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Steamboat Springs

It's easy to lose photographic motivation in the winter.

Cold, windy days. Short days. Long nights. It's a time of year that can be brutal for the outdoor photographer. The motivation to get out and explore can often go missing for weeks or months at a time.

Winter can also be beautiful though. Snow. Ice. Mountains. The warm colors of a dying winter sunset. These are some of nature's most beautiful creations. What better place to find all of these and more than the Rocky Mountains?

Earlier this winter, I had the opportunity to visit Steamboat, Colorado for the first time. The trip is one of Lauren's annual traditions, and after spending a week there, I can completely understand why. I made to pack my trusty O-MD E-M1 Mk II, a couple lenses, and promised myself, this would be a perfect opportunity to find some inspiration.

Steamboat Springs is one America's great ski towns. It has proudly produced more Olympians than any other town in North America (98 and counting), and the resort has gone as far as to trademark the Champagne Powder snow (6 percent water compared to the more typical 15 percent) that often falls on its mountain. The resort boasts 18 ski lifts, 169 trails, and spreads over 2,965 acres.

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Outside of the mountain, the town also boasts quite a bit to do. There is ample opportunity for cross-country skiing in the winter, more than a few delicious restaurants and bars, and an abundance of hot springs. In fact, the town's name of Steamboat Springs is a callback to the "steamboat-like sound" that early trappers heard coming from the hot springs back in the beginning of the 19th century.

Our week in Steamboat featured a little bit of everything, including the launch of an attempted world record firework (alas, it was unsuccessful). A camera was never far from my grasp.

We spent parts of three days on the slopes (Lauren on her snowboard, myself on a pair of rented skis) enjoying the views, the powder, and the cold mountain air. I enjoyed my leisurely descents down the mountain's less challenging routes, but I really looked forward to our daily lunch at Tbar, a local spot just off the trails. Their Pork Belly BLT was an especially good choice.

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We also spent some time on flat(ter) ground, as one morning, we strapped on Nordic boots, and tried our hand at Cross-country skiing (it was my first time). We mostly had a blast, despite the final quarter of our route featuring heavy legs and a few falls (I am certainly thankful for the industry-leading weatherproofing on Olympus's O-MD series).

Even when we weren't skiing, we certainly weren't bored. Our visit coincided with Steamboat's annual Winter Carnival, which culminated in an evening combination ski & fireworks show featuring the "lighted man" (a prom king of sorts, who skis down the mountain covered in LED lights, with fireworks shooting out of a backpack), ski jumpers, local ski club kids, and the aforementioned record attempt (An attempt was made to launch and detonate the world's largest firework. It unfortunately was a dud; fortunately, no one was injured). We also spent more than one day traipsing around the town of Steamboat Springs, checking out the shops, having a vacation beverage or two, and generally just enjoying our time in the mountains. Outside of town, we made sure to spend an afternoon of R&R at Strawberry Park, a local hot spring that offered a hidden oasis for us to rest our tired muscles.

I don't think we ate a subpar meal the entire week. Some of the highlights included the french onion soup (and everything else) at Harwigs, the sauces and perfectly cooked meat at Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill, and tinga (and margaritas) at Salt & Lime. It would be a crime not to mention the decadent breakfasts at the Paramount and Creekside Cafe, where it was made clear that sausage gravy is the perfect sauce for chicken and waffles. I'd also highly recommend any of the brews at Storm Peak Brewing Company.

By the time we boarded our flight back to DC, I had a fully belly, sore legs, and a camera full of images that I'm proud of. Almost since the first time we met, Lauren described Steamboat as one of her "happy places," and I can now see why. It's a wonderful town in a picturesque location, and I look forward to my next visit.