Steamboat Springs is a great community, and great communities are built around neighborhoods, and ultimately, the locals that live in them. Downtown Steamboat Springs is the epicenter of life in Steamboat and is, by design, a traditional neighborhood with a main street commercial corridor, alive with local businesses and activity; homes of all sizes and architectectural styles, many of them classic Colorado bungalows with small lots, alleys, front porches, and farmhouse elements; and community gathering places, like the library, the hot springs pool, City Hall, and local churches. The Yampa River and Howelsen Hill complete downtown as an authentic, and totally unique place.


Steamboat was built upon the ideas and perserverence of trailblazers like James Crawford (founder and first Mayor) and Carl Howelson (Norweigen ski jumping pioneer). The ski area, founded in 1960, solidified Steamboat’s tourism economy. Today, while still grounded in its ranching and recreation roots, the economy is evolving into one that includes start-ups, location-neutral jobs, and generally, a workforce that is more steady and year-round than a typical resort town that ebbs and flows with seasons, weather, and trends.

Steamboat is growing. The Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) estimates that Routt County’s population will double in the next 30 years. The community is at an inflection point in its history where it can decide how Steamboat Springs should grow. We have seen this in many of Colorado’s finest mountain communities — uncontrolled sprawl and locals being pushed farther and farther out of the communities that they support. Is this the future? Or, does Steamboat embrace locals with the land that is left, to ensure that it preserves the character, heritage and surrounding landscape that make it so special to begin with?



The development pattern of Steamboat Springs closely follows its natural features, topography and setting. The Yampa River is the backbone, running through Downtown and the oldest parts of the city; Emerald Mountain, Howelsen Hill, and Mount Werner form the majestic backdrops of the city while also creating natural barriers to growth; and ranch and protected open lands on the south and west side of the city reinforce the pastoral setting so special to Steamboat. From a birds-eye view, there are several primay areas of density within Steamboat Springs, including: Downtown Steamboat Springs, the Mountain Village area, and the West Steamboat area. Downtown is the heart & soul, with historic homes that set the architectural tone of development, vibrant local businesses and restaurants, and of course the Yampa River flowing right through.



The overall goal is to build three traditional neighborhoods in West Steamboat, each with a sense of community and place. Then each neighborhood’s unique character will be defined by six compelling objectives: Provide Steamboat Affordable Home Ownership Opportunities Affordable housing maintains community diversity and vitality. It gives people a chance to live in the community where they work, to serve on boards, to volunteer in their kid’s classes, and to take full measure in “reinventing where they live and work”. Providing affordable housing near existing city centers enhances the entire community’s quality of life by eliminating commuting and reducing traffic congestion, noise, and pollution. It also enhances the quality of life of each neighborhood resident. Time spent in the car can be redirected. A two car family might be able to get by with one. Providing affordable housing is only half the puzzle. Create a Sense of Community within each Neighborhood Opportunities for neighborly interaction and public life are encouraged through ensuring the well being of the residents and the vitality of the neighborhood. This sense of community is fostered by a variety of design responses, such as front porches and community greens. Although many of these may seem small in themselves, over time and together they will produce significant results.

A sensitive local road and path network will help encourage walking and promote a sense of community among residents. An extensive and pleasant path system will benefit all residents, particularly children.

Many new developments are so homogeneous that they are unable to provide the variety and choice that leads naturally to a lively and spirited neighborhood. A variety of residents in terms of income, family size, and household composition require different building types and home sizes. This variety will lead to streetscapes that are charming and alive, as well as promote a more enduring and diverse sense of community.

Our best traditional neighborhoods often contain houses that present a pleasant and sociable face to the street. The houses address the street in ways that encourage residents to stop and spend time with their neighbors. The homes work together to create unified streetscapes, often by sensitively repeating certain design elements.

Over the past fifty years, the average American’s expectations in regard to housing have increased dramatically and in general we have done a pretty good job of fulfilling them. However, in doing so we have ignored the importance of the spaces in between. We have forgotten how to create well-defined and engaging public outdoor rooms, whether they be streets, alleys, parks, or public squares. We can do better. In addition, the site presents a significant opportunity to shape and define Steamboat’s western gateway.

Many local governments and concerned citizens have become increasingly committed to creating policies that promote sustainability on many levels. How we use the land and how we design new developments is crucial to fulfilling this goal. Providing new housing for year-round residents who work within the community makes good sense. West Steamboat Neighborhoods’ density is a good start towards ensuring sustainability. Other ideas and devices should be explored and considered.

Steamboat Springs has a rich Native American and ranching heritage that can provide an inspiration for contemporary design and planning solutions. The architecture can play an important role in revealing history and character

High altitude design constraints necessitate specific practical responses consistent with long winters, cold temperatures and large amounts of snow. However, since there are other seasons besides winter, responding to these concerns should be tempered and balanced by other design objectives whose goals are to create a desirable human scale and promote a sense of community and place. A good neighborhood should find the balancing point that addresses community design concerns and employs design solutions that are sensitive to the alpine environment.




The Steamboat Look is a modern take on tried-and-true forms, with simple lines, rustic materials, ample light and outdoor space, and nods to Steamboat’s ranching and Alpine recreation heritage. The modern farmhouse received the highest applause from Focus Group participants, who liked its contrasting colors and materials, its efficient design and indoor/outdoor space, and its elegant simplicity. Front porches and a variety of roof forms and home types were also popular elements that people would like to see in WSN. Inspiration can be found throughout Steamboat, from the historic schoolhouse, the iconic barn, and Howelsen Hill; as well as in new designs in mountain neighborhoods. Here are some key design and architecture points we’ve gathered from the Steamboat community as to a WSN Dream Home wish list:

Technology is a given in every home (Sonos, Nest).

Sustainability features must be balanced with affordability (e.g. passive solar fantastic, but adding solar panels might add too much cost)

Garages and storage are extremely important, geared towards active lifestyles and mountain families.

Having flexible space and adaptable floorplans for families and visitors very important.

Ensure that homes are suitable for location-neutral jobs (office / flex space; high speed internet).

Light and outdoor living space; bring the outdoors in.

Wide ranging opinions on architecture and what defines the Steamboat Look; most agreed that Steamboat is not “cookie cutter”, is diverse and eclectic with a variety of forms and natural materials, with rustic elements or historic touches

Porches (front and back) and outdoor space, including private back yards and shared greens, were widely supported.

Mountain modern was most well-liked as a look to consider for WSN, with simple lines, rustic materials, ample windows and outdoor spaces.

Looking to the future, the most popular homes were modern takes on tried-and-true forms, such as a modern farmhouse that consistently got the highest applause.