Also, if its pressure treated (pt) wood you may not be able to stain it for 6 months (or does that only apply to painting pt wood? I forget). Anyway, the Helmsman's Spar Varnish by Minwax is supposed to be waterproof for outdoor applications such as boats. I would recommend a satin finish because it hides the dirt the best and still looks good.
You could experiment with a spare board using this product. JJ is right about traction however. May experiment with adding small amount of white sand and stirring. Experiment on a spare boaed and see what you get? May be a solution for stairs anyway. OR ask around what can be added for traction. Also, try looking at deck sites.