The best way to guarantee an enjoyable time at the Steamboat Ski Area is to be dressed right and outfitted with good equipment.
With a wealth of rental shops and specialty clothing stores, visitors don't have to look far to find the equipment they need.
Nearly all beginners rent skis or snowboards because it's the most affordable way to be introduced to the slopes. Even some expert-level skiers and boarders may decide to rent because it's more convenient than lugging equipment through airports.
But going through the rental process for the first time can be daunting. Plus, rental shops can be crowded during peak season, making for long waits.
Most rental shops in Steamboat Springs are top quality, with trained employees who can walk renters through the outfitting process quickly and efficiently. Still, there are a few things that are good to know before walking in the door.
First, renters typically pay for convenience. Renting gear from a rental shop on the mountain can be a little more expensive than going to a shop closer to town.
For those who do not want to leave their room or condo, some stores will deliver.
Renters should expect to pay between $15 and $25 for a beginner ski or snowboard package, which includes skis, boots and poles, as well as sometimes a helmet rental. More expensive packages are available.
"You will get a bit of what you pay for, as far as having an easier skiing experience with easier turning and better fitting boots," John Morse said about upgrading to a pricier package. Morse is the manager of Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare.
However, he said that such upgrades are not necessary for beginners, who are encouraged to stick with the basics.
A key tip when getting fitted for ski or snowboard boots is that people wear one pair of thin to medium-weight socks, Morse said. As long as the boot fits correctly, feet will stay warm without thick socks. Morse advises staying away from cotton socks, as they don't insulate the foot when they get wet from sweat.
Dave Krats, store manager for Christy Sports at the Central Park location, described a good fit for a ski boot as feeling like a firm handshake. He also emphasized that customers should wear pants that they can pull up to their knees when they come to get fitted for gear.
Getting gear the night before going out to ski is a good way to avoid waits in the morning, he said.
"I think that people sleep better if they have their rental equipment," Krats said. "Then all they have to worry about is getting to the ski hill the next day."
Beyond getting proper equipment, skiers and riders need to think carefully about what they wear for a day on the mountain.
Morse recommends layers, as that allows skiers and riders to adapt to changing conditions throughout the day. Avoid cotton here, too, and be sure to have a waterproof shell to keep wind and wetness out, with layers of long underwear and fleece.
Gloves and a hat, or preferably a helmet, are necessities, as are goggles, which provide the most protection from the sun.
"Goggles are definitely critical," Morse said. "You lose heat through your eyes, and (goggles) are much better at cutting wind and ultraviolet light" than sunglasses, he said.
Sunscreen also should not be forgotten, with other tips to ensure a good day including that skiers and riders eat a good breakfast before going out, and bring snacks, water and trail maps along.
Many ski rental shops also rent cross-country skis and snowshoes for people who want a break from the speed and crowds of the mountain. n