From fun winter activities like skiing and snowmobiling to glamorous lodges and delectable food, the so-called Snow’s Perfect State is ideal for a thrilling winter escape. Slide your way down powdery slopes, hike through lush forests and dip into a fancy pool while staring at the Rockies – everything is possible in Colorado. Here’s why you should put it high on your winter travel wishlist.
With 58 mountain peaks reaching up to 14,000ft (4,267m), it’s no wonder Colorado is home to so many ski resorts. From the historic Breckenridge – which celebrates its 60th anniversary this winter – to the world-famous Aspen, there are no less than 28 resorts to choose from here, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. Colorado is actually one of the snowiest states in the US, receiving around 67in (170cm) of snow annually. But what’s really remarkable is the texture of that snow, which appears to be a lot drier and fluffier than other US states. Steamboat Ski Resort even calls its snow “champagne powder” because of how light and dry it is – the term was coined in the ‘50s by local rancher Joe McElroy.
When it comes to winter fun, skiing is not the only available option in Colorado. Ice skating, ice climbing, ice fishing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling are only some of the things you can do to make the most of the endless snow. If you’re up for a real challenge, you can also try snow kayaking, which involves launching yourself into snowy banks and bumps or into an icy pond, while being strapped in your kayak. Nothing is really off limits in Colorado, as long as it involves ice and snow. Alternatively, visit one of the various ranches across the state to try horseback riding through snow-capped forests and over peaceful hills.
Winter is the ideal season for hiking, and Colorado’s majestic peaks are surely a good place to start. The state also boasts 42 state parks and 12 national parks, alongside a number of rivers, lakes and reservoirs. The landscape here is so diverse that you’ll be hiking amid red rock formations and high sand dunes one day, and rivers, forests and wildflowers the next. There are hiking trails for all levels, so you can explore Colorado at your own pace. Along the way, you might also catch a glimpse of some amazing wildlife, including mountain goats, moose, elk and bald eagles. If you see a mountain lion or a black bear roaming around, make sure to keep your distance.
Don’t be fooled by the infinite powdery snow that covers its mountains – Colorado’s climate is actually quite mild, with the state receiving 300 days of sunshine annually. This makes it easy for locals and tourists to move around even during the winter, while allowing for the beautiful scenery to stand out – whether that involves golden fall leaves or wintery white slopes. Just be sure to pack your sunscreen, as it’s super-easy to get sunburnt when sliding down the sun-filled, snowy peaks.
Comfort food is really all you need on a cold winter night, right? Colorado has a variety of great restaurants, many of which focus on farm-to-table dining. Magazines like Bon Appétit and Forbes have already given Boulder the title of “foodie destination,” while Denver brims with critically acclaimed restaurants. Salida is where you’ll find the most places serving dishes made of local ingredients, as well as a number of beverage companies that only exist here – such as Wood’s High Mountain Distillery or Elevation Beer Company. It’s also worth booking a tour at Hammond’s Candies to witness how lollipops, candy canes and other treats are made. Don’t forget to pop by a local pub, if only for the famous Colorado green chili.
If you wish to warm up with a tipple, there are over 200 craft breweries to choose from in Colorado – this accounts for more than 10 percent of the nation’s craft breweries, which is an interesting statistic if you consider that the state is home to less than 2 percent of the country’s population. Colorado also hosts the Great American Beer Festival, the largest domestic beer festival in the US, every fall in Denver. Be sure to take advantage of all the available brewery tours – among the must-try beers are Dale’s Pale Ale (America’s first hand-canned craft beer), Abbey Belgian Style Ale and Yeti Imperial Stout. Wine and whiskey are also popular here. Take a pick from over 100 wineries on the Western Slope near the towns of Palisade and Grand Junction, many of which also offer tastings and tours.
No winter getaway is complete without a good read. Pass by one of Colorado’s many bookstores and find your new favorite book, best enjoyed with a glass of wine in hand. Among the most charming are Maria’s Bookshop in Durango – local artworks hang beside antique snowshoes, skies and sleds here – BookBar in Denver, which also doubles as a wine bar, Boulder Book Store in Boulder, which hosts weekly readings by authors, and Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins. As its name suggests, this last bookstore is housed in a gorgeous, old firehouse building where it sells new and used books and often organizes literary events. There are plenty more bookstores in town so you’re bound to find the one that suits you best.
Few things are better than a warm hotel stay in the heart of winter. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious hotel or a cute lodge surrounded by mountains and trees, Colorado has a range of accommodation options that cater to every traveler’s needs. From boutique hotels to snowed-in cabins or full-blown ski chalets, we’ve picked our favorites, to help you plan your wintery escape – just in time for ski season.