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Adventures In Steamboat Via Ski Town Usa

So you need a breather in Ski Town USA. Not to worry; there's plenty of interesting things to do when taking a break from the resort's champagne powder. Here are my top picks.

1. Strawberry Park Hotsprings

Finish your day atop Mount Werner and head straight to the soothing waters of the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, located seven miles out of town. Six pools, as well as cascading waterfalls to massage sore shoulders, are encased by rustic stonework for the utmost in aprГЁs relaxation. Get too hot and plunge into an adjacent creek for an automatic cool-down. Don't expect a pampered spa. The changing room is a teepee, and clothing is optional after dark. Hint: stay the night by renting one of six rustic cabins (they include gas lamps and heat, but no electricity, kitchen or bedding). Stay on a weeknight and have the pools to yourself after day-trippers get kicked out at 10:30 p.m. (and before they arrive at 10 a.m.). The cabins sleep four and cost $60 and up per night (including the $10 admission).

2. Dogsled with Grizzle-T

Take a break from the slopes and mush on over to Grizzle T to spend a day with Alaskan Husky sled dogs, letting a team of 10 pull you along a 12.5-mile trail through the Steamboat backcountry amidst views of the Flattops and Mount Zirkel Wilderness areas. Located five miles out of town, Grizzle T teaches you everything you need to know about running your own team “ especially where the brake bar is located -- and then turns you loose on terrain similar to that in Alaska (hint: "Gee" means right, and "Ha" means left). Choose from half-day excursions where you drive your own sled (adults $150, children $110), or take a guided tour along a seven-mile trail south of town ($300 per sled, maximum capacity 300 lbs.).

3. Hot Air Balloon Rides

See Steamboat's slopes from a new perspective with an early morning ride high over the Yampa Valley in a hot air balloon. Wild West offers rides every day, weather permitting, throughout the ski season, compliments of 30-year pilot Ian Cox and a six-person chase crew that follows you on the ground to meet you when you touch down. Take in views from the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area to the north and Continental Divide to the east to the powder stashes and mogul runs you skied the day before. And don't worry about the 8 a.m. cold; it's warmer in the balloon than on the ground. The cost is $200 per adult, $125 for kids age 6-12, and $185 for seniors, which includes a continental breakfast, champagne and flight certificate. If you're lucky, your pilot might even offer a splash-n'-dash into the Yampa River.

4. Steamboat Powdercats

Leave the lifts and lines behind with Steamboat Powdercats atop Buff Pass, 20 minutes outside of town. Three Bombardier snowcats operate within a 10,000-acre permit area which receives 500 inches of snow a year, the most in the state. Its terrain is suitable for all ability levels, from mellow aspen glades (try a run called Fatties) to steeper chutes and bowls, including newly opened expert terrain atop Soda Mountain (test your mettle on Bitch Creek, The Funnel of The Flume). Guests are separated by ability level, ensuring you're matched with compatible skiers or riders all day. All-inclusive day tours run $400, or $4,000 for a private cat (12 guests max, with three guides); it includes powder skis/snowboards rental, avalanche equipment (beacon, shovel, probe), lodging pick-up and drop-off, light breakfast, full lunch, snacks, aprГЁs ski party and complimentary image disk of you neck-deep in powder afterward.