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Alpenglow – What is it? Where Can You See it? And Why it’ll Change Your Life…

The ‘Patron Saint of the American Wilderness’, John Muir, called it a manifestation of God Himself. It’s easy to see why. There’s an ephemeral beauty to Alpenglow. Fuschia-rose hues mingle in the setting sun, enveloping the quiet mountains of Colorado. The landscape of Steamboats Springs is always a thing of great majesty which, in this pink dusk, transcends into an otherworldly spectacle, not to be missed.

This sight is more than just a swipe of an angelic paintbrush, but one of nature’s most glorious coincidences that is only enhanced by scientific understanding. 

As the sun dips below the horizon and its rays illuminate the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, a striking contrast is created. The streaming light is reflected off the fallen snow, and ice crystals in the air, stark against the backdrop of shadowy valleys. This creates the golden haze that transported Muir, and thousands of other visitors, to Steamboat Springs.

The Best Time of Year to See an Alpenglow in Steamboat Springs

Two gondola cabins glide across a sunset sky, in front of a mountain at Steamboat Ski Resort

Thanks to the fantastic weather conditions, boasting Champagne Powder® Snow a-plenty, the second half of the winter season is the optimum time to experience an alpenglow in Steamboat Springs.

At the close of a dry February day, instead of rushing back to your vacation home before sunset, bring a flashlight with you to extend your mountainside adventure and make the most of nature’s light show.

Stunning Spots to See an Alpenglow in Steamboat Springs

Alpenglow on a mountain

Steamboat Springs is revolutionizing what it means to go on a skiing vacation. The area’s vibrant ski industry has opened up a plethora of exciting opportunities for visitors and locals to immerse themselves in nature, rather than just zooming up and down a snowy slope.

A trip to Steamboat Springs is more than just seeking out an adrenaline rush – it’s a golden opportunity to spend more time in nature. What better activity to start with, than marveling at the most incredible natural phenomena in the Rocky Mountains?

The Steamboat resort area is positively bursting with places to soak up the an alpenglow:

  • Blackmere Trail: Every Steamboat local’s favorite way to experience the breathtaking sunset beams is on a snowshoeing expedition up Blackmere Trail on Emerald Mountain. Set off a couple of hours before sunset, on a dry evening. As you reach the top, the sun will start disappearing behind you and that unmistakable illumination will begin to form.
  • Rabbit Ears Pass: A more challenging hike is available for those who love the thrill of traversing a tricky summit. With its expansive meadows and dense forests, the alpenglow light along Rabbit Ears Pass is softer than on other mountain peaks, surrounding explorers with radiant pastel shades.
  • Buffalo Pass: Snowmobiles aren’t allowed in this non-motorized area, making Buffalo Pass one of the most peaceful (yet difficult to traverse) trails on which to experience an alpenglow. Groves of trees topped with snow frame the velvety skies, with many photographers choosing this location to capture Steamboat’s beauty on film.

Alternative Ways to Experience an Alpenglow in Steamboat Springs

Wild West Balloon Adventures Steamboat Springs in the snow

If it’s a new kind of adventure all-together that you seek, there’s many other ways for the curious adventurer to enjoy Steamboat’s alpenglow spectacle.

  • Hot Air Balloon: Jump on board an incredible hot air balloon excursion with Wild West Balloon Adventures and take your alpenglow experience to glorious new heights. Floating over the Yampa Valley will give you a brand new perspective of this magical natural event. 
  • Snowcat: Hire a private tour with Steamboat PowderCats for a remarkable backcountry run in the most beautiful lighting conditions you’ll ever experience. For those who can’t get enough of those golden hues, the PowderCats team offers a remarkable alpenglow dinner experience. A 3-course meal in a private cabin, surrounded by glistening skies? Count us in!

What Gear You Need to Bring to See an Alpenglow

A view of two snowshoers boots standing in the snow

However you choose to experience the Alpenglow, it’s crucial that you pack everything you need to make the most of it.

  • Warm Ski Clothing and Footwear: If you’re taking on one of the mountain trails at sunset, wrap-up warm and be prepared for the snowy conditions.
  • Sunscreen and Sunglasses: At high altitudes, the sunrays beating down on you can be particularly intense. Be sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses to keep you comfortable and safe.
  • Flashlight: As the alpenglow gives way to the early night, it inevitably gets very dark. That’s why we recommend you pack a reliable flashlight to guide your way.
  • Camera: It’s also always a great idea to pack a different kind of flash: the best camera you own. Whilst we’re big advocates for using your mountain get-away to live in the moment and break free from the hustle and bustle, when it comes to an alpenglow, it would be rude not to take a snap.

How to Take a Photograph of an Alpenglow

A photographer in 
Colorado against a sunset

If you’re an aspiring shutterbug, there are a few steps you can take to perfect your shots and impress your pals. The alpenglow is only at its most vivid for a short period, so if you’re looking for the prestige pic, you must be ready to click at just the right moment.

  • Make sure the landscape you are focusing on is facing towards the sunset and that you are facing away from it – this technique will avoid disappointing dingy silhouettes and give you the best shot of the strawberry-colored sky. 
  • If you’re a real photography pro, packing a both wide-angled and telephoto lens will allow you to adapt to what’s around you, and capture the whole experience.
  • Perhaps a phone camera is all you remembered to pack – have no fear. A good quality smartphone camera is more than suitable for capturing a glowy mountain moment. Turn your phone horizontal to capture a landscape photograph, and stay away from that zoom button! With the tap of a button you’ll capture all the colorful hues, tiny details, and intriguing textures of the snow-capped mountains.

Making Your Alpenglow Dreams Come True

Whether you’re seeking alpenglows, sparkling rivers, indulgent hot springs, or encounters with unusual animals, Steamboat Springs is set to become your favorite winter retreat. Here at The Astrid, we’re passionate about helping adventurers like you create unforgettable memories in this exquisite natural paradise.

Our unique home-away-from-home living experience enables vacationers to immerse themselves in nature, whilst enjoying the most luxurious amenities available this side of the Rocky Mountains. We invite you to discover more of what our opulent mountainside oasis has to offer you, by becoming part of The Astrid community.

To join our community, simply provide us with your name and email address. By doing so, you’ll be invited to join our exclusive mailing list. As part of this list you’ll gain access to insider information, behind-the-scenes content, and a highly personalized email experience reserved only for members of The Astrid community.

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