Colorado Rockies/ski areas
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- The Rockies harbor the headwaters of the Arkansas, Colorado, Platte and Rio Grande rivers.
- Fifty-four of Colorado’s mountain peaks surpass 14,000 feet; they are the Fourteeners.
- Royal Gorge Bridge, 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River, is America’s highest suspension bridge.
- Thanks to the Rockies, Colorado has the highest average altitude (6,800 feet) of any U.S. state in the lower 48.
- Crested Butte is known as the birthplace of mountain biking.
Rocky Mountain high times
Colorado’s Rocky Mountains cut a wide swath across the state from north to south, and, as the tallest range in the lower 48, they form the Continental Divide. These mountains embody an attractive combination of thousands of square miles of natural beauty and a collection of 26 ski resorts that offer, besides skiing, just about any lifestyle and winter — or summer — activities a tourist may require.
Visitors also favor these Rockies and ski facilities for the relatively dry climate, high percentage of sunny days and long ski season.
The same mountainous terrain and climate conditions draw visitors who want a pretty place and pleasant weather for other pursuits: biking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain climbing, photography, whitewater rafting, wildlife viewing and more.
However, not all visitors come for an adrenaline rush. The Rockies and the resorts are obliging. Travelers need only drive a scenic route to enjoy the mountains, perhaps stopping along the way to take photos or for short hikes in the fresh air.
The resort towns themselves have a life —and a history — apart from skiing. Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Durango and Silverton have historic downtowns, which bespeak their pasts and charm 21st century visitors. Numerous museums tell more of the area’s story. And one is the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail.
Resorts and other mountain towns stage a wide range of festivals throughout the year, but particularly when snows aren’t blowing. Naturally, Breckenridge’s International Snow Sculpture Championships are in winter, but the resorts host balloon, beer, comedy, dance, jazz, wine and other fests.
Especially in the upscale resorts, visitors choose from a range of premium hotels or condos, eat at restaurants known for fine dining and are pampered in the spas.
It is of particular interest to active vacationers that Colorado’s ski resorts seek to protect their environment — also their asset — with award-winning conservation programs.
For all that the state is a great destination, Colorado can get too much of a good thing, meaning the snow — so much that airports and access roads to ski areas are closed. Most travelers with winter sports in mind accept that as a part of the package.
Things to do for Venturers
- Try snow biking — that’s right, snow biking — at the Durango Mountain Resort. You travel on a bicycle equipped with skis rather than wheels. A certification course is required before you can try this.
- Participate in the annual Christmas torchlight parade at Snowmass. Skiers, carrying torches, create a trail of light down the mountain.
- Seek out mogul runs. Telluride promises some fine ski bumping. But for the best bumpy ride, go to Winter Park, said to be North America’s No. 1 destination for moguls.
- Try hut touring (rugged, backcountry skiing that concludes each day in one of the huts maintained by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association).
- Hike the entire Colorado Trail through the Rockies. It extends nearly 500 miles between Denver and Durango and takes at least 21 days to cover.
Alternatively, spend a week with a volunteer crew assembled by the Colorado Trail Foundation to make improvements to the trail. These volunteer roles require good stamina and some backcountry camping experience.
- Also when the snow (mostly) gone, consider these options: mountain biking in Crested Butte (and see the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame there); whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon, or taking mountaineering course. However, if you are very experienced, climb one of Colorado’s Fourteeners.
Things to do for Centrics
- Be awed by the scenes as you travel forested trails on a dogsled at Breckenridge, Vail or Winter Park.
- In the warmer months, ride horseback on Beaver Creek Mountain.
- Attend the Bluegrass Festival at Telluride in June. Or if you cannot make that, try for the resort’s Jazz Festival in August or Blues and Brews music event in September.
- Colorado is noted for its craft breweries. Sample the products of the breweries in two ski resorts: Aspen and Breckenridge. In fact, for more choices in one place, there are four craft breweries in Durango. Or, attend the Breckenridge Beer Festival.
- Get a look at the Rockies from a hot-air balloon.
- For a break from skiing, resorts offer a range of other winter activities, such as ice skating and sledding. Also, snowmobiling.
Things to do for Authentics
- See a cooking demonstration and taste wines at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic in June.
- Join a women-only ski class at Copper Mountain. The lessons, with female instructors, are offered most Wednesdays in season.
- Play golf in the mountains against the backdrop of stunning scenery.
- Many resorts boast fine dining restaurants. Take advantage of them. Some of the spas are to die for, too.
- It seems like a fitting thing to do. See the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail.
- Go cross-country skiing at Frisco or any of several other resort areas.
For more information, consult Colorado Tourism at www.colorado.com/winter-activities