Editor’s Note: This piece was done in conjunction with our partners at Ikon Pass.
Connecting six diverse Rocky Mountain icons, Colorado’s rugged peaks set the stage for a winter of wide-ranging, endless adventure. Get ready to grab the crew, pack the trunk, and crank up that playlist. With vast amounts of Colorado terrain to explore, the next adventure is always the best adventure.
Just three hours from Denver, Steamboat is home to the one and only Champagne Powder™ snow. With nearly 3,000 acres of varied terrain from beginner to expert, visitors can explore steeps and deeps, broad cruisers, and fun bump runs that never quit. When some solitude and quiet time beckons, slide into world-renown Christmas Tree Bowl & Morningside Park glades for tree skiing through evergreens and aspens.
When the lifts stop turning, cozy up under a warm wool blanket and let the star-struck Colorado night sky light your way to a unique Steamboat experience. From sleigh rides in the backcountry to unique snowcat dinner experiences at the top of the mountain, there are several off-piste adventures to choose from at Steamboat.
On the Road Near Steamboat:
Snowshoe Rabbit Ears Pass
Located just before dropping into Steamboat Springs from the east, the trail network at Rabbit Ears Pass is as dynamic and ranging as it is serene and peaceful. With variable winter conditions, all travelers should be prepared for powder-laced backcountry. For a moderate snowy stroll, keep an eye out for the crowd favorite trail, West Summit Loop 1A, a 3.7-mile loop that extends into the forest with views of Yampa Valley and the Flat Tops.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs
When heavy ski legs need some recovery, it’s time to strike out for the renowned Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Set in a natural, forested landscape flowing with mineral water of 104 degrees, a dip into these replenishing pools helps to revitalize weary muscles so that you can crush another day charging Champagne Powder™.
Winter Park Resort
A short bump up and over Berthoud Pass leads to Colorado’s top adventure town, Winter Park. Strap in for iconic Rocky Mountain runs and notorious terrain, such as Topher’s Trees and Topher’s Treehouse — two of Winter Park Resort’s best-kept secrets. With seven territories to explore, from Mary Jane to Eagle Wind, there’s always a hidden stash to seek or a new run to discover. Along the way, scout out Winter Park’s Alpine & Ales pop-up craft beer lounge, or head up to Lunch Rock on top of Mary Jane Territory to snap a surreal selfie.
Early risers to Winter Park can land one of the most coveted parking spots in all of skiing. Pull up and settle in for a day of socially distanced tailgating at Winter Park’s infamous C-lot at Mary Jane. In between all of your tailgate festivities, tackle quick, convenient laps on the 2-seater lift, Challenger.
On the Road Near Winter Park:
Winter Park & Fraser Fun
The main drag that runs through both Winter Park and Fraser (just a stones-throw away) is a booming stretch of eateries, breweries, and taco shops. Write up your checklist and start marking off the names of Big Trout Brewery, Camber Brewing, and Fraser River Beer Co., as well as two brand-new distilleries, Idlewild Spirits and Fraser Valley Distilling. When hunger hits, head to Pepe Osaka’s. Slinging some of the best fish tacos in the state, this unassuming taco shop is the perfect solution for quick, filling bites to go. Bonus points for tailgate-ready batch margaritas. Call ahead or order online for an easy grab and go as you pass through town.
Ride the Fraser to Granby Trail
Just north of Winter Park on HWY 40, take a spin on the 16-mile Fraser to Granby Trail. Perfect for easy access winter hiking, cross country skiing, or fat biking (look to rent in-town and ride from Winter Park), the Fraser to Granby trail lines the valley and provides sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. Along the way, make a plan to stop for lunch or a drink after an extended climb into Granby Ranch.
One of Colorado’s most name-checked experiences, Aspen Snowmass is actually a collection of four mountains, each accessed by Ikon Pass Plus and full Ikon Pass holders. Upon arrival, get started by treating yourself to Aspen Highland’s crown jewel — Highland Bowl. Get there the easy way on the free snowcat at the top of Loge Peak chairlift, which cuts the 45-minute hike by a third. If exploring Aspen Mountain on a powder day, take some turns on Walsh’s, Bell Mountain, and the appropriately named Dumps run.
For winter thrills off the slopes, look no further than the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster. Atop an elevated track, riders strap in and wind through the Lost Forest at speeds of up to 28 mph. Located adjacent to the Elk Camp Restaurant, breathless riders can test their speed throughout the day and during special Ullr Nights.
On the Road Near Aspen Snowmass:
Iron Mountain, Glenwood, & Penny Hot Springs
With a drive like this one, it’s important to stretch those legs and prep your body for lap after lap on the slopes. Good thing that Glenwood Hot Springs (home to arguably the largest hot springs pool in the world), the more intimate Iron Mountain Hot Springs, and the primitive (but free) option of Penny Hot Springs are all a relatively quick stop off of the highway.
Explore the Maroon Bells
Two of the most photographed mountains in North America, the Maroon Bells rise more than 14,000 feet above sea level just south of Aspen. When blanketed in velvety white, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, fat biked, or skinned, this moderate no-fee, 12-mile out-and-back scenic adventure is one for the bucket list.
Just feet from I-70 corridor, Copper Mountain is a Summit County Colorado classic with naturally divided terrain that offers beginner skiing to the east, intermediate terrain in the middle, and expert skiing to the west. For experts exploring the west side, nothing beats the newly installed Tucker Mountain Lift that unlocks access to 273 acres of expert terrain every day of the week. For all of the Colo. park rats, a series of renowned Woodward Terrain Parks loom large at Copper Mountain.
Once the legs start to quake, give them a break with an early-evening spin on the Rocky Mountain Coaster. Stretching 5,800 feet and descending 430 vertical feet, it’s one of the longest mountain coasters in North America.
On the Road Near Copper Mountain:
Beau Jo’s, Idaho Springs
An icon all its own, Beau Jo’s Idaho Springs location is a piece of Colorado history. The originator of thick crust “Colorado Style” pizza, the Beau Jo’s pizza developed in parallel with the state’s ski industry – as skiers hit the hills, appetites for quality grub along the journey grew. Stop in at the Idaho Springs location and tuck into the well sauced, high-topped mountain pies that Beau Jo’s have become famous for.
The Ghost Town of Dyersville
Situated on the Summit County side of Boreas Pass, and just under 40-minutes from the Copper Mountain base area, take a side-country road trip excursion to the Colorado ghost town of Dyersville. Founded as a mining outpost in 1881 and abandoned in approximately 1909, today, adventure-seeking snowshoe scramblers can explore nearly a dozen log cabins and roofless walls are that are still standing.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
Standing as the highest lift-served terrain in Colorado, Arapahoe Basin is another Summit County classic that boasts a unique, celebrated independence and a character that stands alone.
Featuring a summit elevation of 13,050 ft, there are plenty of cornices, gullies, blacks, blues, and bowls to explore before joining the afternoon parking lot session at A-Basin’s famed snow beach. An icon all its own, the snow beach is a celebratory experience where the day’s runs are discussed, debated, and championed. And, with the longest ski season in Colorado, from first chair to tailgate, first day until season’s close, Arapahoe Basin unlocks more steeps, more deeps, and more days to seek out that perfect line.
On the Road Near Arapahoe Basin:
St. Mary’s Glacier
Carve out a stop just outside of Idaho Springs, at St. Mary’s Glacier. At only 1.5 miles to the top, and well-traveled even through the winter months, this short trip is one that can accommodate almost all adventuring parties. Make sure to pack the camera as the landscape can be stunning in the winter. Other necessities include appropriate clothing and either snowshoes or microspikes. And, if someone in your crew is willing to pack a lightweight sled, the trip down the glacier becomes infinitely more fun.
Take it Uphill at A-Basin
For a small seasonal fee, skiers and riders can safely explore the reality of uphill travel. With gear in hand, this one-time fee will allow uphill access to the eastern edge of High Noon, between the Base Area and Black Mountain Lodge. Before and after operational hours, this jaunt also allows adventuring canines to tag along.
Eldora Mountain Resort
Close enough to Denver to throw a snowball at, Eldora is the only destination that sits squarely on the front range. Approximately 30-minutes from Boulder and about an hour from Denver, Eldora is a backyard favorite that comes packed with sweeping southerly views. Tuck and run (within reason) on the thrilling leg-burner, Muleshoe, and hit up the glades for deep tracks in a hushed subalpine forest – from east to west, try Jolly Jug Glades, Gully Glades, Brian’s Glades, Salto Glades, and Moose Glades.
On the Road Near Eldora:
While some intrepid adventure seekers love to tell you about how they both surfed and skied within a 12-hour window, those that call Colorado home are also familiar with accomplishing multiple sports in one day. While making the day trip out to Eldora, Betasso Preserve is the perfect spot to stop for a trail run before getting some lift-served laps in. And, for those that want to claim the trifecta, bring the bike along. Afterwards, you’ll be ready with your very own run, peddle, and ski suffer-thon story.
Nederland – the town closest to Eldora Mountain Resort – is a veritable playground for strolling, exploring, dining, and discovering. Seek to bring home some unique souvenirs from Nature’s Own, Nederland’s eccentric but well-stocked gem shop. After lunch at Crosscut Pizzeria & Taphouse, take a turn through the quaint Mining Museum before searching for the selfie-ready Dead Guy Days coffin. Once you find that box of leaning wood, the adventure is just beginning.
For more information on hitting the road this winter check out Ikon Pass.