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Old 12-10-2009, 10:09 AM
 
4 posts, read 15,990 times
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Hi All,

We're looking for a cute, snowy mountain town to shack up in for a long weekend during the month of February. It's been forever since I've been to CO but I'm DYING to go back. All the photos of Vail I've seen look beautiful, but of course, popularity doesn't tell the whole story -- I also hear Vail can be expensive, crowded, etc.

What we're looking for is something similar -- small, snowy, mountain views, quaint. Someplace to light a fire and kick back for a long weekend.

Anything similar to a "Vail experience" but closer to Denver?
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:26 AM
 
2,437 posts, read 7,106,745 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madcasey View Post
Hi All,

We're looking for a cute, snowy mountain town to shack up in for a long weekend during the month of February. It's been forever since I've been to CO but I'm DYING to go back. All the photos of Vail I've seen look beautiful, but of course, popularity doesn't tell the whole story -- I also hear Vail can be expensive, crowded, etc.

What we're looking for is something similar -- small, snowy, mountain views, quaint. Someplace to light a fire and kick back for a long weekend.

Anything similar to a "Vail experience" but closer to Denver?
Are you looking to be near the slopes? If not, don't go to Vail or the like. I'd choose Frisco to be close (less than a 2hr drive) to Denver but not right at the base of a major resort. Otherwise, if you can afford to travel a bit further from DEN, choose Ouray.

There are many other possibilities as well. Almost any place in the high country will be very scenic. But the closer you stay to a resort (especially famous ones like Vail, Breck and Aspen) the more crowded and expensive it will be. There are many mtn. towns south of the divide with good lodging options, and they tend to be a lot less crowded, because they're further from I70 and the bigger resorts along that corridor.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:34 AM
 
10,868 posts, read 41,128,193 times
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If you're not a skier, then paying for the "Vail Experience" ... or that of any of the destination ski resort areas ... could be unneeded, although I have long enjoyed Vail and what it has to offer.

If all you are seeking is a place in the mountains with outdoor views to "kick back" in front of the fire, then you might look at closer in places like Idaho Springs or Georgetown ....

Or head up to places like Bailey or other small communities that are in the mountains.

All much closer than the ski resorts up the I-70 corridor, and without the ski resort pricing or many of the amenities ... you won't have so many dining choices, shopping, or entertainment options as the ski resort towns.

You can find lodging, cabins, or small houses for rent in these areas. Some of your opportunities will be found in as simple a place as a wide bend in the road with a few small cabins for rent ... you'll need to bring your own groceries with you as there isn't a local place for shopping. But it can be a nice get-away place. I used to head out Hwy 285 and didn't have to go too far past Conifer (another possible destination for you) to find camping places and cabins for rent on the way to Bailey ... or slightly past Bailey in the small communities along there. One big plus about heading this way is that you're not dealing with the weekend ski resort traffic heading West on I-70 or the return traffic on Sunday afternoon.

If, OTOH, you want to "discover" what Vail is all about for yourself, then that's where you'll need to go ....
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:40 AM
 
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If you want to experience Colorado mountain winter in a quaint mountain town (with scads of Victorian-era historical structures) without all of the ski resort bull**** (and that is exactly what it is, in my opinion), I would pick either Ouray or Silverton. Silverton is probably the best example of a mountain town before all the developers and skiers showed up that is left in Colorado. Just know that getting there over the Million Dollar Highway is not for the faint of heart in winter. It's a treachorous highway anytime, but in winter it has the added features of nasty storms, slick roads, and snowslides. If you aren't a good winter and mountain driver, it's not the place to go in the winter. Oh, and with this latest storm, they already have 4 feet of snow on the ground there. But Silverton is one neat historical mining town--still pretty rustic. Hell, the courthouse and numerous other buildings in town are still coal-heated.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:47 AM
 
Location: Napa, CA
151 posts, read 348,804 times
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Frisco would definitely work. It has a distinct main street and a lot of charm.

Estes Park is cheesy to the n'th degree, but that's not to suggest you couldn't have a great vacation there.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:52 AM
 
Location: Western Colorado
10,518 posts, read 11,623,635 times
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Ouray.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:57 AM
 
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While Ouray/Silverton may be a wonderful and affordable slice of Colorado's spectacular mountain country ... it's 350 miles with some of the most treacherous driving the state has to offer in the dead of winter. It's even a challenge, as JazzL points out, when the roads are clear and dry.

Hardly the stuff of a "long weekend" to kick back and relax unless you're a real glutton for punishment and look forward to a very long drive just to turn around and head home. You can count on spending a day of travel time of your weekend between Denver and this area in each direction.

I've spent a lot of winter weekends in Gunnison, which is about half-way on this trip .... But the only way I'll make a weekend trip out of it is to fly in and be met by friends at the airstrip there. If weather cooperates, it's a nice flight from the Front Range over the hills. This is one of the coldest places in Colorado, if not the USA on many days. You'll definitely appreciate hunkering down in front of the fire in a snug cabin because it can be pretty brutal outside.

Estes Park has a lot of snug little cabins around the area and wintertime snowmobiling activities ... but a lot of the town shuts down after Labor Day and there's not a lot going on until the following summer season. Still, it's not a tough destination to reach from Denver in most winters. Looking in that direction, one might consider Grandby or Grand Lake areas ....
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Old 12-10-2009, 11:30 AM
 
4 posts, read 15,990 times
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Wow, so much great advice in so little time -- let me preface by saying how much I love these forums and the community here. Thank you all.

It sounds like perhaps Frisco or Silverton are exactly what we're looking for. We've been considering Frisco, actually. Regarding the resorts, we ski, but not obsessively, and we're not looking to go on a "ski trip" this time, so that's why I didn't ask about the mega-resorts. We're more rustic, anyway. We'll be in Denver for a wedding and we're going to take a side trip into the mountains.

Silverton sounds RIGHT up my alley when you talk about the coal-powered heating, but by the sound of it I'm not sure the drive there is the right choice for out-of-towners looking for an easy jaunt. Frisco seems delightful -- I haven't heard any negatives about it yet. Another place people mention is Manitou Springs, but I don't know much about it. What are your thoughts?
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Old 12-10-2009, 11:53 AM
 
Location: Northern Colorado
695 posts, read 1,655,539 times
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I would second the Estes Park suggestion. Nice places to stay. Rocky Mountain National Park is great this time of year. Nice and quiet. There are still plenty of stores open, and a movie theater if you get tired of sitting by the fire. Reasonably quick and easy trip from Denver, too.
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:48 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,091,437 times
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Not to offend the Summit County folks, but there's not much rustic or authentic about Frisco. It's just another modern ski town--albeit with the actual ski areas a few miles away. Truth is, "rustic" and close to Denver doesn't exist much anymore. Gambling ruined the historic towns like Blackhawk and Central City, I-70 rips through the heart of Idaho Springs, Silver Plume, and Georgetown. Estes Park has been a cartoon town for years. Most of the places closer to Denver--Conifer, Evergreen, etc.--are just suburbia in the mountains.

Fact is, authentic means getting away from the Front Range and away from the ski areas. That doesn't leave many places in Colorado--places like Silverton, Ouray, or Creede are still pretty authentic former mining towns; places like Gunnison, Kremmling, and Walden (as examples) are still relatively authentic ranching towns in places that have a lot of snow in the winter.
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