Bella Vista

Courtesy of Andrea & Michael Pulskamp

Bella Vista

Wedding Guide: Hot spots to tie the knot

A guide to selecting a wedding location in Steamboat Springs

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Courtesy of Glen Eden Resort

Glen Eden Resort

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Courtesy of Home Ranch

Home Ranch

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Courtesy of Jeff Morehead

Yampa River Botanic Park

— Walking down the aisle in Steamboat Springs has a different meaning than it does elsewhere. Here, that aisle could be a ski slope, flower-filled meadow, aspen-leafed mountain top or even the Yampa River. And couples have used every one of them for their nuptials.

When it comes to wedding venues, it’s hard to top our hamlet in the hills. From conventional churches to decks atop the gondola, there are more ceremony and reception options in the Yampa Valley than there are flower petals in a procession. Following is a sampling of a few local locations conducive to getting hitched.

Lake Catamount Ranch and Club

You can marry at a multitude of places at Lake Catamount Ranch and Club, from beneath two whispering willows near the lake on a sunset afternoon to the golf course down valley (except during summer golfing season), where the sound of Walton Creek accompanies the wedding procession. Those looking for something a little more rustic can also exchange vows at Heritage Cabin on the far side of the lake. Either way, views come with the vows.

“People come in knowing they don’t have to worry about much,” says event planner Nikki Knoebel, touting everything from the location’s award-winning cuisine to vistas of the valley. She adds that the Lake House, with its outdoors ceremony site positioned between two willows, is the most popular wedding spot, and that back-up indoor facilities are available at all locations should Mother Nature throw in a monkey wrench. As for catering, executive chef Dan Hoffman pulls out all the stops, with such combos as elk and trout or beff tenderloin and sea bass.

The three Lake Catamount locations host about 25 weddings a year, she adds, each one leaving bride, groom and guests smitten with Steamboat.

More info: 970-846-2083, www.catamountranchclub.com

Yampa River Botanic Park

You won’t have to spend money on extra flowers at the Yampa River Botanic Park. Blooms come with the location.

Flowering comes to a peak at the five-acre, riverside park in June and July, and so do weddings. The site, which won runner-up wedding location in last year’s Best of the Boat contest, hosts nearly 25 nuptials every year.

“If you want to get married outside surrounded by lots of pretty flowers, it’s a great place,” says park supervisor Gahle Lehman.

Open April through October, the park was built with berms and rocks to provide different sun exposures for 40 flower gardens. Ceremonies are performed on the Green, an amphitheater-style lawn overlooking the main pond.

“It’s the best place I can think of for a wedding,” says Stephanie Vordermeier, who married husband Kurt there in June. “The backdrop for our pictures was amazing.”

While you get exclusive use of the Green during your rental time ($400 for three hours; $100/ per additional hour), the rest of the park remains open for the public. And there is no limit to the number of guests (the park hosts 600 people at its weekly concerts).

As for logistics, tents and chairs must be brought in, with the tent location requiring supervisor approval and alcoholic beverages requiring a permit. The only downside: while the Green, Trillium House and log-seat amphitheater are available for weddings, you can only use the park for the ceremony. Your reception will have to be elsewhere.

More info: 970-879-4300, www.steamboatsprings.net

Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp

Want people to shake a leg? Hold your wedding at a dance and performing arts camp.

That sums up the scene for weddings at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp, the oldest performing arts camp in the country. The 76-acre center is located in Strawberry Park just minutes from downtown, with Soda Creek running through its back yard. The only drawback: summer camp sessions mean no ceremonies Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The center hosts about 12 weddings a year, with ceremonies usually held outside in aspen-lined meadows and receptions taking place in the glass-sided Steinberg Pavilion, which accommodates up to 150 people.

“Most people who get married here have some sort of connection to Steamboat,” says event organizer Sophie Aikman, adding that it’s drawn couples from as far away as Australia and Scotland.

While you have to rent chairs, tables and catering elsewhere, you can book cabin lodging for up to 35 guests onsite, meaning those attending can truly dance until the cows come home.

More info: 970-879-7125, www.perry-mansfield.org

Thunderhead Lodge

Most brides walk down the aisle. Not many ride up a gondola.

Brides and guests alike get to experience that when marrying at the Steamboat Ski Area’s Thunderhead Lodge. The lodge hosts up to 50 weddings per year, with ceremonies usually held on the lawn or vista-filled overlook, where the only thing taking guests’ eyes off the bride are the commanding views. After cocktail hour on the third-floor deck, receptions, which last until midnight, are held in the Champagne Powder Room, which can handle up to 250 people, or the more intimate setting of Hazie’s, which can accommodate parties of 60. “It’s a great spot for a wedding,” says event planner Lindsey Yochem, adding that the resort installed new carpet with a built-in dance floor this fall. “Everyone loves the full experience, from riding the gondola to the spectacular sunsets viewed from the deck.”

The wedding venue also works in winter, with bride and groom — and sometimes the entire wedding party — schussing away on skis or snowboards.

More info: 970-871-5162, www.steamboat.com

Bella Vista

In Spanish and Italian, Bella Vista means “beautiful sight.” And that’s what your guests get at Bella Vista, a wedding retreat seven miles south of town on Rabbit Ears Pass.

Owned by David and Alicia Josfan, the site offers expansive views of Lake Catamount and the Flat Tops and and can accommodate weddings large and small. Resort staff can also coordinate with all vendors and caterers.

“People get married here because of view because the whole family, wedding party or even both can all stay here,” says property manager Jennifer Reed. “Plus, people can choose their own caterers and alcohol provider.”

While the seven-acre property doesn’t host weddings independent of lodging (you have to book lodging during your event), the site hosts up to 15 weddings per year. More intimate ceremonies take place on a deck overlooking Pleasant Valley, with larger parties setting up tents on the tennis court or lawn.

The site offers a main lodge and two cabins that can sleep up to 26, as well as pool, hot tub, tennis and horse shoe courts, and other amenities. It hosts weddings in the spring, summer and fall, and occasionally smaller ones in the winter, with rates varying with the season. “We offer a lot of flexibility,” says Reed.

More info: 970-879-4449, www.steamboat1.com

Haymaker Golf Course

So you might have to flinch at the occasional “Fore!” That’s a small price to pay for exchanging vows at city-owned Haymaker Golf Course.

“A lot of parties tie-in golf to their ceremonies,” says executive chef Olivia Murray, who recently signed a five-year contract to run Staxx restaurant in the facility. “Some people play the day before, some even the day of. It’s a beautiful place to have wedding.”

For parties of more than 30, site rental is only $200. Up to 70 people can be accommodated inside, with the deck offering room for another 20 outside. Many parties set up tents outside overlooking the green, allowing the facility to handle up to 200 guests. “The sky’s the limit,” Murray says. “There’s no shortage of room.”

Murray creates specific menus based on budgets. Rates range from $15 per person on up to $50 (a Murray favorite: blue cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped filet mignon with wild lingonberry sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus). “It’s a beautiful spot,” Murray says. “I think we’ll be doing a lot more weddings in the future.”

More info: 970-819-5118, www.staxxss.com

The Steamboat Grand

Big or small, the Steamboat Grand can make your wedding a grand ol’ time. Last summer the hotel hosted 53 wedding parties, from rehearsal dinners to ceremonies and receptions. “Some people use us for all three,” says director of conference services Shannon Ford. “We have a lot of flexibility in what we can offer.”

Most of this stems from the hotel’s size. Aside from 328 guest rooms, including condos and penthouses, it offers 17,000 square feet of meeting and conference space, 5,500 square feet of ballroom space (accommodating up to 350 table settings) and 2,200 square feet of outdoor event space.

“Most of our ceremonies are outside in our Pavilion area,” says Ford, adding that most parties pursue Colorado-inspired decorations, from wildflowers to aspen leaves. “Everybody wants to be a part of Steamboat in some way.”

The resort also offers a full spectrum of audio and visual services, from speakers and stage lights to plasma screens, as well as a menu tailored for different budgets. “We can put a package together that fits pretty much anyone’s needs,” adds Ford.

More info: 877-306-2628, www.steamboatgrand.com

Sheraton Steamboat Resort Hotel

While the Sheraton Steamboat Resort blocks rooms for nearly 50 wedding parties a year, events director Lisa Sanchez says it also hosts about 12 weddings per year. “It’s our location,” she says. “People like to be right at the base of the mountain.” The newly remodeled hotel offers a great cocktail bar area for welcome receptions, brunches, rehearsals and other add-on events, says Sanchez. Receptions often take place in the newly renovated Grand Ballroom, complete with built-in bar and reception foyer, or the large event tent outside near the pool (June to October). Ceremonies often occur on the Saddles Deck or on the driving range of the Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club, which offers 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. “A lot of parties work golf into their event,” Sanchez says. “Plus, it’s a beautiful spot to get married.”

More info: 970-871-6531, www.sheratonsteamboatresort.com

Western weddings

If you want to go more rustic with your ceremony and reception, consider a guest ranch, where horse-drawn sleighs deliver the bride and you’ll feel just at home saying “I reckon’” as “I do.”

Dutch Creek Ranch

Want western? Look no further than Dutch Creek Ranch, located 27 miles north of town off Colo. Hwy. 129. Family owned and operated by John and Wanda Hawes, the 100-acre guest ranch offers a great restaurant and scenic views, all in a motif straight out of a western. The dining room can accommodate up to 35, with room for another 50 outside. For lodging, it offers four A-frame cabins and five log cabins, all intentionally TV-less, that can handle up to four people each. After the ceremony, the newlyweds can literally ride off into the sunset.

More info: 970-879-8519, www.dutchcreek.net

Saddleback Ranch

With cattle drives and horseback and wagon rides, you’ll be hard pressed to get everyone to sit down for a wedding or reception dinner at Saddleback Ranch, located 20 minutes from Steamboat. But try your best. Settled in 1928, the fourth-generation lodge offers views of aspens, rolling meadows and mountains, making it perfect for all things matrimony. Try a wagon ride to the ceremony site for guests, a carriage ride for the bride and groom afterward, and a roping-cocktail hour before the reception. For food, choose from such mainstays as New York strip, garlic salmon, grilled pork tenderloin or BBQ brisket.

More info: 970-879-3711, www.saddlebackranch.net

Home Ranch

You won’t suffer for lack of luxuries at the Home Ranch, the only Relais & Chateaux dude ranch in Colorado. Known for its beautiful setting, hospitality, gourmet food by executive chef Clyde Nelson and guided wilderness adventures, from horseback riding to fly-fishing, right at its doorstep, the ranch can accommodate up to 50 guests at a time, with wedding services available anytime between October and May. For lodging, stay in one of eight one- to three-bedroom cabins adorned with such names as Roo, Kanga, and Birdhouse, or six rooms in the main lodge. “Word’s definitely getting out about holding weddings here,” says event organizer Ashleigh Pirayesh.

More info: 970-879-1780, www.homeranch.com

Midnight Ranch

Located 33 miles north of Steamboat Springs in the mountains of North Routt County, 105-acre Midnight Ranch offers the perfect blend of rustic charm and modern amenities. Hosting eight weddings in 2011, the site can accommodate up to 32 overnight guests, with ample lodging nearby for more, and offers an outdoor ceremony and reception site that, with tents, can accommodate more than 200. “It’s not a cookie-cutter wedding venue like the Hilton,” says Steve Coolidge, who’s been running the operation with Tonja Coates for more than 20 years. “But people certainly love it.”

Parties provide their own catering and booze, and guests can throw nymphs into a 10-acre private trout lake after the nuptials.

More info: 970-870-3456, www.midnightranch.com

Elk River Guest Ranch

No need to worry how you’re going to work off the reception calories at Elk River Guest Ranch, located a half hour drive north of Steamboat Springs along the Elk River in Routt National Forest. You can horseback ride, hike, fly fish, raft, rock climb, mountain bike and more before and after the ceremony, all right out your back door. It’s also ripe with conventional amenities for your vows as well, from lodging to banquet-style meals that can be tailored to fit almost any budget.

More info: 800-750-6220, www.elkriverguestranch.com

Vista Verde

While Vista Verde only hosts weddings before and after its guest ranch season, it’s as good as a venue gets. Located 45 minutes north of Steamboat off Seedhouse Road, the all-inclusive ranch — which recently completed a major lodge addition and added a new indoor riding arena and swimming pool — can accommodate ceremonies and receptions of up to 100 people, with overnight accommodations for 40. Guests stay in lodge rooms or one of nine cabins named after local mountains, complete with handcrafted log furniture and artwork. “A lot of parties take over the entire facility, including lodging and meals from the rehearsal through the reception,” says event coordinator Stephanie Wilson, adding that sleigh-ride entrances add a special touch, as do meals prepared by executive chef Matt Campbell.

More info: 800-526-7433, www.vistaverde.com

Glen Eden Resort

Couples have been tying the knot at Glen Eden Resort 18 miles north of Steamboat Springs for more than 30 years — for good reason. The quaint resort can handle weddings of anywhere from 25 to 200 people, with three resort-owned tents providing a perfect pavilion along the banks of the Elk River. For lodging, it can accommodate up to 140 people in a variety of cabins, with partner restaurant Glen Eden Family Restaurant and Tavern having the first option for catering. “A lot of people get married here,” says the resort’s Toni Klohr, adding that it usually hosts about eight weddings per year from Memorial Day through the end of September. “It’s a beautiful spot for ceremonies and receptions.”

Guests can also enjoy a heated swimming pool, two outdoor hot tubs, tennis and volleyball courts, a campfire circle and barbecue area.

More info: 800-882-0854, www.glenedenresort.com

A few from the rustic side

Fish Creek Falls

With a bridal veil-like waterfall in the background, you can’t get a more scenic location for a wedding than the overlook at 283-foot Fish Creek Falls, voted Best of the Boat’s Best Local Attraction. The only hitch is getting everyone there. Located in Routt National Forest, the falls overlook can accommodate wedding parties of up to 50, but the only way there is to hike from the parking lot a quarter-mile away. While it’s not strenuous, for some guests the hike leaves them gasping for breath as much as the area’s beauty.

The only other possible hiccup concerns logistics. While the permit is free on a first-come, first-served basis, there’s a $5 per vehicle parking fee and the area can only be reserved September through May. And there’s no guarantee you’ll have it to yourself; the public is still allowed on the trail. Small tents are allowed, but they must be taken down (and all trash removed) immediately afterward.

More info: 970-879-1870

Columbine Cabins

For true Routt County rustic, head to the hills at Columbine Cabins, 29 miles north of Steamboat on County Road 129. Listed on the National Historic Register, the location can sleep up to 63 people in 14 cabins (and two more modern apartments) and boasts a commercial kitchen complete with an outdoor grill, as well as an upstairs rec room with pool table and lounge area. With place settings for 100 on an adjacent tent pad, the entire set-up is as au naturel as nuptials can get — down to guests lighting the wood-burning stoves in their cabins to a wood-fueled sauna to help sweat out champagne.

“We’re not fancy,” says Columbine manager Terri Reeves. “People who get married here typically have a fondness for the neighborhood. They know what they’re getting and love it.”

More info: 970-879-5522, www.columbinecabinresort.com

Steamboat Lake

While it’s usually only used for ceremonies, Steamboat Lake State Park 25 miles north of town on County Road 129 is as pristine a spot as any. The park sees about four weddings per year, most of which occur on Rainbow Ridge off County Road 62 by Fetcher Ranch, offering views of the lake and island. The only thing you need is a special use permit from Colorado State Parks. Bonus: you can rent houseboats at the marina for a sunset wedding cruise after the ceremony.

“Most people just do the ceremonies here,” says the park’s Ariel Rollett. “But it’s getting more and more popular because it’s such a beautiful setting.”

More info: 970-879-3922, www.parks.state.co.us/Parks/SteamboatLake

Fetcher Ranch

Want a real barn dance? Get hitched at the Fetcher Ranch, 30 miles north of town. In the Fetcher family since 1949, the working cattle ranch includes a quintessential 1930s barn on the Routt County Registry of Historical Places that lends itself perfectly to weddings, complete with white Christmas lights that glow as radiantly as the bride. Couples can also tie the knot in a meadow next to a seasonal creek, under a pine altar and a lucky horseshoe with clover and grass serving as your aisle, or on a peninsula jutting into Steamboat Lake, offering 360-degree views. You’ll even get to take home the horseshoe from the altar as a keepsake.

More info: 970-846-6252, www.fetcherranch.com

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