Open Road

7 Ways To Experience Colorado This Winter

How to enjoy Colorado – without the skis.

By Kelsy Armstrong December 24, 2021 Published in the Winter 2021 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Scenic view of Estes Park

Did you know Colorado is more than just a place to ski?

While it’s home to some of the most well-known resorts in North America, there are several historic mountain towns, each with their own uniqueness to offer during a winter vacation. While skiing may be a staple during the winter months, there’s a multitude of other activities these eclectic towns have to offer. Here are seven different ways to experience Colorado this winter. 

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Million Dollar Highway 

Sitting at 9,000 feet above sea level, Silverton is tucked away in a secluded area that can be enjoyed again and again. The town transports you to the wild, wild west days of stagecoaches, miners and train robbers. Silverton is known for its substantial snowfall, which allows for outdoor activities like snowmobiling, world-class ice climbing and expert skiing (downhill, extreme, snowcat and cross country). Make sure to drive along the Million Dollar Highway north to Ouray on your way out of town.

The Ouray Ice Park is a human made ice climbing park within walking distance of the City of Ouray.

Nestled in the Heart of the San Juan Mountains, Ouray is known as the “Switzerland of America.” It is home to great dining, craft distilleries, breweries, artisans, shopping and arts. Here, you can enjoy the natural hot springs and explore the human-made Ouray Ice Park. Ouray is considered the ice climbing capital of the world where both novices and experts come  to enjoy its 200+ ice and mixed climbs.

Crested Butte
Known as the “Gateway to the Elk Mountains,” Crested Butte is another former mining town and is about a 4-to-5-hour drive from Denver. Crested Butte is perfect to visit any time of the year, but during the winter, the small town offers some of the best skiing in the world. Tourists can ride on school buses painted in beautiful bright colors when traveling the three miles from town to the ski resort.

Snowshoeing in Telluride.

Founded in 1878 as a mining colony, Telluride opened its first ski lifts in 1972. Telluride is surrounded by the highest concentration of 13,000-foot peaks in the Rockies. Telluride has 2,000-plus acres of skiable terrain with incredible snow conditions, steep trains and vistas in all directions. To top it off, there’s a vibrant food scene that you can’t miss. If you visit here, you might just never leave. 

As the highest city in North America, Leadville is known as the “City in the Clouds.” The town is two hours away from Denver and is only fifteen minutes away from Ski Cooper, one of the state’s oldest ski resorts. There are nearly 100 miles of groomed winter trails that are perfect for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. 

Leadville’s Mineral Belt Trail is one of the town’s most unique features. This 11.6 mile-paved loop around the town provides year-round entertainment, but is especially loved during the winter by dog-walkers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers. Also, six miles of the trail winds through the historic Leadville Mining District.

Off-road tour or mountain biking is another great option to explore Rocky Mountain National Park.

Estes Park
Framed by towering snow-capped peaks, a national park on three sides and built on the banks of a lake, Estes Park is only 70 miles from Denver. While it is an adorable and breathtakingly beautiful mountain town, there is absolutely an adventurous and wild side. You can hire a guide to take you backcountry skiing through the thick pine trees of the Rockies or you opt for ice climbing.

Explore the Rocky Mountain National Park by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing during the day and visit the local breweries, distilleries and wineries at night.

Steamboat Springs
Having officially claimed the title of “Ski Town, U.S.A.,” Steamboat Springs is known for its champagne powder, but before that ranching was one of the town’s biggest industries. Steamboat Springs also has the oldest operating ski area in the West, Howelsen Hill. 

After a long and exhausting day on the slopes, make sure to visit the Strawberry Park Hot Springs’ mineral pools or spend a night on the town trying a few of the area’s 100 bars and restaurants. Steamboat Springs also has a curse, known as the “Yampa Valley Curse,” after a Ute leader put a curse on the valley. 

Anyone who visits will want to remain in this small town forever or will keep coming back.

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