an elevation of 6,500 feet and up, Steamboat Springs boasts all the glorious scenery of the Colorado Rockies without some of the problems that plague other popular snow-sports destinations. The celebrity residents, luxury hotels and big-money real estate of Aspen and Vail have led to traffic snarls and over-development, issues that this outpost three hours from Denver has been mostly able to avoid.
It's both a great place to live or visit, as I found out on a golf getaway this fall. Being 90 miles north of the Interstate-70 corridor seems to be a blessing. Only the most motivated tourists make the trek, either by rental car like I did or by air into a tiny local airport that serves 16 cities with direct flights in the winter but only Denver in the summer.
Steamboat Springs - with a population of roughly 13,000 residents - is experiencing a post-pandemic boom like many off-the-grid destinations. Alterra Mountain Co. is investing $200 million in its resort that should only enhance the winter experience for everybody. The escape-to-nature and work-from-home initiatives inspired by the pandemic have fueled lot sales and construction never seen before at high-end developments like the Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club, a gated community closest to downtown. More than half of the ranch's home sites - 33 of 63 - have been sold since the pandemic started in March 2020. This year alone, nine lots have sold for more than $30 million in total sales and 14 homes are currently under construction.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan recently built a home in the neighborhood. Former Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Billy Payne also owns a ranch in the valley. This alone is proof that Steamboat Springs is not just training grounds for Winter Olympians, even though more than 100 have ties to the region. It's a summer paradise for golfers, too. There's a golf course for every budget, plus plenty of seasonal outdoor pursuits - hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, kayaking - that are so good they'll distract even the most dedicated players from a tee time or two.
Life at Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club
Once you get a taste of life at Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club, it's easy to see why successful executives like Monahan who could live anywhere choose this place. The ranch is just minutes from a charming downtown and the home base of the mountain resort.
Each of the ranch's 63 homesites sits on five acres with ample room for Mother Nature to breathe. Roughly 900 acres of the 1,216-acre development is open space. After a decade pre-pandemic where only 12 lots sold, now only 19 lots and one spec home are left.
I got a taste of living at Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club for a couple days in September, staying in a three-bedroom guest cabin that would be the best home in most neighborhoods in America. Several more are under construction. They're all near the Owners' Lodge, a timber structure that can be rented out for parties and events, and Lonecast Lake, available for fishing or kayaking. An Owners' Barn across the lake serves as a horse stable and houses winter sports rentals like cross country skis.
The property gains 800 feet of elevation change from west to east. Just this summer, 13 new lots - all homesites cost $2.1 million and up - were released in the Upland Preserve at the highest points of the property, featuring stunning views of the valley and backed by a national forest with easy access to five miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Down the road, four premium golf home sites sit on a ridge, overlooking the private Catamount Ranch & Club, which is just five minutes away by a private golf cart path.
Amenities of the Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club extend well beyond the privacy gate. Fly fishing is available to residents on a private 1.5-mile stretch of the Yampa River. In the heart of the resort village resides One Steamboat Place, where residents can become Alpine Mountain Summit Club members for access to fitness and day spa facilities; an outdoor pool; private ski lockers; social events and, most important, valet parking inside a covered garage near the gondola chair lift. My excellent spa treatment loosened up my back just enough to play better golf than I did the day before.
The Alpine Mountain Summit Club and Catamount Ranch & Club memberships aren't part of purchasing real estate, so residents will need to choose which might be best suited to their lifestyle. It's worth pointing out that Catamount members are also given access to the private 530-acre Catamount Lake roughly five miles away. It's home to a pool, Lake House Grille, fitness center, tennis courts and Outfitter's Center stocked with rental sleds, cross country skis and snow shoes.
To streamline the home building process, buyers in Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club can use their own builder or the club's in-house team, Alpine Master Builders. Want your dream home created in a mountain contemporary, transitional or traditional style? Dylan Cook, the vice president of design and construction for Alpine Master Builders, and his team can bring it all to life. All homes range in size from 4,500 square feet up to 12,500 with elaborate details such as wall-to-wall windows and sprawling decks to bring the outdoors in.
Golf in Steamboat Springs
Perhaps the coolest part of Steamboat Springs for golfers is the versatility and balance of its courses. Within 14 miles of one another, five courses cover every aspect of the golf spectrum:
* The affordable, nine-hole Steamboat Golf Club caters to locals and beginners.
* The Haymaker Golf Club ranks among the best municipal golf courses in the country.
* The semiprivate Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club delivers fun resort golf designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and managed by Troon Golf. GolfPass offers a package to stay and play through the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas. Plans for a major renovation are in the proposal stage.
* The high-end, private Catamount Ranch & Club by the late Tom Weiskopf provides thrilling, but demanding, mountain golf.
* The nine-hole backyard course at Windwalker Ranch remains one of the most exclusive playgrounds in the world, catering only to the wealthy owners, including Payne, and their friends.
Per capita, I don't think any town in America can match such a distinguished golf portfolio. It's incredible, really, that so much golf can survive serving such a small population only five months a year. It's a testament to how active the lifestyle is here. People embrace the outdoors year-round.
Given such a short peak season, golf is expensive in Steamboat Springs with Haymaker charging $140 a round for visitors ($68 for state residents) and Rollingstone Ranch north of $215. But the scenery everywhere is priceless.
Forget winter - summer is prime time in Steamboat Springs in my book. On or off the golf course, you won't be disappointed.