Updated: Jul 29
"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness."- John Steinbeck
If you are looking to experience the cold of winter, Colorado is one of the best winter playgrounds in the United States. They receive between 60 and 100 inches of snow per year. This combined with 300 days of sunshine each year makes Colorado a true winter wonderland.
There are so many ski villages and towns in Colorado, it is hard to pick a favorite. Some places like Evergreen, Winter Park and Estes Park have less crowds and more diverse activities in the summer than the winter. My favorite 3 winter destination towns are Copper Mountain, Frisco and Steamboat Springs. If you are looking for less crowds, diversity in winter activities, quaint shopping and dining options plus some good skiing, anyone of these towns will satisfy your snow yearnings.
On the surface, Copper Mountain is a ski village. With 23 lifts, 2507 skiable acres, a half pipe, ski jumps and a super pipe, there is something to satisfy any skier. Spend some time off the slopes at Copper Mountain and you will find abundant winter activities to get you out and playing in the snow. There are sledding areas, tubing hills, an ice skating rink, snowshoeing and winter hiking trails, cross country skiing, a roller coaster and an athletic club. There are three separate villages that offer 18 restaurants, 15 shops, a grocery store and a liquor store.
Whether you are a skier or just a snow enthusiast like myself, nothing is more fun than apres ski. Apres ski is the snow village version of happy hour, complete with live music, delicious bites and libations. Copper Mountain has 12 venues that do their version of apres ski. As you can see from the picture, shot skis are available at Jack's Bar overlooking the Superpike, in the center village.
For me, there are four things that make Copper Mountain special. The walkability of the property, the incorporation and respect of nature, the lack of crowds during non-holiday weekdays and the proximity to the Denver Airport.
Looking to balance skiing with other outdoor activities or maybe not ski at all, Frisco is just the place for you. Considered the "Main Street of the Rockies," Frisco is within 45 minutes of 6 world class ski areas. It is a great basecamp for your winter escape whether you want to spend time on the slopes or not. It is only an hour away from Denver, making it easily accessible.
This quaint mountain town is just off I-70 on the shores of the Dillon Reservoir. It's charming downtown is home to 40 restaurants and 45 shops. Just exploring this downtown area is a pleasant way to spend a day.
Tenmile Creek winds through Frisco creating scenic hiking and photographic opportunities. It forms a pond that is groomed for winter ice skating. The Adventure Center has a dedicated tubing hill and beginner's ski hill and runs. At the Frisco Nordic Center, you can rent equipment, take lessons and just plain enjoy cross country skiing, snowshoeing tours, and sleigh rides. The Adventure Center and the Nordic Center are located about one mile from main street to the southeast.
My favorite snow hikes near Frisco are the Rainbow Lake Trail and Wheeler Lake Trail. Rainbow Lake Trail is an easy, out and back trail through Aspen Trees to a frozen Rainbow Lake. It can be a bit crowded on weekends. In the winter the views of the surrounding mountains are stunning. Wheeler lake is a 6.6 out and back moderate trail. We only hiked the lower portion on the trail. It is easy. As the trail winds through the towering pine trees, the serenity of winter in the forest descends upon you.
I am a fan of snowmobiling tours. They give you an opportunity to experienced both history and adventure, a combination of winter peace and adrenaline rush. High Country Tours rents snowmobiles out of Leadville and Silverthorne, easily reachable from Frisco. They rent single and multi-person vehicles and all the gear you need to ride them. Their website gives you all the details on their tours and individual rider rentals, https://mysnowmobiletour.com
The things I like best about Frisco are the diversity of activities. The winter hiking is amazing. It's close proximity to great skiing areas and the Denver Airport. The charming downtown area is super for shopping and dining. Lastly, Frisco is right off I-70 and an easy drive to the Denver Airport.
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Steamboat Springs is on the western side of the Rockies, which means there is significant snowfall in the winter. Perfect for skiers as well as all winter sport enthusiasts. Steamboat is a larger town than Copper Mountain or Frisco with a distinctive western vibe. There is a smallish ski village at the base of the mountain with more accommodations in town. Just west of town is the Hayden Airport which has daily flights from major airlines.
Steamboat Springs downtown is dotted with outstanding restaurants. Whether you are interested in casual yet tasty dining or fine dining, there are many options. Salt and Lime is casual Mexican option with some of the best salsa I have tasted. The BBQ at Double Z is tangy, smokey deliciousness. Besame on Lincoln Ave is an excellent choice if you are looking for fine dining.
There are all the usual non-skiing winter sports in Steamboat Springs. One unique opportunity is to visit the hot springs for which the town was named. It is a fun way to soothe your sore muscles from winter sports.
The skiing in Steamboat is world class with with 23 lifts and 169 ski trails. The apres ski scene offers outdoor seating and bands as well as indoor seating and music. Local beers, cocktails and imaginative bar food is available at multiple locations. The mountain top restaurants offer stunning views and are available to non-skiers via the Gondola. There are also winter hiking and snowshoeing trails at the top of the mountain. Their ski school is extensive, offering age specific group and private lessons.
One of the things I like best about Steamboat is the distinctly western vibe. Also the restaurant are diverse and very high quality. I like that Steamboat is larger than the other towns giving you more options on accommodations and activities.
All three of these winter playground towns offer a variety of activities for both skiers and non-skis. Each town as unique vibe that is welcoming and friendly. All three have easy access to an airport. You can not go wrong with anyone of the these choices.
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