Why Colorado is the Ultimate Winter Destination
Colorado draws in winter sports enthusiasts year after year, with superb skiing on offer around the state | © Steve Boice / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
Enjoy winter sports at Beaver Creek, a ski resort near Avon | © Peter Ptschelinzew / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
Try fly fishing on the Arkansas River, which runs through the downtown historic district of Salida, Colorado | © H. Mark Weidman Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
You might spot wildlife such as elk on a visit to Pike National Forest | © Steve Krull Wildlife Images / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
Marvel at the incredible views as you explore Colorado in the sunshine | © Ruth Peterkin / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
Shop for local produce at a farmer’s market in Boulder | © Jennifer Lobo / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
Craft beer lovers will be spoiled for choice with Colorado’s numerous breweries | © Efrain Padro / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
Pay a trip to Colorado’s best bookstores before cozying up with your new favorite read | © Jennifer Lobo / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
Elk Mountain Lodge
4.7/5 (195 Reviews)
Courtesy of Elk Mountain Lodge / Expedia
Now from $208 per night
This homely lodge in the resort town of Crested Butte – about a four-hour drive from Denver – seems like the best place to unwind after a day on the slopes. The town’s ski resort lies a few feet away, but with such comfy rooms, idyllic mountain views and even a hot tub, you might not feel like stepping outside. If you do, you’ll also find a number of eateries nearby, from classic diners and places for brunch to Mexican and Nepalese restaurants.
The Landing at Estes Park
4.8/5 (313 Reviews)
Courtesy of The Landing at Estes Park / Expedia
Now from $245 per night
Rustic-chic suites, romantic villas and secluded cabins are all part of this mountain retreat high in the Rockies. The Landing is found just outside the main entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, blending in with the nature surrounding it. Stone fireplaces, handcrafted hickory furniture and a few early American art pieces create a warm, cozy atmosphere, perfect for couples, families or anyone looking for some downtime. Opt for a riverfront cabin and let the soothing sound of the water bring you some peace of mind.
Courtesy of Gravity Haus Vail / Expedia
It’s only fitting that the upscale ski town of Vail would host the sophisticated Gravity Haus. Just steps from Breckenridge Ski Resort, it comes with hot tubs, a steam room, a sauna and a ski-valet service so you don’t have to lift a finger before or after hitting the slopes. All condos come fully equipped with a kitchen, a lounge area and a fireplace. Indulge in an essential oil massage at the Dryland Spa and don’t forget to try the hotel’s signature coffee, freshly brewed from their zero-emissions Bellwether roaster. The Cabin Juice restaurant serves hearty après-ski meals, using ingredients from sustainable farms.
Crystal Peak Lodge
4.6/5 (322 Reviews)
Courtesy of Crystal Peak Lodge / Expedia
Now from $280 per night
This massive lodge in Breckenridge comes with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the marvelous wilderness, and easy access to the ski resort. Five separate peaks are accessible from here – and this is where you’ll find the highest chairlift in America. As for the interiors, fireplaces, high-end bathrooms, modern kitchens and vast living rooms are all part of the deal. When you’re done with all the skiing, it’s worth exploring the arts district in downtown Breckenridge and the local food scene.
The Lodge at Vail
4.3/5 (915 Reviews)
Courtesy of The Lodge at Vail / Expedia
Now from $260 per night
One more Vail gem, the Lodge at Vail is only a six-minute walk from Vail Ski Resort – this has over 5,289 ski-able acres (2,140ha), making it one of the largest ski resorts in the world. The understated decor of the light-filled rooms matches the calming landscape outside, which is marked by towering, snow-capped peaks. Pamper yourself with a visit to the outdoor pool, the spa tub or the sauna before getting ready for some serious ski action – the ski lifts are right there at your feet, as are Vail’s high-end shops.
Embassy Suites By Hilton Boulder
4.6/5 (659 Reviews)
Courtesy of Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder / Expedia
Now from $126 per night
You wouldn’t expect anything less from the Hilton chain, and Embassy Suites in Boulder surely does not disappoint. Think extra-spacious suites that look like apartments and feature all the deluxe amenities, from mini-fridges and microwaves to private sitting areas and desks. There’s also a two-story fitness center if you feel like working out in between ski sessions, and a plush, heated rooftop pool. The breakfast and the happy-hour drinks are highly recommended – you may also have a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast if you wish.
Boulder Adventure Lodge
4.2/5 (585 Reviews)
Courtesy of Boulder Adventure Lodge / Expedia
Now from $107 per night
Apartment-like suites and cabins are on offer here at Boulder Adventure Lodge. The rustic, mountain-appropriate interiors are in no way lacking in style, while many of them come with patios overlooking the abundant Four Mile Creek. If you’ve spent enough time in your room, there are more spaces to unwind, either lying on the snuggly sofas or gazing at all the greenery just outside on the creekside pavilion. Climbing, fishing, skiing, cycling and hiking are all favored here.
Limelight Hotel Snowmass
4.8/5 (339 Reviews)
Courtesy of Limelight Hotel / Expedia
Now from $215 per night
It doesn’t get more stylish than Limelight. Then again, together with Aspen, Snowmass Village is frequented by the rich and famous – if celeb sightings are your kind of fun, prepare to be starstruck. The hotel is only a short walk away from Aspen Mountain and downtown Aspen, allowing you to get a taste of both worlds. Apart from the glorious mountain vistas, Limelight has sleek rooms, an outdoor pool, a fitness center – complete with a climbing wall – two spa tubs and a game room. What more would you need, really?