Coasting through Colorado

Even before the legalization of marijuana in the state early this year, Colorado had always been a favorite with travelers, especially those into adventure and winter sports. You can visit Colorado all round the year – there’s skiing in winter, sightseeing in spring, hiking and rafting in summer and the lovely colors in fall. Even the Northern Lights make a surprise appearance here at times! From biking in the mountains to viewing the vibrant fall colors from a hot air balloon, Colorado offers many opportunities for you and your family to take in the scenery.

The main cities here are Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs. The capital “Mile-High City” of Denver has 300 days of sunshine a year, perfect for adventure sports such as Ziplining or through the Front Range, mountain biking, river rafting and hiking. In the heart of the city, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is home to the region’s largest resident, professional theater company. You can catch top performances such as Chicago, Million Dollar Quartet and Shadowlands here.

Boulder has numerous hiking trails overlooking the city. Step back 300 million years in time as you marvel at the stunning Flatirons, which can be hiked from the Chautauqua Park. The Eldorado canyon is another great place to hike. The Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, one of only three remaining Chautauqua performance sites in the United States, sees an annual footfall of 1 million visitors. The distinctive auditorium features educational and cultural programmes in the commemoration of the historic Chautauqua movement.

Colorado Springs and its neighborhood have a lot to offer – the breathtaking landscape along the Rockies glows in all shades of gold during fall from mid-September to mid-October. The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is a popular local venue with world-class acts. For kids, there is the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop, with Santa, a petting zoo, amusement rides, magic shows, and other fun things for the entire family. There is also the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo which is the only mountain zoo in the country, with a tram and a miniature train. At Garden of the Gods, you can find art exhibits on the culture and history of the area. The Cave of the Winds is worth a tour, with a dramatic laser show in the evening as well. There is of course Royal Gorge with awe inspiring views, which is a little more than an hour’s drive away. You can walk or drive across the bridge, take a tram down to the river, and even tour the area by rail.

Manitou Springs is well-known for its effervescent mineral drinking springs. An excellent place to go for shopping,  there are several specialty shops and boutiques around. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are worth a visit in summer to watch a live Pueblo Indian dance performance. For some family fun, head to Buckskin Joe Frontier Town and Railway.  You can ride a train and view the magnificent landscapes. Or you can try some Pikes Peak chocolate. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Manitou Springs, the highest railroad in the country, transfers passengers to the 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak. The Pikes Peak Highway with deer, chipmunks, marmots and elk is a lovely route to drive.

For a viewing of fall foliage, climb aboard the Fall Photo Special tour offered by Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in southwest Colorado.

If you want to escape into the heart of nature, then a road trip to the Alpine Loop Back Country Byway is the way to go. Situated in Colorado’s southwest, this picturesque destination will quickly captivate you with a breathtaking landscape of snow-capped mountains, serene lakes and meadows dotted with wild flowers. With untouched landscapes and an elevation of more than 12000 feet, The Loop is a relaxing getaway, but also has activities from hiking and biking, to camping in the outdoors. The Engineer Pass, surrounded by Mt. Sneffels, Uncompahgre Peak, and the wiped out Lake City offers stunning views. A hike to Whitmore Falls can be refreshing as well.

Another good Colorado road trip is the scenic 22 mile Guanella Pass, starting at Georgetown, an absolutely quaint and charming historical place with well-preserved old buildings, many of which have been converted to museums. For kids, there are carriage rides through the town to keep them entertained. The nearby Idaho Springs is yet another scenic location to coast through. And you simply can’t miss the famous Coney Island Hot Dog Stand in Bailey!

Hiking and Adventure

For more outdoor fun, hike 350 miles of trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Majestic mountains, lakes, forests and wildlife will keep you spellbound in their midst for more a week. In Grand County, you can bike around under brilliant yellow aspens and through exuberant river valleys offering more than 600 miles of mapped trails.

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Echo Canyon is one of the safer places to go rafting. If you really want your adrenaline pumping, head to the Royal Gorge for rougher waters.

If you enjoy waterfalls then Seven Falls should be on your itinerary.  You can climb quite high to see the falls, or take the mountain elevator if that is more to your tastes.  You may even be able to feed peanuts to the chipmunks which is a lot of fun for old and young alike.  Make sure you allow yourself enough time to really enjoy the area and you may want to consider staying there through sunset and enjoying all the colorful lights.  The falls are gorgeous will the lights in the evening.

Indulge in summer activities such as swimming, hiking, and fishing at one of the many dude ranches in Colorado. You can ride horses over mountain trails, alongside rivers, or through open meadows, go river-rafting, mountain biking, and hunting. On working ranches, guests can help with the cattle alongside the cowboys and cowgirls at work. During winter, visitors can take up sledding, sleigh rides, ice-skating, snowmobiling and cross-county skiing.

Winter Breaks in Colorado

Colorado is one of America’s top skiing destinations, with millions of active skiers visiting each year. The mountains with picture perfect powder snow are what make this beautiful American state a top ski destination.

While traveling to the various ski resorts to enjoy winter sports you need to be mindful of the road conditions that can be dangerous due to the ice and snow in the mountains. In case you are driving, keep tire chains with you, and carry food and blankets in case you get held up on the way.

If you want adventure, scenic beauty and history all at one place, then Aspen is the place that you are looking for. One of the world’s largest and most famous ski resorts nestled in the higher ranges of Rockies, Aspen is 200 miles southwest of Denver and 130 miles northeast of Grand Junction, with snow capped mountains, ski resorts, forests, festivals, Victorian architecture, music, arts and a historical background. This exclusive wonderland is a perfect getaway for beginner to serious skiers, celebrities, memorable family vacations, and those who just want to relax.  In summers, the natural beauty will refresh and rejuvenate you. For the adventurous, there’s hiking, mountain biking, and rafting. The town is open for entertainment throughout the year – cafes, tony shops, unique restaurants, cultural activities, spas and exciting nightlife abound. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the 2,050-seat Benedict Music Tent at the internationally renowned Aspen Music School combines Colorado beauty with more than 200 premier performances throughout the summer.

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Aspen has several good resorts. Buttermilk, aimed at snowboarders and beginners, has 42 trails and is one of the longest terrain parks in the world. If you’re an intermediate to advanced skier, Ajax Mountain would be a good bet. Snowmass, about 15 miles from Aspen, is the largest skiing resort in the area with a wide range of terrain to suit all levels. It is paradise for snowboarders with separate parks. There are also locations for speed skiing and for various types of racing events.  The Aspen Highlands are a favorite with locals and usually the least crowded of the slopes.

If the beautiful Summit County is where you prefer to go, be sure to visit the most historic gold mining town in Colorado – Breckenridge. With top notch skiing and snowboarding facilities, the four peaks which surround the town are huge but can actually be mastered. Breckenridge gets lots of snow averaging over 200-inches per year. After the discovery of gold in 1859 along the blue river, it started out as a mining town , with more than 350 buildings here belonging to the historical gold mine era. The Gold Pan bar in Breckenridge, one of the oldest bars in the state used to be a miners bar from the 1800s. When you walk through the door, you will realize its historical significance. In 1860, Breckenridge established the first post office, and in 1882,  was connected with a railroad, which has now been removed but you can still hike up the trail to the town’s prosperity. During the summer, locals run Gold Mine Tours which are a lot of fun.

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Copper Mountain to the west of Denver is considered to be the one of the best because of the variety of ski slopes it offers for beginners and advanced skiers. With 126 trails across 3 peaks, it is another Summit County attraction for winter sports enthusiasts.

For the professional skiers and snowboarders, the best place in Colorado to go is Winter Park with over 260 kilometers of groomed trails. With its close proximity to Denver, its ski train, and small town charm, it is a skier’s favorite. They offer 143 slopes and about 65% of them are for specialists. Cross country skiing is also popular in Winter Park . In order to achieve a more rounded winter vacation experience, the valley has evolved to offer a host of outdoor winter activities, such as snowboarding and snowmobiling. Since 1988, its ski slopes have provided perfect seating each July for the annual KBCO World Class RockFest. The Fraser Valley offers a wide variety of choices for skating, classic or venturing off the track. Sleigh rides are a romantic way to enjoy a starlit evening in Fraser Valley. For the animal lover, Dog Sled Rides offer a thrilling journey through Winter Park’s beautiful country.  Snow tubing is an exhilarating ride down the slopes and is a wonderful activity for both kids and adults alike.

Located about half an hour away from Winter Park, the hot mineral pools and baths once used by the Ute Indians for their healing powers are located where you can go in for a spa. For those who prefer to remain indoors, Winter Park offers charming shops and fine dining restaurants.

Telluride in Colorado offers only 84 slopes, but is a pretty place with fewer crowds and a favorite with snowboarders. With its highly acclaimed blend of mountain and creative splendor, the Telluride Town Park hosts the annual Telluride Jazz Festival.

Many skiers travel to Steamboat Springs to because it is easier to access, with a major airport only minutes away so you can avoid the traffic and the difficult road conditions. They do offer a total of 164 slopes, mostly for intermediates, with a lot to keep you entertained for several days. Enjoy mountain vistas and musical vibes at the Music Festival Park in Steamboat Springs, which hosts the annual Strings in the Mountains orchestral ensemble. The park also hosts 10 free concerts each summer.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to Colorado for a fun and enriching experience.

Best Ski Resorts

Millions of vacationers across the world take a ski holiday every year. While Michael Schumacher’s unfortunate accident is a grim reminder of the dangers of off-piste skiing, this is the right time to look for the most frequented, reliable slopes to enjoy the winter sport safely.

For many people Val D’Isere remains the first choice. This area in the French Alps has become so sought after by foreign visitors that you’ll be hard pressed to find a pub or shop where the locals don’t speak English. The ski area is excellent, as are the facilities away from the slopes. Of course, it gets crowded, so if you’re looking for a quiet week away then Val D’Isere may not be right for you. Other popular ski resorts in France include Chamonix and Courchevel.

Krasnaya Polyana, a hugely popular Russian winter ski destination on the Caucasus Mountains, will be the hub of all Mountain Cluster games in the Sochi Winter Olympics this year.

Many holiday-makers tend to be put off Switzerland and Austria because of exorbitant prices. Whilst it’s undeniable that both countries have some very expensive resorts, if you shop around you can still find some bargains in terms of both getting to your chosen destination and making the most of your stay there. St Anton in Austria is less well-known but also has a wonderful ski area. This provides a great platform for both skiing and snowboarding. Scenic Kitzbühel is everything an alpine resort should be: a charming village with a medieval center, a world-famous après-ski mecca, and a ski run regularly used on the World Cup circuit. Kitzbühel offers over 145 km of trails, most parts for beginners and intermediates. There are four main mountains: the Hahnenkamm, theKitzbüheler Horn, the Bichlalm, and Pass Thurn. Kitzbühel is also home to the popular Ski Safari circuit, marked by elephant symbols. The circuit allows skiers to explore the entire area between Hahnenkamm and Pass Thurn. Whether you go to Kitzbühel to ski the Hahnenkamm or to party all night (or both), Kitzbühel doesn’t disappoint.

Set in the centre of Europe, Switzerland is of course highly accessible for Europeans, but has also been very popular with tourists from all over the world. The Zermatt resort in Switzerland is amajor contender for the title of the best ski resort in Europe, with fine Alpine scenery. There are 29 mountains surrounding Zermatt that rise over 4,000 meters (13,200 feet), of which Matterhorn is the most renowned. The Matterhorn Ski Paradise covers three ski areas: the Sunnegga-Rothorn, the Gornergrat, and the Klein Matterhorn. There are 250 km of trails, of which 70 km is for advanced skiers and the rest for beginners and intermediates. The intermediates have the advantage in Zermatt with miles of scenic runs but there are special heli-skiing trips for advanced skiers. Zermatt runs a highly efficient transport facility with high-speed cableways, mountain railways, and ski lifts. This system also provides access to Cervinia, Italy, where visitors can ski down the slopes and enjoy a tasty Italian meal.

For skiing and hiking in Northern Europe, the Sudeten Mountain Range which winds through part of southern Poland and includes popular escapes in the Tetra Mountains, and the lakeside resort of Voss in Norway offer plenty of snow.

Aspen Colorado is one of the world’s largest and most famous ski resorts. Cuddled in the higher ranges of Rocky Mountains, it is 200 miles southwest of Denver and 130 miles northeast of Grand Junction, In Aspen you will find all that you are looking for in a winter vacation – snow capped mountains, ski resorts, forests, festivals, Victorian architecture, music, arts and a historical background. Vail in Colorado is touted as America’s favorite winter resort, and offers a great variety of entertainment choices as well. While Jackson Hole is another popular North American resort, the recent avalanche-related death there is a point of concern. Whistler, with the highest vertical drop in North America and the Piccolo lift draws several advanced ski enthusiasts.

Choosing a good winter base can make your ski vacation truly awesome. You can rent a ‘ski-in, ski-out’ log cabin or a chalet, or a traditional resort, which can offer perks such as free lifts and discounted ski lessons. Do check for space for skis, parkas, snowboards and other equipment which you might be carrying.

Have a great ski vacation, and stay safe!