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Colorado’s Most Picturesque Winter Towns

A Note from the Mayor: This article first appeared in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor where I work as a reporter-at-large. The original title was “Explore Colorado.”

Colorado is a beautiful state. Even the towns that dot the Eastern Plains have their own sort of nostalgic charm. However, there are a few towns that really sparkle when blanketed with a fresh layer of snow. Here are the towns that I consider to be three of the most picturesque winter towns in Colorado. 

Crested Butte

Coloradans have a long time love affair with Crested Butte. And while it’s not quite the same quaint place it once was – according to Zillow the median home price is $995,000 – it still retains an authenticity that residents and visitors love.

Crested Butte, Colorado, photo by Trent Bona.

Picturesque Crested Butte, Colorado, photo by Trent Bona.

Crested Butte sits on the border of where ranch land merges with the mountains. The town, which is located a short (free) bus ride from Crested Butte Mountain Resort, is full of colorful Victorian buildings, many of which house fantastic restaurants.

The town was incorporated in 1880, and had a population at that time of 400. In addition, approximately 1000 miners lived in the surrounding area. One of Crested Buttes’ most popular winter festivals, Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill Telemark Ski Race, is a celebration of Al Johnson, a mail carrier who traveled between the mining communities in the Crested Butte area in the late 1800s. Continue reading

44 Days of Fall in Colorado

We have 44 days of fall left, but the beautiful fall drives are over, so how do we continue to celebrate this shoulder season? I’ve got a few suggestions.

A Late Fall Getaway in Colorado

November isn’t a big getaway month for most people, but the “shoulder season” is a wonderful time to travel in Colorado. There are less cars on the roads, and unless you’re traveling on Thanksgiving, you’ll find some great hotel deals over the next 44 days.

44-days-of-fall-in-colorado-elk-near-estes-park-colorado-heiditown-com

An elk herd near Estes Park, Colorado.

We have a tradition of doing birthday getaways in our house and since my husband’s birthday is in November, we’ve done quite a bit of fall travel in Colorado. Denver is actually one of my top picks for this time of year because the city dresses up beautifully for the holidays and it’s fun to stroll a brightly lit up downtown. Continue reading

A Vacation Home With Moose Neighbors in Steamboat Springs

There is nothing, not even free beer, that makes me more excited than a wildlife sighting, and we had one of the best ever this past weekend in Steamboat Springs at our vacation home, Angler’s Cabin.

We arrived back to Angler’s Cabin, a Moving Mountains property, in the early afternoon to find that we had visitors – visitors of the moose kind. A mamma moose and her two yearlings were taking a break in the front yard of our home, within inches of the front windows.

We carefully went indoors and began snapping photos and watching these lazy moose. They stuck around for awhile, eventually making their way to the back (street side) of the house where the munched on anything they could find.

Enjoy Moose Neighbors with a Moving Mountains Vacation Home. Moose in Steamboat Springs. HeidiTown.com

We’ve never been quite this close to a moose before!

Enjoy Moose Neighbors with a Moving Mountains Vacation Home. Moose in Steamboat Springs 1. HeidiTown.com

These two really seemed to love each other.

Enjoy Moose Neighbors with a Moving Mountains Vacation Home. Moose in Steamboat Springs 2. HeidiTown.com

Got an itch.

Seeing these moose made an amazing stay at Angler’s Cabin even more memorable. Continue reading

My obsession with “North America” on Discovery

This post is a little off-topic, but not far off. I’m obsessed with the new show, “North America” on Discovery. The reason this post isn’t entirely irrelevant to HeidiTown is because the show has shot scenes in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Plus, HeidiTown is actually located in North America.

If you haven’t watched “North America,” it is a seven-part series that started in May. The series comes to an end this Sunday, but I have no doubt that it will be in reruns on the Discovery Channel for a long time, plus, it is already available for purchase on DVD. It is also available On Demand.

I’ve loved nature shows since I was a child. In fact, for years, I wanted to be a marine biologist. One of my heroes as a child was a female marine biologist who worked at an interpretive center in the area where I grew in the Pacific Northwest.

I am deeply in love with nature and wildlife, and the natural world has always filled me with a deep sense of awe. It’s a type of awe that nothing else can inspire. I can honestly say that watching a baby robin taking refuge in our aspen tree or watching a bear dive for salmon on “North America” brings me a type of joy greater than anything else.

There have been a few standout nature shows over the years, including “Planet Earth“ in 2006, and “The Life of Birds“ with David Attenborough. However, “North America“ may have taken its place at the top of my list.

There are several reasons why I love this show so much, but the main reason is that it concentrates on the continent of North America. I’ve noticed, especially lately, that people tend to ignore the amazing stuff that is right around them. They think they need to travel far, far away to really see something magnificent, but this is a misnomer.

There are remarkable things to discover right here in North American and right here in Colorado. This is what I try to get across to my blog readers and followers in social media. You don’t have to get on a plane to see things that will stimulate your curiosity. Just open your eyes! Every day I look around Colorado and I feel so tremendously lucky to live here. The sky, the soaring hawks, the mountains”¦ if people would just open their eyes a little wider, put down their mobile phones and watch the scenery go by”¦  they would realize that they live in a truly remarkable place.

The following is one of my favorite clips from “North America” on Discovery:

 

An itinerary for fun in Ouray, Colorado

Ouray, Colorado by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer for HeidiTown.comDo you seek out adventure? Or would you rather soak in hot springs all day? Does rappelling into a waterfall sound exhilarating? Or would you rather sit on a sun soaked, rooftop patio drinking a beer? You can do all of these things and more in Ouray, Colorado.

Ryan and I visited Ouray in March and we fell in love with the town. I hadn’t been to Ouray since my parents made the road trip from the Oregon Coast to Colorado in a Volkswagen Rabbit in 1978. The most memorable photo from the trip is of me at age two, sitting on a snow bank, surrounded by wildflowers.

Ouray is nestled between high mountain peaks, giving it the deserved nickname of Little Switzerland. The town still has many unpaved streets, adding to its unpretentious charm. Here are highlights from our March trip, and I hope that they will help you make the most out of your Ouray experience.

Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer for HeidiTown.comStay in Ouray:

Does the idea of rolling out of bed and into a hot springs pool every morning sound appealing? This experience awaits you at the Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings. The Wiesbaden is unique because in addition to a hot springs fed pool, they have a vapor cave, something my husband enjoyed enormously.

They also have a private hot spring called the Lorelei. It is magical, and I highly recommend booking the Lorelei when you stay at the Wiesbaden, and be sure to ask if they are running any discounts for hotel guests.

There are several different types of lodging options at the Wiesbaden. We had apartment style accommodations complete with a kitchen. Eating in is a great way to save money if you are staying somewhere for more than two days.

The Wiesbaden is retro, but has all the accoutrements of modern living such as flat screen televisions. The big bonus is that it is within walking distance of everything downtown Ouray has to offer.   Continue reading

Ice climbing in Ouray, not just for the pros

When I told people I was going ice climbing in Ouray, they would say, “I didn’t know you were a climber.” I’m not a climber. I had never even sat in a harness until my first zip lining experience in 2012. However, when I was offered the chance to go ice climbing with San Juan Mountain Guides, for some crazy reason I said yes.

Heidi Ice Climbing in Ouray Photo by Ryan Schlaefer for HeidiTown.com March 2013

On our third day in Ouray, Ryan and I rose early, forgoing our morning soak in the Wiesbaden’s hot spring pool. We dressed warmly and drove the two blocks to San Juan Mountain Guides. Located in Ouray and Durango this company provides guides for all sorts of outdoor adventures, from ice climbing to canyoning.

They also rent equipment, which is good because climbing gear is pricey. A pair of ice climbing boots alone will set you back $700. Our guide, professional climber Dawn Glanc, got us all geared up and we drove the short 5 minutes to the Ouray Ice Park.

This is the only ice park of its kind in the United States, so it truly fits the definition of unique. It’s a magical place, so even if you don’t intent to climb, it’s worth the short drive to see it.

Other climbers in our section of the canyon at Ouray Ice Park. Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer for HeidiTown.com

Other climbers in our section of the canyon at Ouray Ice Park.

Every January, the Ouray Ice Festival attracts around 1,000 ice climbers from around the world to the tiny town. More and more events are being established around the ice park, including Chicks with Picks, ice climbing clinics. Women are becoming increasingly interested in climbing, a sport primarily dominated by men.

We parked the car and walked up the muddy road to done our gear before heading into the park. The park is owned and managed by the City of Ouray and the nonprofit, Ouray Ice Park, Inc. The ice is farmed, meaning it is manmade using water pipes that are turned on to create nearly 200 ice and mixed climbs ranging from beginning to expert along a mile of canyon.

All geared up in harnesses, helmets, boots and crampons, Ryan, Dawn and I walked through the park, heading towards what’s referred to as The School Room – it’s where they train the newbies. My body grew stiff with apprehension as we traversed the metal walkway hanging high above the canyon.

This is a good time to tell you that I have a fear of heights. I’m pretty good going up a mountain, but I once sat atop a 14er and cried for a half hour when I realized I’d have to exit the peak down a slippery slope of shale. I’m not proud of this little incident, but it proves my point.

By the time we were positioned directly above The School Room I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to do this. Once Dawn told us that we’d need to crawl under the fencing and rappelling down the ice cliff face to get to the training area, I knew for sure that this wasn’t going to happen. The thin metal fence I’d been holding on to during our walk was the only thing between me and a precipice of ice that shot straight down into what I assumed was a frozen river bed and imminent death.

over the cliff at Ouray Ice Park

This is the cliff edge beyond the safety of the metal walkway & fencing.

Once he was attached to the rope, Ryan, the athlete in our family and a guy with absolutely no fear, got the go from Dawn. He ducked under the fence and vanished. I stood quietly as Dawn fed the rope to Ryan. For a while the only sound was the soft wind whispering through the canyon and the beating of my heart, now lodged firmly in my throat.

“We can walk down,” said Dawn.

I quietly considered this new plan as Dawn continued to feed Ryan rope. It seemed like a lot of rope. Was this a 500 foot drop off?

“We can also rappel down together,” said Dawn.

And then I realized something. If I didn’t rappel down that icy canyon, the one I was supposed to learn to climb up, the rest of the day was going to be a sham. How could I claim that I attempted to ice climb if I couldn’t make myself rappel to the start of the climb?

We went together, and I’ll admit, it was a terrifying experience, but somewhere in the middle of the rappel my heart rate steadied. I focused on the task at hand, as Dawn instructed. I focused on my feet and finally I was at the bottom of the canyon.

You couldn’t wipe the grin off my face for the rest of the day.

My smile after rappelling with Dawn at the Ouray Ice Park photo by Ryan Schlaefer for HeidiTown.com

I had this smile for the rest of the day.

We went on to learn the basics of ice climbing. It’s all fairly straightforward and Ryan got it right way, making two climbs to the top before noon. I wasn’t quite so good, and although I did comprehend what I was supposed to be doing I couldn’t always get my muscles to respond properly.

Ryan nearing the top of the climb at the School Room at Ouray Ice Park. Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer for HeidiTown.com

Ryan nearing the top of the climb at the School Room at Ouray Ice Park.

Dawn Glanc is a gifted climbing instructor and has in incredible amount of patience and understanding. On our hike back up, which was actually another big hurdle for me because it was downright scary, she hooked up my harness so that I felt more secure.

So is this the end of my ice climbing career? Absolutely not. I would definitely try it again and perhaps I’d even advance to a solo rappel. Although before I do ice climbing, I may do some canyoning this summer, another growing sport in Ouray that involves rappelling into water falls. Sounds terrifyingly refreshing.

Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer and professional climber, Dawn Glanc at the Ouray Ice Park. Photo by Ryan Schlaefer for HeidiTown.com

Posing with my guide and instructor, professional climber, Dawn Glanc. Thank you Dawn!

If I can do this sport, you can do it! If you’d like to book a guided ice climbing trek with Dawn Glanc next winter it’s not too early because she books up fast. Dawn is a pro who travels the world climbing in amazing places like Iceland, Croatia and Greece, so be sure to like her Facebook page to follow her adventures. Also, please check out San Juan Mountain Guide’s online or on Facebook. Lastly, watch for Dawn Glanc at the ice climbing demonstrations at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

This climb was sponsored by the  Ouray Chamber Resort Association.

HeidiTown on the Radio – Traveling + St. Patrick’s Day in Fort Collins, Colorado

Heidi riding big bike in downtown Grand Junction Colorado HeidiTown

Riding the public art in downtown Grand Junction, Colorado. There are over 100 sculpture in downtown GJ.

It’s that time again, time for another installment of HeidiTown on the radio.

Every two weeks I have a show on KRFC 88.9 FM, community public radio. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling this winter, so in this week’s segment I share a little from our trip to Grand Junction and the surrounding area. I will be writing some blog posts about this trip as well, so stay tuned!

Also included, a preview of the Fort Collins St. Patrick’s Day Parade – a very popular and very green event in Northern Colorado.

Without further ado, listen to this week’s segment HERE.

Skiing, pizza, dog sledding & more in Winter Park, Colorado

Winter Park Resort Sign Feb 2013 HeidiTown.comEach 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.

HeidiTown dollar bill at Hernandos Winter Park 2013

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.

Dog Days of Winter Park Feb 2013 HeidiTown

The Grand Dog Days of Winter Park 2013.

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 pool at Iron Horse Resort Winter Park Feb 2013 HeidiTown.com

The view from the pool at Iron Horse Resort.

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.

Grand County, where adventure awaitsBloody Mary with Bacon at the Derailer Bar in Winter Park Feb 2013 HeidiTown

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.

Recommended Links:

PlayWinterPark.com  …  On Facebook  /  On Twitter

AlpineResortProperties.com  …  On Facebook

VisitGrandCounty.com  …  On Facebook  /  On Twitter

This trip sponsored in part by Winter Park & Fraser Chamber.

 

HeidiTown on the Radio – Colorado wine & food festivals & more

wine glassIt’s time for another HeidiTown segment on KRFC 88.9 FM.

This week I cover food and wine events in Fort Collins, a unique festival high, high, high in the Rocky Mountains and much more.

Hear me on KRFC 88.9 FM on Wednesdays prior to the Bikes & Beer Show at 6 p.m. and on Fridays at 5 p.m.

OR, listen HERE!  

Featured Festival: Frozen Dead Guy Days, March 8-10, 2013 (Nederland, Colorado)

 

NED WOMEN Frozen Dead Guy Days

All photos courtesy of Frozen Dead Guy Days. Photos by Barbara Lawlor.

Behold the Frozen!

Frozen Dead Guy Days is hardly a secret anymore. In just 12 years they’ve managed to put this fest on the map. It’s been written up in magazines around the world, blogged about and even featured on national television (more than once).

Apparently, when you design a festival around a frozen dead guy, it’s a recipe for media attention.

If, for some reason, this festival is new to you, let me fill in the cold and gory details. There really is a dead guy in Nederland and he’s been frozen for 24 years. His name was Bredo Morstoel. He never lived in Colorado, in fact, he lived and died in Norway. However, he was a believer in cryonics, and after his death his body was shipped to a cryonics lab in California.

Parade of Hearses at Frozen Dead Guy Days.

Parade of Hearses.

Remember cryonics? You don’t here about it much anymore, but it was the popular pseudo-scientific idea that if you kept a dead body frozen, you could somehow bring it back to life in the future when we figure out how to do that, or aliens land and show us how.

Apparently Grandpa Bredo, as the cold corpse is called, had family who also believed in cryogenics. They lived in Colorado, so that’s how Grandpa found his way to a shed on a hill in Nederland. His relatives are long gone, but when the media got wind of this unique situation, Grandpa Bredo became sensational news, and has been cared for ever since, and by cared for I mean a group of individuals deliver ice to his shed monthly keeping his body ready for his future resurrection.

guy in blue dress at Frozen dead Guy Days

No idea what's going on here? Me neither.

Sound a bit weird? Welcome to Nederland. The tiny town embraces weird like a long lost child, and they let their freak flag fly extra high during Frozen Dead Guy Days.

The festival features an array of off the wall events like the frozen t-shirt contest, coffin races, a hearse parade, ice turkey bowling, frozen salmon toss, snowy beach volleyball, polar plunging and more. I’m not making this up – who could?

The popularity of the festival brings a lot of people to the tiny town of Nederland, so be prepared for crowds and leave the kids and baby strollers at home. Located an hour from Denver, the festival organizers encourage people to take the RTD N bus from Boulder to the event.

Frozen Dead Guy Days

March 8-10, 2013

Sorry, VIP passes have been sold out for weeks

FREE except for Friday night concert, $12

There are many, many, many events associated with this festival, including workshops on cryogenics. GO HERE for a listing.

www.frozendeadguydays.org

Frozen Dead Guy Days on Facebook

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