Visit a Ski Town on a Rocky Mountain Vacation

Many people like to visit ski towns and villages on their Rocky Mountain vacation. Some of the more popular towns in Colorado include Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Steamboat Springs, Telluride, Vail, and Winter Park. While these towns are known for their ski resorts and wide variety of winter sports, many people planning Rocky Mountain vacation like to visit during the summer to enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, whitewater rafting.

Aspen started out as a mining camp, and was first settled in 1879. Like many of the ski resorts, it was saved by a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division, an elite Army fighting force specially trained for missions at high altitude. Aspen has become a destination for the rich and famous from all over the world. You might just see Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Jack Nicholson, Goldie Hawn, Cher, Kevin Costner, or Michelle Pfeiffer eating or shopping in one of Aspen’s bistros or boutiques.

Breckenridge is another mining town that made it big. It flourished during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, and was established to serve miners working the Georgia Gulch. Breckenridge was the home of the first post office between the Continental Divide and Salt Lake City. Try fly fishing or whitewater rafting on your Rocky Mountain vacation to this picturesque mountain town.

Crested Butte was incorporated in 1880. Some of the first to settle in the area were beaver trappers. Soon the surveyors followed, and then the miners came looking for silver. Coal mining and ranching also contributed to the development of the area. History buffs will enjoy a visit to Crested Butte on their Rocky Mountain vacation. The entire town has been designated a National Historic District. Nature lovers can spend their days identifying the 600 species of wildflowers that grow nearby.

Steamboat Springs was also first visited by trappers. Ranching became a major industry and by 1918 more cattle were shipped from Steamboat Springs than from any other point in the United States. The first ski jump in the United States was built here by Carl Howelsen in 1915. Steamboat Springs has been home to many Olympic skiers and host of the Alpine Skiing World Cup.

Other things to enjoy during your Rocky Mountain vacation in Steamboat Springs include a relaxing afternoon in one of the geothermal hot springs, having fun at the Yampa River Festival, or visiting the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge, which was named by the citizens of Steamboat Springs and officially opened by James Brown.

Telluride was also a mining town. It is one of the most beautiful towns in Colorado, located in a steep box canyon. Telluride was the first town to use alternating current to power streetlights. In June of 1889 Butch Cassidy robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank. Telluride became a ski town in the late 1930’s and the first lift opened in 1974.

You might see a celebrity in Telluride, as many have sought more private surroundings. Oprah, Tom Cruise, Oliver Stone, Christie Brinkley, and Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf all own homes in or near Telluride. Besides celebrity watching, you can also enjoy the Telluride Jazz Festival or the Telluride Film Festival on your Rocky Mountain vacation.

Vail is another exclusive ski town that was developed by a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division. It is one of the few ski towns that was built specifically to be a ski resort. It is one of the biggest and busiest resorts in North America with more than 1.6 million skier days annually. The gondola was the first in the United States. Former President Gerald Ford lived in nearby Beaver Creek and conducted much of the nation’s business from the Vail resort.

Other things to see in Vail on your Rocky Mountain vacation include the Vail Film Festival, the Colorado Ski Museum, and the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic, a world-famous sports injury clinic whose clients include John Elway, Joe Montana, Greg Norman, Kobe Bryant, Bode Miller, Picabo Street, Martina Navratilova, and Monica Seles.

Winter Park is the closest ski town to Denver, a short 67 mile drive. The resort belongs to the City and County of Denver. Although Winter Park was incorporated in 1978, the town began as two small settlements that sprang up during construction of the Moffat Tunnel. The train trip across the Continental Divide was cut from about five hours in good weather to about 12 minutes regardless of the weather. You can enjoy mountain biking, hiking, and fishing on your Rocky Mountain vacation in Winter Park.

While skiing is a great way to spend a Rocky Mountain vacation, you can enjoy visiting many of Colorado’s historic ski towns during spring and summer. You can have fun fishing, hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, shopping, and celebrity watching. Visit a ski town this summer and see what you’ve been missing.

Joe Dockter

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