home of the Pure Awesomeness Factor Better Data, Better Skiing

Steamboat December Skiing

Steamboat in December: Overview


  • In Colorado, Steamboat is second only to Wolf Creek when it comes to stacking up early snow. Quite simply, Steamboat's record is outstanding when it comes to getting terrain open early. It's one of the best bets there is when it comes to planning holiday ski trips.
  • Steamboat averages 69% open by mid-December and a sterling 93% open at Christmas.
  • Only 5% of holidays pass with Steamboat being less than 50% open.
  • For Colorado, Steamboat's elevation is low. This fact barely matters in December, however, which is the darkest month of the year.
  • Steamboat has wide swaths of condo lodging on and around the mountain, and there are hundreds of well-priced options for families.


  • Steamboat's dazzling record at the holidays is less of a secret than it used to be (we may be partially to blame here), so there will be plenty of people on the slopes. That said, there's usually lots of open snow for those who get away from the gondola and lower slopes.
  • Flights into Steamboat's airport in Hayden are expensive during the holidays and the drive from Denver can take three to four hours in good weather.
  • Skiing without an Ikon Pass gets spendy at Steamboat, with daily rates topping $250 a day during the holidays.

Steamboat is an excellent candidate for those seeking good snow conditions during the holidays. It's one of our go-tos for this time of year. Steamboat has large quantities of condo lodging near the mountain that can be rented at VRBO or Airbnb at very reasonable rates when compared with other Colorado ski resorts. Skiing with a full Ikon Pass during December is always a good move, as the price of lift tickets tops $250 once the holiday period starts.

Steamboat snow in December

Data show December is the fifth best month Steamboat for overall snow quality when considering the following factors:

  • Snow quantity at Steamboat
  • Snow quality at Steamboat
  • How much snow is required for proper terrain coverage at Steamboat—steeper resorts require more snow to get 100% open.
  • Steamboat's snow frequency (standard deviation)
  • Steamboat's elevation
  • Steamboat's latitude
  • Steamboat's slope aspects - more north-facing slopes protect snow later into winter

Steamboat's strength is the regularity with which snow falls. And its best season for preserving snow is early in the year, when its low elevation and overwhelming western aspect have little effect on the snowpack. Steamboat can grab moisture from systems that just graze the rest of Colorado, as it sits farther north in the state. Storms that hammer Utah often regain strength over the high desert of western Colorado and deposit another foot or two at Steamboat. In December and early January, Steamboat skiers don't have to worry about finding north-facing terrain for chalky snow—it will all be good.

Steamboat snow score by month, December in focus

What matters when it comes to snow for December skiing:

Finding good snow early in the season is often a game of chance. But there are mountains and regions that historically perform better than others. We take these factors into account when grading out our scores for resorts and the given season. That said, it's almost always a better bet, in terms of snow and open terrain, to ski in January or Feburary compared with December.

But skiing during the December holidays is a great tradition and it's also one of the only times many families can get away for extended periods.

Those skiing December should look for ski resorts with high average annual snowfalls and low standard deviations. In addition, steep and rocky ski resorts need more snow to get terrain open compared with ski resorts with more modest terrain.

This is also the time of year when slope aspects—north, east, south, west—matter the least. The sun is at it lowest angles in North America in December and has less effect on the snowpack at this time of year than at any other. So ski resorts that possess lots of south-facing and east-facing terrain will generally ski better—assuming there is enough snow—during these darkest times of winter rather than the spring. More explanation on this topic can be found on our snow rankings page.

Steamboat skiing by month:
By Month