Archives For Colorado

You’ve heard about it in songs and perhaps you’ve seen it in a movie or commercials, but did you know that you can do it right here in Colorado? Several places around Colorado offer horse and sleigh rides, and earlier this winter we got to experience an outing at Snow Mountain Ranch, a beautiful YMCA of the Rockies property in Grand County, Colorado.

A sleigh ride at snow mountain ranch. Natalie & Rufio.

We arrived at Sombrero Stables a little before our scheduled excursion. All the draft horse teams were lined up, waiting to be hitched to their sleighs for multiple afternoon outings, so we walked down the line giving head scratches and taking photos.

I fell in love with draft horses while writing a series of articles about Norwegian Fjords for a Colorado newspaper. Draft horses are called “gentle giants” for a reason; their demeanor is calm and they are unlike any other horse I’ve been around. I love their chill personalities.

Sombrero Stables has a large group of draft horses that winter over at the ranch, from a ginormous pair of Percherons, Hank and Tank, to a pair of beautiful Belgians, Claire and Belle.

Claire & Belle, a team of draft horses at Sombrero Stables at Snow Mountain Ranch.

Claire & Belle

Our sleigh was pulled by Rufio, a reddish horse of mysterious origins. He came to the ranch without a story, a bit unusual, but they quickly learned that he was a great cart horse and put him to work pulling one-horse open sleighs.

A sleigh ride at Snow Mountain Ranch. Rufio -

Our wrangler was Natalie from Wisconsin. She was a wealth of knowledge and told us lots of stories as our sleigh glided through the snowy world of Snow Mountain Ranch. I learned that draft horses teams are usually composed of the same two horse every time they pull and these two horses grow very close, hanging out together in their off time too. Longtime teams are often inseparable.

After Ryan and I were tucked into the sleigh Rufio made his way through a sun dappled forest. We eventually found ourselves in a little clearing where a fire was burning. On a nearby picnic table we discovered all the accouterments for roasting marshmallows. We climbed out of the sleigh, drank hot cider and I burned a marshmallow (I have no patience for roasting the perfect marshmallow).

A sleigh ride at Snow Mountain Ranch. Heidi & Ryan pose with the reigns.

The sleigh ride was relaxing and the scenery was stunning. This excursion would make a great Colorado Valentine’s Day experience with your sweetheart.

There are other sleigh rides available at Sombrero Stables at Snow Mountain Ranch including hot cocoa sleigh rides with a group and private outings like the one we experienced. If you’d rather get on a horse and go on a trail ride, that’s available too – even in the winter. Go to for details on the various activities the stables offer.

A sleigh ride at Snow Mountain Ranch 4.

Thank you to Snow Mountain Ranch for hosting us on this trip and a special thank you to Sombrero Stables, Natalie and Rufio. 

Last year I finally got the opportunity to attend the International Snow Sculpting Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado. I’d known about the event for years and wondered if it would live up to the hype.

We were booked at the Village at Breckenridge and our room overlooked the parking lot in which the snow sculpting teams were working on their creations.

We were lucky enough to stay for long enough to watch the sculptures as they were carved into their various final compositions.

As we watched the sculptures take shape over several days I was blown away by the size and intricacy of each piece. The photographs I had seen of this event, while amazing, just simply hadn’t done it justice. Seeing this event in person is truly astounding.

1st place Team Lithuania at the International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado. HeidiTown (1)

1st place Team Lithuania at the International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado 2015.

1st place Team Lithuania at the International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado. HeidiTown (7)

1st place Team Lithuania 2015

This year’s event International Snow Sculpting Championships run Jan. 18 through February 7, 2016. The ideal time to visit, in my opinion, is Jan. 26-30 while the sculptures are being created, especially Jan. 29 when the teams work late into the night to finish their pieces. Watching the sculptures come to life, so to speak, is quite astonishing.

Lots of other fun happenings take place around this event. Do not miss the Fire Arts Festival running January 28-31, 2016. Produced by the Breck Create the multi-day event features burning sculptures, workshops, fire performers, music and other pyrotechnic special effects-filled entertainment throughout the Breckenridge Arts District.

Budweiser International Snow Sculpting Championships 2015. Team Germany - Agrawal. Second Place. HeidiTown (1)

Team Germany – Agrawal, Second Place 2015

Budweiser International Snow Sculpting Championships 2015. Team Germany - Agrawal. Second Place. HeidiTown (2)

2nd place Team Germany – Agrawal 2015

There are lots of things to do in Breckenridge and that’s why it’s one of my favorite Colorado winter towns. During last year’s visit we went on a guided snowshoe trek at the beautiful Breckenridge Nordic Center and I wrote about our outing here.

While in town we also hit up old favorites such as Angel’s Hollow (Mexican food with a Breckenridge twist) and tried Empire Burger for the first time. While good, I’m not sure these burgers were worth the unbelievably long wait for a table. That being said, we had an amazing breakfast at their sister restaurant Park & Main. I’d highly recommend this place for a delicious and affordable breakfast in Breckenridge.

Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Team Minnesota, Third Place.  HeidiTown (2)

Team Minnesota, 3rd Place 2015

Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Team Minnesota, Third Place.  HeidiTown (5)

Team Minnesota, 3rd Place 2015

Here’s some helpful tips about the Snow Sculpture Championships.

The sculptures are located around the River Walk Center at 150 West Adams Avenue. There is free bus transportation around Breckenridge making it easy to get around town. Don’t miss the history of the event on display inside the Thaw Lounge+Music. The exhibit covers all 25 years of this signature Breckenridge event. Feel free to talk to the artists. Most of the teams will take time to talk to the public about their sculptures.

For more go to

Thank you to GoBreck for hosting us on last year’s visit to Breckenridge during the Snow Sculpting Championships.

Dog sledding in Colorado? Yes, you can. I’ve done it twice now and our experience this past week at Snow Mountain Ranch was like no other.

Dog sledding at Snow Mountain Ranch.

I was a huge fan of the Iditarod when I was a kid. The race incorporates lots of things I love; dogs, snow and perseverance.

Snow Mountain Ranch is part of the YMCA of the Rockies. It is located between Winter Park and Granby, Colorado and is a snow sports fanatic’s dream destination. In addition to dog sledding guests can participate in everything from cross country skiing to fat biking to ice skating and the best part? Guests never have to leave the property. Continue Reading…

I was asked recently to write a “tips for attending winter festivals” post. Well, I had already written that post way back in 2014. Since it has some great winter festival survival tips I decided I’d re-post the original article. 

The following post originally appeared on on February 7, 2014.


I was prompted to write this post after an experience I had last month during Breckenridge’s Ullr Festival. For the first time ever I experienced the terrible symptoms of severe dehydration. As a longtime Coloradan, I am embarrassed to admit this, but it happened and it’s NOT fun.

On our second night in town, after soaking in the beautiful hot tubs at Grand Timber Lodge, we went out to dinner where I started to feel shaky and nauseated. I thought I was coming down with the flu. I didn’t touch dinner and had to head back to our condo early where I crawled into bed with intense muscle cramps and aches all over my body.

The next day I was fine, a bit weak, but otherwise back to normal. When I searched my symptoms on Google, I discovered that I had suffered from dehydration. Usually I drink a ton of water, but on this trip I was so busy with Nordic skiing and partying that hydration had skipped my mind. It won’t happen again.

This long story leads me to tip number 1, which is HYDRATE! HYDRATE! HYDRATE!

Beer at Breckenridge Brewery.

It’s delicious, but it’s not water. Drink one of these and follow it up with a pint of water.

Colorado is at elevation – all of it – but especially in the mountains where most of the great winter festivals take place. Dehydration can happen to anyone, even a Colorado resident – case in point -but those coming from outside the state should be even more conscientious of this issue. Continue Reading…

Each year I compile a list of my top ten highlights and each year it gets harder. This year was no exception. From birding festivals to wine festivals to festive Christmas outings, 2015 was chockablock with amazing Colorado experiences.

I truly hope you took inspiration from my travels and had a few Colorado festival and travel highlights of your own this year. At the end of this post feel free to leave a comment telling me a few of yours.

Without further ado, here are my top ten highlights of 2015 in no particular order.

The gift of a tomato in Crested Butte

Top 10 HeidiTown Highlights of 2015. The magic of Crested Butte.

There’s a real kind of magic in Crested Butte.

Coloradans adore Crested Butte and before I visited this fall I wondered if the town would live up to the hype. Not only did it live up to my expectations, it exceeded them. The Crested Butte story I will tell for the rest of my life is that of the gift of the tomato. I’d only been in town a few hours when, while riding the free bus from town to the resort, a man gave me a beautiful heirloom tomato. Where else but in Crested Butte does a person receive the gift of fruit from a perfect stranger? No wonder folks adore this quintessential Colorado town.

Snow Sculpture Festival in Breckenridge

Top 10 HeidiTown Highlights of 2015. Posing with friend and arist Kerri Ertman at the Breckenridge Snow Sculpture Championships.

Posing in front of the People’s Choice winner from Team Alaska with my friend and artist, Kerri Ertman.

I’d been reading and hearing about the Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge for years and in 2015, I finally attended. I discovered that there’s a good reason this event gets so much attention – it’s amazing. We were blown away by the spectacle of huge snow sculptures coming to life over the two day period while we were in town. This is an event that should absolutely be on your Colorado bucket list. Continue Reading…

Part One: The train

Do you like trains? Do you like history? Do you like beautiful scenery? Do you like the movies? If you answered yes to any of these you’ll enjoy the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you love this scenic railroad.

Ray Martinez, conductor of the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad. HeidiTown, photo by Alanna Brake

Ray Martinez, conductor of the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad.

The Cumbres & Toltec really is the most authentic scenic railroad you’ll find in the United States and it is just 4 hours from Denver.

Here are just a few reasons why I think this train is so interesting. It is the longest (in terms of mileage) scenic railroad running in the United States. It runs between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico; a 64 miles stretch of original railroad. During the trip you’ll weave in and out of Colorado and New Mexico 11 times. On the full trip, the train stops three times for water; it is a steam train after all, and water is vital to keeping it chugging along. Continue Reading…

Our second day at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, we woke to the sounds of birds chirping cheerily in the trees outside our cabin. Trees play a large part in the history of Sylvan Dale, in fact, a lot of the trees around the cabins have dedications.

One tree is dedicated to a couple who met at the ranch many years ago; there has been more than one love affair that started at Sylvan Dale. Four generations later, the family that blossomed from that love still comes to the guest ranch every summer.

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. Nature Walk.

Be sure to ask the story of the Sylvan Dale’s apple trees when you visit.

Breakfast was French toast made from Sylvan Dale’s famous cinnamon bread.  While I’m more of a savory and spicy food person, Ryan’s favorite breakfast item is French toast and he gave these an A++. Chef Scott grilled them up fresh while we munched on fresh fruit and yogurt and fueled up on coffee.

We needed fuel for our day ahead which included a nature hike with Dr. David Armstrong, Susan’s husband, and a horseback ride. Continue Reading…

Want to get away from it all, but don’t want to drive far? Check out Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. Just one hour north of Denver, once you arrive at Sylvan Dale you’ll feel a million miles from civilization. In fact, you may feel as though you’ve time traveled to another century.

Hello from Sylvan Dale guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado.

Hello from Sylvan Dale guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado.

We had the opportunity to spend a night at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch during their “Swing into Spring” getaway weekend. Traditionally a guest ranch where guests stay for a week at a time, Sylvan Dale has recently added short-term stays to their offerings.

When we arrived, Susan Jessup gave Ryan and I a tour of the property. She knows the ranch really well; after all, she grew up there. Her father bought the ranch in 1947, and Jessup’s love for the place is palpable. And it’s easy to see why – after less than 24 hours on the property, we had fallen in love with Sylvan Dale too. Continue Reading…

Solshine Music Festival photo

Solshine Music Festival photo

Holiday weeks such as this one are notorious for low blog engagement, and that’s okay. I hope everyone is out enjoying the 4th of July and the extra, extra long weekend!

The HeidiTown Gives Back post about National Dog Mill Rescue went up on Monday, so today I’m sharing my radio segment. My 5 minute show airs twice a month on KRFC 88.9 FM, public radio in Fort Collins, Colorado. You can hear me on air at 5:55 p.m. on Wednesdays and 5 p.m. on Fridays.

This week I give you a sneak preview of my trip to Winter Park for The Village Uncorked and the SolShine Music Festival. Plus, a look ahead at the big, second weekend in July when huge festivals are happening up and down the Front Range of Colorado.

Listen to this week’s show HERE.

Sitting on our room’s patio at the Table Mountain Inn, we felt a million miles away from the big city. This is the best part of a visit to Golden, Colorado; it is a small town that’s so close to Denver metro and the Front Range that you’ll hardly see your fuel indicator move on a drive there.

Welcome to Golden Sign

We were in town to attend the Golden Music Festival, but this 2-day itinerary works for whatever happens to bring you to Golden.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, checked into our hotel and decided to indulge in nachos and a couple gigantic margaritas on Table Mountain Inn’s restaurant’s new patio. A great idea because it was happy hour and everything was just $5, plus the nachos were impressive.

Tour Miller Coors Brewery

After our snack, we walked the short distance to Coors for our VIP tour. This was my first-ever big brewery tour and it was an eye-opener. The scale on which Miller Coors brews beer is staggering. My husband kept referencing “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” as we gawked at huge copper kettles and ginormous two story vats of bubbly stuff. Continue Reading…