Full disclosure: As a redhead with an Irish grandmother, I’m a big fan of St. Patrick’s Day. BIG.
Last year I finally attended the Lucky Joe’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Fort Collins, Colorado, and it’s a heck of a good time.
This is one of Fort Collins’ biggest parties of the year, with half the town coming out to witness the huge parade and after party in Old Town Square. Downtown Fort Collins literally becomes a sea of green, including the beer.
When we arrived in Fort Collins last St. Patty’s Day, Ryan and I were amazed to find the streets full of parade fans, and for good reason. It’s a premiere parade, with participates sticking with the theme of green, green, green. The streets get full, so get there early to find prime parade watching territory.
Families, college kids and leashed dogs all come together to celebrate one of my favorite holidays of the year.
The best part of this event, aside from the parade, are the bands that play in Old Town Square. Fort Collins keeps it authentic with Irish bands and pipe bands.
This year, stick around after the parade, stick around downtown to enjoy music with Irish bands such as Gobs O’Phun, The Commoners and TribU2, a U2 Tribute band. Guinness will be flowing along with Odells and green beer in Old Town Square. In addition you’ll find Irish food, green cotton candy, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson Whiskey.
I’m not normally a fan of green beer, because it’s weird and not authentically Irish, however, last year we indulged and enjoyed our green beers.
This year the parade features over 80 floats and Colorado State University’s own Dr. Temple Grandin is the parade Grand Marshall.
Lucky Joe’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Fort Collins, Colorado
March 16, 2013
Parade route & more info can be found at
Each Colorado ski town has its own unique feel, and Winter Park feels comfortable. For many Coloradans, it’s comfy because they’ve been skiing there since childhood, but even for the Winter Park newbie, the town has a relaxed vibe. Maybe it’s a Grand County thing. Winter Park, Granby and Grand Lake are towns that make visitors feel welcome. No need for fancy clothes, the most recent ski gear or a brand new car, just come as you are and have fun.
We recently spent a weekend in Winter Park. I was covering Grand Park Dog Days of winter, a sanctioned sled dog race, and you can see all the photos here.
Pizza, pizza, extraordinary pie
Winter Park is a ski town, no doubt. It’s been a tourist destination since the 1930s when it was called Hideaway Park. In 1978, when the Winter Park Ski Area was being developed by the City of Denver, the town was renamed Winter Park.
Many Coloradans grew up skiing Winter Park, in fact, many of my husband’s earliest ski memories took place there. Folks are nostalgic about places like Hernando’s Pizza Pub, a joint that’s been serving up popular pies since the sixties.
We stopped in at Hernando’s on Friday night and the wait was 70 minutes – this place is busy year round, but the pizza is worth the wait. Pizza places are dime a dozen in ski towns, and Winter Park is no exception, but the pizza at Hernando’s is exceptional, plus, the 20,000+ dollar bills plastering the walls give it an ambiance all its own.
Earlier in the day I had fulfilled a childhood dream of dog sledding at Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park. This amazing experience merited a full blog post of its own, and you can read it here.
The school bus shuffle
The free bus system in Winter Park is a great option, but navigating it can be a bit of a challenge. We stayed at Iron Horse Resort, a sweet ski-in ski-out property at Winter Park Resort. Unfortunately, in an attempt to go downtown, we got on the wrong school bus and proceeded to take a tour of the resort, eventually ending up back at Iron Horse.
After a quick discussion with the front desk, we discovered that during the day, you must take the bus to the ski village and then transfer to a bus that goes downtown. Starting at 5:30 p.m. there are buses that run from Iron Horse Resort to town every half hour or so.
We eventually made it downtown and enjoyed our pizza and our awesome waitress, Jill at Hernando’s. We managed to catch a bus back to Iron Horse, but got a quite a tour of Winter Park before getting back to our condo.
My tip for riding the Winter Park bus system is to always tell your driver your final destination, and don’t be in a big hurry to get there. Remember, it’s free, and if you are planning on having a drink or three with your pizza, it’s far better to ride the bus than to drive drunk.
The Iron Horse rocks & so does Ski Depot
We had a studio apartment at the Iron Horse, complete with bathroom, full kitchen and the most comfortable Murphy bed I’ve ever slept in. Our room was light, bright and comfortable. The property also has pool/hot tub facilities. What sells most people on Iron Horse is that it is a ski-out, ski-out property. You literally walk out, put your skis on and ski down the hill to the resort.
Most conveniently, Breeze at Ski Depot has a store downstairs at the Iron Horse Resort. This is where we got our ski rentals and the staff couldn’t be nicer – even on a crazy, busy Presidents Day weekend, they were friendly and fun. I even got advice on how to get off a ski lift without falling on my face.
My husband skied two days, ripping it up on Mary Jane and having a hell of a good time doing it. The resort was busy and there were some lines on day two, when the top of the mountain closed due to high winds, but it was a beautiful ski weekend. As a below average skier, I didn’t spend long on the mountain, but had a great time watching GoPro Racing from the deck of the Derailer Bar, and drinking a bloody Mary complete with bacon garnish. Yes, bacon.
So why Winter Park? With everything the town and resort has to offer, plus outstanding opportunities for more winter adventures within easy driving distance, such as snowmobiling in Grand Lake, cross-country skiing at Devil’s Thumb Ranch or tubing at CO Adventure Park in Fraser, Winter Park makes an ideal location for a winter getaway.
This trip sponsored in part by Winter Park & Fraser Chamber.
We arrived in Grand Lake on a snowy Friday. The area had received three straight days of heavy snow, which made our first stop at On the Trail Rentals, even more fantastic. I previously wrote about this experience.
We were booked at the Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging & Events, soon to be world famous because on March 25, they will be featured on the Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible. Much to my delight, because I’m a fan, the crew of Hotel Impossible was filming on the weekend we were in town.
We were staying in The Tree House, a huge two bedroom apartment overlooking the lake and just a short distance from the Western Riveria’s lake front property. It has a full kitchen, a living room and dining area with a fireplace. The master suite features a walk in closet the size of my first apartment, and the bathroom has Jack & Jill sinks.
We thoroughly enjoy the purple and pink sunrises from our big front window each morning, and we had a front row seat to the fireworks show on Saturday night. I was in town covering Grand Lake Winter Carnival, one of the best little winter festivals I’ve attended in Colorado.
Scheduled for a guided snowshoe trek in Rocky Mountain National Park, we got up early on Saturday. The Fat Cat had been recommended to us by the bartender at The Lariat. They serve a $12 breakfast buffet on the weekend and the selection included Scotch eggs, a personal favorite. A table heavy laden with desserts caught our eye. It looked like something right off the pages of Bon Appetit Magazine.
My husband, Ryan, is a big fan of desserts. Big. He looked at me, eyes full of excitement and asked, “Do you think that’s part of the buffet?”
It was. The Fat Cat will now always hold a special place in my Ryan’s heart, and mine too. We ended up there twice during our stay. We met and chatted with Sally, the owner, and felt like we’d discovered a home away from home. That’s how I feel about Grand Lake in general – it is genuinely comfortable.
At 9 a.m. we arrived at the Kawuneeche Visitors Center for our ranger led snow shoe outing with Ranger Barb. This was one of the best mornings ever, in part because Barb’s husband cut the trail for us. The scenery was breathtaking and it felt like we were snowshoers in a postcard. Barb is a gifted guide and amusing storyteller. Ranger led hikes at RMNP are free, but you must make reservations by calling 970-586-1223.
After our hike we sped back to Grand Lake to enjoy Winter Carnival activities. During winter carnival the businesses along Grand Avenue sponsor snow sculptures and this year’s theme was Alice in Winterland, resulting in especially whimsical creations.
The bed races are the Carnival’s most famous event. Eager festival goers were already lining the streets when we arrived and I noticed right way that Grand Lake is probably one of the most dog friendly towns in a state full of dog friendly towns.
The bed races lived up to the hype. It was a seriously entertaining event and since Hotel Impossible was in town they entered a team complete with their own camera crew caught here in our video of the races.
After the events were complete we made a quick trip out to Grand Lake Brewing which had moved out of town since our first visit. Their taster trays are huge and the staff is really nice. Back in town, we walked from The Tree House to Pancho & Lefty’s, another one of our favorite places in Grand Lake. It’s a super fun place that I mentioned in previous posts here on HeidiTown.
After a rather impressive fireworks show that we watched from our porch, we dined on delicious handmade pizza at the Grand Lake Bowling Alley.
The next morning, after filling up at The Fat Cat once more, we headed out to the picturesque Grand Lake Nordic Center for a morning of cross country skiing. The club house is beautiful and with 35 kilometers of groomed trails, you could easily spend a day here.
Sadly, we couldn’t. We had to head back home, but we’ll miss Grand Lake, and can’t wait to go back.
Author’s Note: Don’t miss the historic Daven Haven Lodge while you’re in town. It’s been open since the 1930s, and has had just three owners over the years. For a delicious steak, or all you can eat shrimp on Friday nights, make a reservation at the Daven Haven.
See more photos from this trip on Instagram at @TheMayorofHeidiTown.
HOTEL IMPOSSIBLE featuring the Western Riviera airs Monday, March 25 on the Travel Channel.
Throughout childhood I watched the Iditarod with pure excitement. I remember watching the late Susan Butcher dominate the race during the late 80s and early 90s. It was a sport that crossed gender lines and pitted human nature against Mother Nature, and Mother Nature sometimes won.
I was also a fan of the Iditarod because growing up in the Pacific Northwest I had several connections to people who ran the race; not close associations, but close enough to make me feel connected in a small way.
After reading the book “The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs & Men in a Race Against an Epidemic“ by Gay Salisbury, I developed a renewed interest in this race that had mesmerized me as a child. The book, published in 2005, is a nonfiction account of the 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. Unable to reach the town by plane, sled dogs were used to race lifesaving serum to the people of Nome. At the time, this event captivated the nation and inspired the annual Iditarod Dog Sled Race.
This long intro illustrates just how much I’ve always wanted to try dog sledding, so when I got the opportunity at Sled Dog Rides of Winter Park this past weekend, I jumped at it. I was in town covering the Grand Park Dog Days of Winter, a sanction sled dog race, so it was the perfect fit.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park is located just three minutes outside of Fraser, or 12 minutes from Winter Park Resort. My husband, Ryan, and I arrived on a snowy and blustery Friday afternoon. Ryan’s uncle, Dean, joined us as well.
As we were guided to the area where the dogs are tied, all was quiet, but not for long. When the dogs realized that sleds were being set up the howls began. It was as if they were all saying, “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!”
Ryan and I were bundled onto one sled, while Dean rode alone. Because our combined weight was significant, our team consisted of 12 excited dogs.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park has around 80 dogs, mostly Alaskan huskies. An Alaskan husky is a husky that has been bred with a variety of other breeds, so they all look a little different. Our team had one crazy Siberian husky named Yukon, while the rest were Alaskan huskies. Yukon is the dog in the video below that seems to be bouncing around and looking everywhere except forward.
Snuggled into a large blanket aboard our sled, we watched as our team was hooked up. This is quite a process and I kept thinking of the phrase, “herding snakes.” When the team was ready our musher, Laura, hopped on the back of the sled and we were off. The fast start was somewhat unexpected, and I was startled and tingly with delight all at the same time.
Laura informed us that we were sledding in less than ideal conditions. With fresh snow and wind, the groomed trail was constantly being covered with snow, making the dogs’ job more difficult.
Even with a heavy sled and deep snow in places, our team ran their hearts out. As we flew through Grand County’s beautiful countryside Laura kept us entertained with stories and answered our many questions; her knowledge made this ride not only fun, but educational.
While going through a deep drift our sled slowly turned over and we had to bail. Ryan was especially excited about this little incident because he felt it made a better “dog sled ride story.” However, it’s not nearly as dramatic as it sounds. Once the sled was good and stuck, Laura had us roll off the side so the dogs would be able to pull the sled out of the drift. After that we got back on and were off again.
The ride took about 45 minutes and we covered around 3 miles. Dog sledding is exhilarating, and for dog lovers like me, there’s the added bonus of getting to meet the dogs after the outing.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park operates winter and summer. During the summer the dogs pull visitors in modified golf carts or on specialized scooters. You can visit Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park at DogSledRidesofWinterPark.com or check them out on Facebook here.
See more photos of this dog sledding trip here. My husband took the following video or our dog sled adventure at Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park.
(NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: You’ll need to go to HeidiTown.com to see video)
Below is one of my favorite Instagram from this dog sledding experience. This was one of our “wheel dogs” (meaning he was directly in front of our sled). I love that face! Follow me on Instagram @TheMayorofHeidiTown.
This trip sponsored in part by the Winter Park & Fraser Chamber.
One of my favorite memories is waking up to six inches of fresh snow on my birthday, October 10, 2007. We were staying in Leadville, Colorado the highest town in the United States at 10,000 feet above sea level.
This small town provides a uniquely Colorado experience for several reasons. First, there’s no place like Leadville and when I say it’s one-of-a-kind, I mean it. Colorful characters, both past and present and colorful stories, both historical and modern day, plus lots of snow – that’s Leadville in a nutshell.
Leadville Ski Joring Weekend is March 2-3, 2012. Ski joring is the Scandinavian word for ski driving, and in Scandinavia individuals would ski behind reindeer as a method of transportation. More than a half century ago, two men from Leadville witnesses ski joring in Steamboat Springs and brought it back to Leadville where, in 1948, it became a serious competition.
Today, the Leadville Ski Joring completion is considered the preeminent event in the sport and has a $1,000 purse. If you’ve never watched skijoring, you in for a treat – watch the video from PLUM TV at the bottom of this post to get a taste of what it involves.
The event poster gives all the details on the ski joring events taking place in downtown Leadville. Click image to enlarge.
For families that choose to make a weekend out of the event, Leadville has much to offer in the way of wintertime fun. There’s the groomed, free Dutch Henri Sledding Hill where families can either bring their own sleds (no metal allowed) or rent tubes for $7 on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hill is open every day from dawn to dusk.
There is also the 30,000 square foot outdoor Leiter Ice Skating Rink, an affordable way to spend the afternoon. Skate rentals plus skate time is just $3.25 for children and $4.25 for adults. Ice rink is open 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sunday and includes a warming hut, snack bar and sound system.
The Mineral Belt Trail is free, and is 12 miles of groomed trail for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. In fact, Leadville has a total of 50 miles of cross country skiing trails, including 12 kilometers of groomed trails on the golf course.
The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. This is the only federally chartered non-profit museum and if mining sounds boring to you, it did to me too. However, this museum is really impressive. My husband wanted to go and I tagged along, and I was so glad that I did. Find them online at MiningHallofFame.org.
Leadville Ski Joring Weekend
March 2-3, 2013
I’ve been a fan of dog sled racing since I was just a little girl. Growing up in the far northern reaches of Washington State – let’s face it, it was practically Canada – there were quite a few Alaska connections around my community. This meant that throughout my childhood I had roundabout connections to the Iditerod, and therefore I never missed the race on television.
Since moving to Colorado in 2000, it’s been on my bucket list to make it to one of the many sled dog festivals that are held in the Rocky Mountains. This February I finally get my chance, not only to fulfill my childhood dream of riding in a dog sled with Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park, but also to witnesses sanctioned sled dog races.
I’ll be attending the Grand Park Dog Days of Winter over Presidents Day weekend in Grand Park, Colorado, just outside of Winter Park.
This is a two-day event, sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association. Races will offer slots for sled teams of four, six and eight dogs, a three-dog junior division and one and two-dog skijoring, where the mushers, wearing cross-country skis, are pulled by their dogs.
A skijoring clinic will be held on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 1:30 p.m. and people are encouraged to bring their dogs and give it a try. Harnesses and gear will be provided, but you need skis and a willing dog. In addition to the races there will be vendors and other entertainment at the race site.
In addition to the spectacle of the dog sled races, the area will be bustling with activity over Presidents Day Weekend. On Saturday night, visitors can experience Winter Park Comedy Night at Winter Park Resort. Learn more about winterparkcomedynight.com.
Grand Park Dog Days of Winter
Grand Park, Colorado
(between Winter Park & Fraser)
Feb. 16-17, 2013
Official event poster (click to enlarge):
On our trip to Breckenridge for Ullr Festival earlier this month, Ryan and I were invited to go ziplining at Top of the Rockies Zip Line. Up until this point my one zipline experience involved zipping across the small lake at the village in Copper, so the thought of a fast, long zip was exhilarating and rather frightening.
We took the free shuttle from Breckenridge along with a group of men who were going to the same place for a day of ziplining and snowmobiling from White Mountain Tours, the sister company of Top of the Rockies. Our van driver, who lives in Fraser, was an entertaining source of information as we drove through the beautiful, snowy scenery.
When we arrived at Top of the Rockies I was delighted to find out that I was going to get to ride in a snow cat. Here’s a little insider info about me – I have an obsession with Antarctica. I have read a lot of books about this ice covered continent where they drive around in snow cats instead of cars. Therefore, I’ve always wanted to ride in a snow cat and this was going to be my first opportunity to do so.
First, we had to put on our ziplining gear that hung down and hit my knees throughout the day, but it was worth it. Then, we loaded up into the snow cat with Ty, the manager of Top of the Rockies at the wheel and Oz, our ziplining guide for the day.
Ty let me ride shotgun as we barreled up the mountain. We were soon well above treeline and the view at the top is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The panoramic cannot be described in words.
After gaping at the view for an appropriate amount of time, we loaded back into the snow cat and rolled back down to the first of five ziplines at Top of the Rockies. The first one is at 11,000 feet and flies out over the side of the snowy mountain.
First we did a little briefing with Ty and Oz in the “practice” area. This helps riders familiarize themselves with terminology and with how it feels to be hooked to the line. Once we were ready, my heart was beating pretty fast as I got on the wooden platform, still very shiny and new because Top of the Rockies only opened this past summer.
Oz zipped out to the other side to act as brake–man and then Ty hooked up Ryan who didn’t even hesitate when he got the GO. The line hummed as his 200 lbs went flying out over the precipice. I don’t think he even screamed, but when it was my turn to zip I let out some whoops and hollers that they probably heard in Leadville.
I might have been scared in the beginning, but after the first zip I learned to trust my equipment and my guides. As we worked our way through the five zips, the smile on my face grew and grew. I’ve described the experience of ziplining as a true natural high. For a control freak like me, throwing myself off a platform and flying through the air is more than fun – it is freedom – it’s letting go and truly living in the moment.
Top of the Rockies is one of very few Colorado ziplines that stays open year-round. Nearly everyone can zip, and while there is some hiking between zipline platforms, it is light weight. There are all sorts of packages to choose from including a ziplining and snowmobiling day that include lunch. In exciting news, Top of the Rockies already has plans to add to more ziplines this summer, making the total number of zips 7.
You can learn more and book a trip at TopoftheRockiesZipline.com.
A huge thank you to Ty and Oz for being fun guys and great guides. Thanks for the snow cat tour and the ziplining. Hope to see you again for a summertime zip!
Below is video taken by Ryan of one of his 5 zips at Top of the Rockies. If I had taken video there would have been a lot more screaming involved!
It’s time for another HeidiTown segment on KRFC 88.9 FM.
As a reminder, I’ve decided to cut down on these radio shows because I create entirely new content for each segment and it’s too much to keep up with on a weekly basis. So, the HeidiTown show can be heard now twice a month on the radio.
This week’s show includes a preview of a couple upcoming winter carnivals and a look at some Colorado winter sports you should try out this season. Some of these “sports” require little more than sitting down and hanging on, as you can see by this photo.
So sit back and buckle up and take a listen to this week’s radio show HERE.
I love small town festivals. There’s just something so real and so special about a town coming together to enjoy the company of friends, new and old. And while I love the big Colorado ski towns, sometimes it’s nice to get away from the glitz of a resort and simply bask in the glow of Americana.
Grand Lake has an abundance of Americana. It’s like turning back the clock to a different era when people borrowed eggs from their neighbors and didn’t think twice about letting their kids bicycle around town.
However, Grand Lake’s quaintness shouldn’t be mistaken for boring. Case in point? Grand Lake Winter Carnival, and this year’s theme, Alice in Winterland, should prove to be very entertaining.
The party gets started on Friday evening with live music at Grumpy’s Saloon from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday is when the real event takes place. All of the crazy activities will happen in downtown, along Grand Avenue, and everyone is encouraged to participate.
The bed races are the highlight, and chamber executive director, Lisa Jenkins, tells me that they make extra beds so that people can decide to put together a team and participate on the spot.
“This is a small town snow festival that is quiant and very family-fun oriented. It will make you laugh and smile,” says Jenkins.
Events like human bowling will surely get the crowds giggling along with tea pot curling, snow golf and the parent/child sled pull. In addition to all the games, there’s also a Winterland Parade, snow sculptures, a movie, the crowing of a king and queen, fireworks over the lake and even a Winterland Snow Dance.
All the proceeds from this event go to benefit the Grand Lake Fireworks Fund.
Grand Lake Carnival
Theme: Alice in Winterland
February 2, 2013
I hope to see you there!!!
Footage by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer, HeidiTown.com of this year’s bed race at Grand Lake Carnival:
It’s time for another segment of the HeidiTown show on KRFC 88.9 FM.
It’s already been an amazing year here at HeidiTown, and it’s only been a few weeks!
On this week’s show, I do a little housekeeping. There are some changes on the horizon for the HeidiTown show, so listen to find out what’s in store. Also, I preview some of my upcoming trips to Grand County this winter.
So without further ado, LISTEN HERE.