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Old 08-26-2011, 10:23 PM
37 posts, read 35,005 times
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I'm in Dallas and want to spend considerable time each year on the slopes (skiing) and whitewaters (kayaking) of CO. I have minimal experience in both, but know I want to do more of them, at least once per week, for anywhere from 1 to 5 months out of the year, probably from around the end of ski season to the start or middle of rafting season. I've looked over the state map, and found a helpful website that lists 13 'river systems' in the state, but haven't studied or plotted them out yet. Same for the 'adventure guides' or kayak clubs which I would need at first in order to find people to kayak with. I also found a map that plots all the ski resorts, so that was helpful to see the concentration. I've seen other posts on here, where people have requirements like college, or a job in Denver. I don't have such requirements. I can plant anywhere, or move around if I had a camper. (Don't have one yet). Until I get one....

I'd appreciate any responses to the following questions. If I don't buy a camper and the freedom that it brings to go wherever I want, I'd need a plan...a base to 'operate out of.' That could be a pay-by-the-week roach motel, renting a room in someone's house, or some other way to find cheap rent for the time I'm there. Signing a long-term lease (more than 6 months) is not in my plans right now. Three months would probably be more like it.

If I wanted to combine both activities in one trip, and could only do 2-3 months, what time frame is best? April-June?

My only ski trip was to Durango on spring break, and we got there too late for my liking. The snowfall was great leading up to the week we went, then it just stopped, and the slopes were icy. A skiier back in TX said 'Durango is always icy.' We stayed in a small town south of the mountain, which I presume was probably Durango itself, cause the mountain wasn't really in any town to speak of. Our ski package price was ultra budget, too cheap to get us condos on the mountain itself, or anywhere around there. The drive to the mountain every day was 30-45 minutes to get to the slopes. Looking at the map, we probably drove N. on state hwy 550. It was my only time to ski or spend any time in CO other than visiting a friend in Greeley, who drove me around Rocky Mountain State Park and back. I was fairly unimpressed with that town, and much prefer a ski slope to anything I saw in the Rocky Mountain State park. Maybe it was the time of year, but there wasn't much snow, and I don't remember seeing any ski lifts anywhere between Greeley and the national park. It was mainly a lot of ROCKS.

In looking on the map at small towns surrounded by I-70 on the north, state hwy 24 on the east, and state hwy 50 on the west, I don't see any state hwys actually taking you to those towns like you have from all four directions going into Durango. Should I pretty much forget trying to 'live' in any such small town, since there won't be any cheap places to stay? If the answer is yes, then that narrrows it down to Denver, it's suburbs, or a town thats big enough to reside on a major interstate or other state hwy. I've heard of Colorado Springs being nice, but I'm concerned about proximity to what I want to do. I don't really want to drive 4 hours each outing to get where I want to be. Can much of what I want to do be found anywhere near there? Based on the ski resort map, I'd say no. Is it a given that wherever the ski slopes are, that's where the kayaking rivers will be? Would N. of Denver be a good spot, or should I stay west or northwest of Denver?

I won't have the money to spend on motels in each place I visit, so I'm wondering if I can avoid that by skiing/kayaking in the afternoon, giving me plenty of time to drive that morning to the location I've picked out that day.
Would that work?

If Denver is anything like Dallas, it's grown so much that all these little towns you see on the map don't really have any space between themselves and Denver...in other words, to the uninitiated, you'd never know where Denver stops and the suburbs/towns on the outskirts started just from driving around. I'm talking about places like Littleton, Englewood, Lakewood, Westminster, Arvada, and Broomfield. Are any of them CLEARLY separted towns that you can tell where they start and stop in relation to Denver? If not, what about Boulder, Lafayette, and Central City, which appear slightly further out? Are those the closest towns to Denver you'd have to get in to not feel like you're living in Denver? I'm coming to get AWAY from noise, traffic, and congestion.

Where do most people live who come to CO to retire, irregardless of sports?
Don't say Denver cause I won't believe you. haha.

From other threads, correct me if I'm wrong, but Pueblo is not where I want to be...too far south. I've read the articles that list Fort Collins as one of America's fav cities to live, but looking at home prices there, likely too pricey for me. The avg. cost of a house there is way beyond my range, and therefore I assume all other housing is similarly high.

What's it like further west on I-70, clearly out of the purview of Denver, like Minturn, Eagle, and Glenwood Springs? Are we talking about small towns where housing might be cheap, or are they like Durango, where there's no such thing as cheap? For all I know, there's no such thing as cheap in all of CO. I'm asking all this cause in TX, smaller means cheaper. But I can't make that assumption when talking about cabins in the mountains. What if I do like the unibomber did in Montana and found a shack with no running water? Is that my only hope? I wonder how he kept warm.

Another consideration if I do the camper thing, is proximity of water and electric hookups, like state campgrounds. I hope there are more of those around than in TX. I presume there are plenty to choose from since there are more parks. Prices here have gone up to $25/night or more just for a campsite at TX state parks, which aren't exactly scenic. Heck, I might as well go on and try to find a weekly rate at a mom and pop motel as to do that. Do Interstate hwy rest stops or anywhere else I don't know about have hookups?

Are there youth hostels or YMCA's spread out across the state? What do poor out of state students on a budget do to bum around CO for the summer? Another idea I've had is putting 'room wanted' on craigslist, but I don't know if anyone would want a transient guest for just a few weeks/months out of the year.

Do you know of any co-ownership or timeshare deals where 2-4 people trade off for 3-6 months at a time? If there were any, where would they be found?

Being a newbie, do I need to make sure I'm close to the 'outfitters' or 'adventure' companies I see advertised? For kayaking, is that primarily something you do with buddies, and there are no excursions unless you belong to a paddle club? (I noticed the commercial companies advertise 'rafting' but not so much kayaking).

Would it be much easier to forget trying to do both sports in one trip? Would I be waiting many weeks from the end of a fresh snow pack to the best in whitewater? If I had to break it up into two trips per year, I could. If I don't move to CO, I might even move to the panhandle, like Amarillo, to be closer and make things much easier. Then I could make several drives per year if I had to, and not worry about the distance as much. That extra leg from Dallas to Amarillo, then up to CO after that is more than I want to bear more than once or twice per year. I don't want to fall asleep at the wheel, and don't want to take 2 days to get there.

Are there some parts of the state known for having a high concentration of certain categories of rivers? i.e. If I plop down in an area of Class 1's, and all the Class 2's and 3's are at least 200 miles away, then I'm in the wrong place for convenience. Can a river or part of a river change classifications? i.e. In May it was a 1, but in July it's a 3? Who makes these rankings anyway? Is there any whitewater guide literature available (besides on Amazon) that would give me an idea of where I might want to be?

Oh...one last question....have I even picked the right state? Is CO hands down, the best place to do a lot of what I want to do? What about Wyoming, Montana, Utah? (I found a northern Colorado paddle club that seems to stay north of Denver, even though most of the ski slopes appear west of Denver. The group has planned trips into Wyoming). Is there something about northern CO I need to know about that makes it a good place to be for paddling? What is the area of CO north of Denver like compared to if you go west instead?

I think this is enough for now. I reserve the right to ask even more stupid questions later. Don't think you have to answer everything. You can pick and choose. Thanks in advance.

Last edited by sax6272; 08-26-2011 at 11:19 PM..

Old 08-26-2011, 11:21 PM
Location: Na'alehu Hawaii/Buena Vista Colorado
4,648 posts, read 9,167,332 times
Reputation: 4533
Break it into two trips. If you want decent skiing, you've got to be in Colorado earlier than you can start kayaking/rafting. Yes, there are some ski areas that stay open late spring/early summer, but the skiing is mostly slushy or icy, neither of which are good for someone with minimal experience. And you don't want to get into the river too early in the season when the rivers are filed with run-off from melting snow -- too high for someone with minimal experience.

For kayaking, I recommend the Arkansas River Valley -- specifically the towns of Buena Vista and Salida. They both have kayak parks which the towns have developed for practicing and learning the sport. Buena Vista has a really nice kayak store on main street and I see kayakers of all sorts in the river every day. I'm sure it would be really easy to find other kayakers to ”hang out with“.

The valley has class 2,3, and 4 rapids, with some class 5's really close by. Yes, the classifications do change with the amount of water in the river (run-off from snow melt). You can google this and find out lots more information about how the rapids are classified.

There are plenty of campgrounds in the area, not all with electric and water hook-ups. No sure about hostels, but there probably are some with all of the young people I see all summer. No YMCAs.
Old 08-27-2011, 12:04 AM
2,798 posts, read 3,503,286 times
Reputation: 2125
I'd also think a month in February or March (to avoid the Dec. - Jan. crowds) and a month in May or June would generally be better for those two sports then two consecutive months. April-May could work better some years than others.

If you want / need electric, water & sewer, even cable hookups you'll be spending pretty high or more for it anywhere. If you can get by more self-contained with propane, self-contained water & sewage tanks, lanterns, etc. and maybe a small gas generator it will be less. The van option works for some especially in spring or summer. You could camper without hookups or sleep in the van or camp a few days then splurge on hookups or a room when you are beat or the weather is really bad. Either would be easier in May or June than in February or March.

If you want a base, yeah, Salida is worth a look. Durango is another option but the skiing is probably cheaper at Monarch and the kayaking on the Arkansas would be a good choice for a beginner with options to step it up available as you get more knowledgeable.

On a few other stray questions:

Many Colorado small towns are expensive.
Yes, river ratings change by season, weekly and even daily with storms.
Yes, there are timeshares if /when you are ready to buy and that might be a good option if you end up wanting or only being able to make extended visits instead of moving to the state fulltime.
There are lots of links to hostels on the net. Here is one: Colorado hostels - Hostels in Colorado

If you can pull off one or two 1-2 week ski trips and say 1 month kayak trip you'll have the opportunity to learn a lot and then can work on refining your next steps.

Read a lot of the other forum posts on general Colorado stuff and use the internet to get deeper insight into kayaking. Don't skimp on the training. here are a few links:

Colorado Kayaking :: Colorado's online river guide and journal for whitewater kayaking
Kayaking lessons & instruction on Colorado's Arkansas River, guided mountain bike trips, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing lessons for kids & adults
Kayaking Colorado - Kayak Online

Last edited by NW Crow; 08-27-2011 at 12:20 AM..
Old 08-27-2011, 12:13 AM
Location: Denver, CO
5,607 posts, read 20,249,561 times
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Jan-Feb are probably the best 2 months to come to CO for skiing. March can be pretty good too. December can be good, but it's just plain too crowded. Right during the middle of the season, plenty of snow, after the big holidays rush. Yes, you CAN get some great skiing in April before everywhere closes if it dumps a lot of snow on the right day, but I sure wouldn't plan on it. Jun-Jul is the best time of the year for rafting. April/May, and also Oct/Nov are really the "off season" months of the year for the high country; not really a whole lot of any activity going on.
Old 08-27-2011, 12:13 AM
37 posts, read 35,005 times
Reputation: 17
*correction to original post - "In looking on the map at small towns surrounded by I-70 on the north, state hwy 24 on the east, and state hwy 50 on the SOUTH (not west), , I don't see any state hwys actually taking you to those towns like you have from all four directions going into Durango." (The towns I'm talking about are Pitkin, Aspen, Snowmass Village, Carbondale, Colibran, Paonia, Crested Butte, and Crawford.) Are these places going to all be ritzy like Aspen? If so, I won't plan on renting a garage apt. from any little old ladies who need a handyman around the house.

*correction - Rocky Mountain NATIONAL Park, (not state park) Duh. I knew that. Really I did.

Last edited by sax6272; 08-27-2011 at 12:22 AM..
Old 08-27-2011, 12:27 AM
2,798 posts, read 3,503,286 times
Reputation: 2125
Aspen is at the top of price and glitz. The other ski and ski adjacent areas will be expensive but there are different degrees. Colibran, Paonia and Crawford are relatively mild on the expense side but not cheap.
Old 08-27-2011, 12:58 AM
9,817 posts, read 19,080,237 times
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As a kayaker, in my opinion, Colorado rivers can kill you quick and during the season, it's not uncommon for people to die every single day. And I can remember a number of instances of "world class experts" in kayaking drowning as well.

I got a taste of it a few years ago on a mild section of the Colorado River and expended so much energy trying to stay afloat that when I washed up on shore, I couldn't stand for 15 minutes. I had to lay on the rocks, my muscles were completely spent.

So I wouldn't bop around river to river. I'd learn a stretch of river, learn kayaking, learn from locals, etc. It only takes a couple of seconds in snow melt season to go from where everything is fine to you being dead meat in the cold water. The force of the water is huge and it doesn't stop so there is no such thing as hanging on.

Your post is an enormous mishmash of ideas with no cohesion. I'd refine it a bit and understand the nice mountain areas with skiing and water are going to require money to exist in, even if camping. The problem with camping or even using a camper in winter near ski areas, is there is almost no parking or camping around for miles, plus the weather is harsh. It wouldn't be uncommon to experience temps 0 to -30 with accompanying wind chills.

The best thing to do is get a seasonal job and find housing for a season and do your thing. Any place in the Rockies that has things to do in summer and winter, plus amenities and housing, is simple going to be pricey. Skiing for instance, have you looked at lift ticket prices lately?
Old 08-27-2011, 01:32 AM
2,253 posts, read 5,860,553 times
Reputation: 2615
Wink If a certain dedication

Aspen and Paonia might as well be on different planets. Geographically fairly close, and worlds apart.

By way of saying you need some more time on the ground in Colorado. If you can afford to split from Dallas for a 'considerable' amount of time each year, then you might as well spend it productively in Colorado.

As mentioned, Chaffee County might be a good place to focus. The Arkansas River is popular for rafting, with a number of commercial companies in residence. With nearby Monarch Mountain ski area just up the hill on US 50. Monarch will not be open as late in the season as A-Basin, but then few if anyone else would either. But chances are a few of the people there might be into water sports come summer.

Many employees at ski areas do not live sumptuously, but nevertheless manage to exist. By and large, they do not live in campers, either. It is not unknown for some ski areas to even offer affordable employee housing. In other words, if actually working there you'll end up with some place to live, which may exceed your spartan expectations, a certain income, and almost assuredly a free season ski pass. If really serious about such a proposition, skiing that is, one could do a lot worse than working for a ski area. Despite work, you'll still get a lot of time on the hill. If graduating to something like ski patrol, then you'll be on skis all the time. Something like this is feasible, even desirable, aside from being independently wealthy.

You can spend a lot of time speculating in Dallas, but may already have gained the best sense of the reality from the brief time spent in Durango and at Purgatory. The cheapest option may not be the least expensive. Dedicate the time and effort, and yes money, to doing it right for a winter season in the mountains, and you'll surely have learned a great deal more in preferred direction and way.

ps. Check out Channel 8 in Summit County.
Old 08-27-2011, 10:10 AM
37 posts, read 35,005 times
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Originally Posted by wanneroo View Post
I got a taste of it a few years ago on a mild section of the Colorado River and expended so much energy trying to stay afloat that when I washed up on shore, I couldn't stand for 15 minutes.
Just out of curiosity, why are you calling it a mild section if you almost got killed trying to keep your kayak (or body, whichever the case it was) afloat? Were you turned upside down or trapped somehow and not able to escape the kayak? Was something so powerful that your life vest didn't keep you afloat? I'm categorizing 'staying afloat' and being washed downriver as too different things. If I can't hang on, I at least want my head above water so I can breath. I don't know what causes people to drown, unless it's some sort of freak accident like getting wedged between rocks, upside down, and knocked unconscious where you can't escape your kayak. If plan A is to flip yourself right side up when upside down and the water is so fierce you can't, that's one thing. But if plan B is to bail out of the kayak, what prevents that from happening once upside down?
Old 08-27-2011, 10:16 AM
Location: On the sunny side of a mountain
2,981 posts, read 6,653,484 times
Reputation: 5718
Even mild sections of the Colorado can be extremely dangerous.
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