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Get a Grip: Bridgestone Winter Driving School is the most fun you’ll have on ice

“Respond, don’t react,” our instructor coaxed as we looped the icy track in our 2020 Toyota Highlander. I channeled my inner Mario, eased off the brake and trusted my instincts as I raced around the icy track.

My husband Jamie and had been invited by Toyota to attend the Bridgestone Winter Driving School (BWDS) in Steamboat Springs on my birthday weekend. I have long been curious about the DWDS and I was ecstatic at the opportunity!  Established in 1983, it is one of the oldest continually operating driving schools in the United States, the signature ice and snow-covered tracks perfectly designed to teach all levels of drivers car safety controls in the most perilous of conditions. 

Top O’ The Morning to Ya

We met our group at BWDS’ Steamboat Grand office for Second Gear, their most popular all-day intensive course. Our day started with a video demonstration and chalk talk about tire grip, acceleration, weight control and how to embrace the skid, during which time I became increasingly nervous. Embrace the skid?  As a Canadian native, I have driven on snow my entire adult life and I have done everything I could to avoid the skid.

The track’s location is on a stunning 70-acre conservation easement overlooking the iconic peak, Sleeping Giant. As we rode the shuttle, the bustle of Steamboat Springs melted into an expanse of emptiness with pristine white snowfields and frozen bulbs clinging to branches like wasps’ nests. The temperature was a barely-comprehensible -15 degrees Fahrenheit as the Park Range ensconced us in an icy embrace.

Jamie and I jumped into a Toyota 4Runner to warm up. Our instructor patched in over the radio and gave us our first set of instructions. “Make sure your hands are at the 9 and 3 o’clock position on the steering wheel.” Did anyone else learn 10 and 2? My learning curve would be steep.

But fortunately, we had a full day to do it.  The campus has three specially-designed, purpose-built ice and snow-covered tracks. Following our orientations of the 4Runner and Camry, we slowly lapped the track, becoming familiar with the elevation changes, banked and off-camber turns and numerous traction changes. 

We started with skid control exercises on the Skid Circle. As I accelerated down the icy hill, I mused  “I can’t believe I’m purposefully skidding.” But with each loop, my competence grew as I trained my reflexes on how to respond. I then had an epiphany: It is only in the skid that you truly learn how to control your vehicle and its capabilities. Isn’t that life?

We switched to a Toyota Carmy for our emergency braking exercise where we performed drills with our ABS (anti-lock brakes) turned off and on. I realize the importance of good winter tires as our Bridgestone Blizzak tires’ impressive grip performed seamlessly on the ice. Note to self: Stop being cheap when buying tires; a quality tire could save your life.

We convened in a cozy yurt for lunch and a brief classroom discussion, followed by a tour of the 2020 Toyota Highlander. If you’re a third-row seating family, you will appreciate the additional 2.36 inches in overall length which translates into more room inside and slightly easier access to the third row.  I, personally, was sold on the Driver Easy Speak, the built-in microphone that lets you talk (not yell) to your misbehaving cherubs through the rear speakers.

Slip Slidin’ Away

The sun was drifting across the sky in a shallow arc as the temperatures thawed and the track became slicker with each lap. Following lunch, we delved into their most popular session: Accident Avoidance Exercises where we barrelled down a slick hill and trained ourselves to look where we needed to go and how to navigate our vehicles. Thankfully, the only carnage for our initial lapses in judgment was a wall of pylons. 

With all these techniques under our belt, our course participants were set loose for a final session as we lapped the course like circus horses dancing in a circle. Jamie marveled at our progress as we sped along the icy loop. “When you think about it, Bridgestone Driving School forces you to face your worst fear …on purpose. And in that simulated and controlled environment, you can finally learn how to drive.” Translation: This school teaches you to save your life and those around you.

Our day ended with applied adrenaline a.k.a. Hot Laps when our BWDS instructors got behind the wheel. They hail from a range of experience–Performance Rally, Autocross, Touring Car, Pro Solo, Formula Ford Championship Series, and Formula 2000–and it was the ride of a lifetime as they skidded, did 360s and showed us how it’s really done.

Exhausted and empowered, we shuttled back to the offices for a brief graduation ceremony. 

High On A Mountaintop

In a final, sweeping grand gesture, our group boarded Steamboat Ski Resort’s new gondola where a luxurious snowcat met us at the top and whisked us higher up the snow-mantled mountain. A 4-course dinner awaited us at Four Points Lodge  (not included in BWDS). The fireplace roared, white lights sparkled and our group bonded over our day. We had looked our anxieties in the eye and conquered them as we cheered for one another’s successes while also relating to our failures. 

I may be another year older but participating in the Bridgestone Winter Driving School sure made me another year wiser. 

Bridgestone Winter Driving School offers several different half-and full-day courses for the teen, casual driver and all the way up to the pros. Custom, group classes and private lessons are also available. Some insurance companies offer discounts to students who have successfully completed one or more of their driving school classes. For additional information, be sure to go to https://winterdrive.com

Steamboat Springs Insider Tips

Ski. My husband and I knew a trip to Steamboat Springs isn’t complete without visiting Steamboat Ski Resort. Known for its famous Champagne Powder snow, legendary trees, top family programs, Olympic heritage and friendly western roots, this is a prime vacation destination for generations of winter enthusiasts. Some of our favorite finds: Steamboat replaced their Gondola after 33 years and access to the mountain is now quicker than ever. A fun find on the mountain is their new Taco Beast, an on-mountain food truck snowcat that roams the mountain. The locations changes daily! 

Stay. I was repeatedly grateful for our stay at the Steamboat Grand during our visit.  With 328 beautifully appointed guestrooms (that include hotel rooms and condos), a gorgeous 85,000-gallon heated pool and two large hot tubs, spa and restaurants, this full-service hotel was at the perfect location at the base of the ski resort. Bridgestone Winter Driving School was located on the premises, a free shuttle took us to town and our absolute was the ski valet. Upon check-in, our skis were taken to the Grand Hotel’s secure ski storage in Gondola Square at the base of the mountain…and then brought back to the hotel when we were ready to check-out. Families who are used to hauling all their kids’ ski gear will particularly appreciate this amenity!

Eat. For the ultimate experiential experience, the Four Points Snowcat Dinner stop Storm Peak is an unforgettable night out.  If you want to stay closer to town, we inadvertently stumbled upon one of our favorite dining experiences, ever. When my husband and I were skiing Steamboat, we asked a local where we should eat that night and he recommended Besame Steamboat, THE cool spot on Lincoln Avenue for elevated Latin-fusion eats featuring the tastes of Cuba, Argentina, Portugal and Spain. I’m still dreaming about their Soup Dumplings with Thai coconut soup, pork sausage and nahm jim. Trust me, they’ll change your life.

Play. Why should kids have all the fun!? The Howelsen Ice Complex in Steamboat Springs recently introduced bumper cars on ice, the first (and only) of its kind in Colorado.

With or without kids, this new activity will have you giggling the whole drive home.

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In partnership with Mile High Mamas; all opinions are our own and we think every Colorado driver should take this winter drive course.

YMCA of the Rockies: Something for Everyone in the Family, Even Fido!

So many factors make living in Colorado such a rich experience, but near the top of my family’s list is the accessibility of YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. It’s the perfect place for a family weekend or family vacation for the sheer beauty, the up-closeness with wildlife, and for the variety of activities available.

You could easily count a dozen indoor activities (such as crafts, rock-climbing, archery, escape room) and a dozen outdoor activities (like skating, sledding, dog park, hiking) for all seasons. Last month I got to attend the 4th annual Mountaineering Weekend with my family, and over three days, the four of us plus the dog got to experience just a mere sampling of all that YMCA of the Rockies has to offer.

What is Mountaineering Weekend?

Mountaineering Weekend activities include guided snowshoe hikes through Rocky Mountain National Park, dog sled presentations, ice climbing demonstrations, glow-in-the-dark rock climbing, sledding, and more. 

All activities are free for guests staying in lodge rooms (starting at $89/night) or pet-friendly cabins (starting at $109/night). Three meals a day are served buffet-style in a dining hall (no meal planning for mom & dad!) and regularly-scheduled programming is available, such as ice skating on a natural pond, archery, and making tie-dyes or mosaics in the craft & design center.

— YMCA of the Rockies

If you’re a mountain-loving family, make plans to attend Mountaineering Weekend over President’s Day weekend next year. Here’s what you’ll be in for.

Plentiful views like this everywhere you look.

Winter storm on the horizon in the late afternoon.

The Wildlife & The Nightlife

We were welcomed to our cabin the first afternoon by the Deer Committee…

…and greeted the next morning by the Wild Turkey Committee.

After breakfast in the cafeteria, my husband, the dog, and I took a long hike on a gorgeous day.

Filling our bodies and souls with all the benefits of nature while our teens slept.

Don’t forget to look up — and down –while hiking. So much evidence of wildlife.

Afternoon options are chock-full of activity options over the 860-acre property. In the evenings, the YMCA of the Rockies put on events such as a lecture series that included world-class rock climber Tommy Caldwell and inspirational conservationist Quinn Brett.

Tommy Caldwell is a father, husband, professional rock climber & environmental activist. Over 19 days in In 2015, Tommy and Kevin Jorgeson climbed 3,000 feet up the Dawn Wall, a blank face on Yosemite’s monolithic El Capitan and the hardest big-wall rock climb in the world. A 2018 award-winning film, The Dawn Wall, was based on their accomplishment. Most recently, Tommy and climbing partner Alex Honnold broke the two-hour speed barrier on the 3,000-foot Nose route of El Capitan.

Quinn Brett worked as a climbing ranger Rocky Mountain National Park, technical rescuer and first responder. This intimate work within public lands also opened opportunities to spread a need for stewardship within the recreational community. October 2017 she took a big fall while rock climbing in Yosemite National Park, causing paralysis below the navel. Her drive to cover long distances over technically complex terrain continues, so does her advocacy and adventure love for wild spaces.

Our advice? Don’t be late — these high-quality offerings are likely to be standing room only!

Dogs Welcome

Did you see the part about the Fido? We were ecstatic that we didn’t have to leave our beloved Dexter behind for the weekend. Our bichon-poodle got to come with us, staying in our cabin and on our bed, where he belongs (don’t judge).

Dexter watching for wildlife and excited for the day.

Dogs are welcome in cabins, on walks and on hikes, but not in the lodge, other common indoor spaces, and not on the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park. One of YMCA of the Rockies’ newest features is a dog park, which Dexter was more than happy to inaugurate.

Lodging & Eating at YMCA of the Rockies

Check out all lodging options. If you don’t bring a dog, try a stay in one of the lodges. For large family gatherings, you can also rent a meeting cabin. If you do want to bring Fido, check out a 2- 3-, or 4-bedroom cabin. They are both roomy and cozy, with kitchens, fireplaces, and gorgeous scenery out every window.

Our 3 BR cabin for the winter weekend. Can you imagine how lovely this would be in other seasons, too?

There’s a new lodging option: a hostel for budget-oriented travelers age 18+ (no pets). 

While you’re certainly welcome to prepare meals in your cabin, you are also able to purchase individual meals or meal cards in the cafeteria for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Food is healthy and with lots of options for those with dietary preferences/restrictions.

Memories

With such a wide array of activities and opportunities in this wildlife retreat, there is something for everyone of all ages. Over the years my family has spent time at YMCA of the Rockies with grandparents, parents, teens, young children, and toddlers — our kids through time. During each visit, we make invaluable family memories.

After every trip, we debrief on the way home and talk over our favorite memories. This year it was a decidedly low-tech activity that warmed my heart. And that same choice was also my husband’s, my daughter’s and my son’s favorite.

Was it a challenge like a rock climb or 5+ mile hike along Glacier Creek? No. Was it sledding, skating or the escape room? Unh-unh. The climbing wall, swimming, archery? Nope.

It was an hour when we unplugged and played a cut-throat game of cards in our cabin. Our teenagers taught us old folks a new game (new to us, anyway) called Cheat, also known as “BS” (as they gleefully and irreverently told us). Everyone got in a win or two in over several rounds.

There was so much laughter in the cabin that night in front of the fire that all our hearts were connected and warmed. Can’t beat that when you’re the parent of two way-cool teens who often have not much use of you.

If you’re looking to make family memories in the coming year, we four — and Dexter — highly recommend The YMCA of the Rockies. 

Planning Your Spring Break?

Estes Park Center, Estes Park, Colorado: Located on 860 acres bordering Rocky Mountain National Park, YMCA of the Rockies is a great spring break destination for families looking for an easy, unplugged getaway and features “Frozen Worlds” weekends from March 13 – April 2 with activities for all ages including snow fort building, snowflake crafts, educational polar bear & deer talks, penguin egg races (practice carrying eggs like penguins!), winter science experiments, and more, as well as ongoing activities such as ice skating on a natural pond, archery, indoor swimming, and making tie-dyes or mosaics in the craft & design center. Three meals a day served buffet-style in the dining hall (no meal planning for mom & dad!), and lodge rooms start at $89/night.

Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby, Colorado:  As a year-round destination, a stay at Snow Mountain Ranch, just outside Winter Park, brings groups and families together to relax and enjoy the outdoors this spring. With a huge selection of activities, most included at no cost for overnight guests, everyone in the family will find something to do. From young to old, there’s an activity or program that will delight even the toughest of “too cool” teenagers. Accommodations ranges from hotel-style lodge rooms (new dog-friendly rooms), cozy cabins or mega reunion cabins sleeping up to 44 guests. Plus, guests who stay in lodge rooms receive two free breakfasts for each night booked. 

Snow Mountain Ranch is conveniently located between the alpine ski resorts of Winter Park/Mary Jane and Ski Granby Ranch and offers an alpine ski/snowboard rental shop on-site.

Unique on-site Spring Break activities include: dog sledding, fat snow bikes, Nordic skiing, tubing/sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, indoor archery, indoor climbing wall, swimming pool with water slides and climbing wall, craft shop, ping-pong, basketball, roller-skating, plus creative weekly programming such as Human Hungry Hungry Hippos game and snow games. The Spring Festival at the Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center is set for the weekend of March 21-22, 2020 with free events and activities featuring snowshoeing, fat biking, backcountry skis and Nordic skiing for the whole family.

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Lori Holden, mom to a teen daughter and a teen son, is an award-winning blogger who writes from Denver at LavenderLuz.com. Lori was nominated by Senator Michael Bennet as a 2018 Angel in Adoption®. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is on suggested and required reading lists at adoption agencies around the country. It makes a thoughtful gift for the adoptive families in your life.

 
 

Spring Break in Denver 2020: Over 50 activities listed!

The countdown is on for Spring Break 2020! If you’re staying in Denver, no need to dismay as we have updated last year’s popular Spring Break guide. Whether you want to hunker down indoors, get outside or explore something new, we have you covered with these fabulous Spring Break offerings, categorized by geographic area.  

Don’t miss:

Family Vacation: Your Guide to Spring Break in Colorado 2020

30+ Spring Break Getaways in Colorado.

15 Affordable Family Spring Break Adventures in Colorado

20 Best Places to Go Sledding in Colorado

Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Skating in Colorado

CENTRAL DENVER

  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science— Delve into the world of living things that blink, glow, flash, and flicker, from tiny fireflies to strange creatures in the ocean depths. Don’t miss exhibitions the Science Behind Pixar and Extreme Sports: Beyond Human Limits.
  • Denver Zoo–The Denver Zoo is 80 acres of fun in City Park. Don’t miss their demonstrations in the Toyota Elephant Passage.
  • Mizel Museum

    Mizel Museum

    Botanic Gardens  – These top-ranked U.S. botanical gardens offers spectacular garden displays, outdoor art exhibits, gardening classes, spring break camps and workshops at two great locations–Chatfield and Denver.

  • Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus. Discover the natural wonders of Colorado as you scale a towering three-story mountain to the summit for the premiere lookout over Denver and the Rockies. (Featured photo.)
  • The Denver Firefighters Museum (downtown) – The Museum offers not only outstanding exhibits on the history of fire fighting in Denver focusing on the Denver Fire Department but innovative and exciting hands-on activities that allow visitors to interact with the traditional exhibits
  • History Colorado Center–This $110 million experiential museum makes Colorado history fun and has exciting new workshops, exhibits, programs, and performances that spark curiosity and ignite the imagination.
  • United States Mint Tour (downtown) – Discover how our currency is made and take home a souvenir – FREE. Reservations are required for the 45-minute tours that are run every 90 minutes.
  • Molly Brown House Museum (downtown) – Learn about the life and times of “Unsinkable” Molly Brown in her restored Victorian home in Denver, Colorado. This is one of the most visited historic sites in the state of Colorado, and one of only a handful of sites nationally dedicated to the interpretation of a woman’s story. Admission to the Molly Brown House Museum is by guided tour only.
  • Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. Where beloved childhood toys are elevated to art, and workshops are inexpensive.
  • Denver Art Museum (downtown) – Each spring break they have activities that allow the whole gang to make art in the galleries and work alongside artists. Check out the Paint Studio, Create-n-Takes and gallery games. Kids 18 and younger receive free general admission.
  • Downtown Aquarium. This features over 500 species of marine life and mammals in the million-gallon Aquarium Adventure Exhibit.
  • Mizel Museum. Rooted in Jewish values that have universal relevance, the Mizel Museum is a gem tucked away in a residential area in Denver’s Hilltop neighborhood. Kids will love their interactive road map as they journey along the 4,000 Year Road Trip: Gathering Sparks. They’ll learn about art, artifacts and digital media that narrates and illuminates Jewish history and culture.

NORTH

  • APEX Movement. Do you want to be the next American Ninja Warrior? Many of the TV’s program’s best athletes train at APEX Movement in Boulder. Classes, birthday parties and open gym are available so your kids can challenge themselves the Ninja Warrior way.

    (Apex Movement)

    (Apex Movement)

  • Hammonds Candy Factory Tour (Denver) – Hammond’s complimentary candy factory tours are fun and educational for candy lovers of all ages. Hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe have seen how their famous, handcrafted candy canes, ribbon candy, and lollipops are pulled, twisted, and shaped by hand. No reservations are required for small groups.
  • WOW Children’s Museum (Lafeyette)–This interactive museum educates children in the areas of arts, sciences and life. At the new and improved Bank of WOW! Exhibit, children and families can practice money recognition, counting and basic math skills, and learn about saving and spending
  • Butterfly Pavilion (Westminster) – Home to over 5,000 animals including Rosie the tarantula and a tropical forest where 1,600 butterflies rule the sky. They offer a daily spring break camp.
  • Gateway Park Fun Center. Boulder’s only indoor and outdoor family fun center with batting cages, go-carts, mini golf, an arcade, driving range, inline hockey and more.
  • Go hiking. There are so many beautiful hikes in the Boulder area and my favorites are at Chautauqua Open Space Park. Be sure to stop in the Ranger’s Cottage for interactive fun or eat at the historic Dining Hall. For here for more Boulder hiking ideas.
  • Louisville Community Park is a park that has it all. There is a grassy area for the kids to run free in, spray grounds to cool off in the summer, a large sandbox, playground and even a dog park with swim beach to watch the pooches play.
  • Boondocks Fun Center (Northglenn)–This 8-acre indoor/outdoor amusement center offers everything from bumper boats to laser tag to a Kiddie Cove to batting cages.
  • Colorado Model Railroad Museum: The most scenic, one of a kind model railroad of its kind will leave you inspired. Walk through a real caboose, stroll along the mountain vistas and peek into a miniature world of wonder.
  • Adventure Golf and Raceway (Westminster). This is a great place for mini golf and go karts in the Denver area. 
  • Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge (Commerce City)–Located 10 minutes from downtown Denver, this 17,000-acre refuge is one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the United States. It consists of open lakes, wetlands, prairie grasslands, and woodlands and an excellent hands-on visitor’s center.
  • Celestial Seasonings. Visit the Celestial Seasonings headquarters in Boulder, Colorado and unlock the mysteries of tea with a free guided tea tour.

SOUTH

  • Hudson Gardens (Littleton) – The Hudson Gardens’ 30 acres non-profit botanical gardens are located along the bank of the South Platte River. Admission is free every day.
  • Westlands Park (Greenwood Village) – The Westlands playground includes three play areas sized for toddlers to teens. There are two large climbing structures which satisfy both the technical climber as well as the inexperienced child. In addition to the main play area, there are three multi-use playing fields, an in-line hockey rink, a natural water sculpture, a pond and a hike / bike trail.
  • Jumpstreet Indoor Trampoline Park (Lakewood, Greenwood Village) – Wall-to-wall trampolines provide fun, indoor exercise and a perfect outlet for inclement weather days.
  • Carson Nature Center

    Carson Nature Center

    Jungle Quest (Littleton). Exciting Indoor Ziplines, Huge Safari Swing, 20-foot High Rock Climbing Wall, Swinging Cargo Net, Burma Bridges, Treehouse and Slides and Jungle Caves –for Kids 5 and up.

  • Carson Nature Center (Littleton)–South Platte Park has over 880 acres of open space along the South Platte River with five lakes open to fishing, 2.5 miles of the South Platte River and the Mary Carter Greenway for walking and biking, nearly 4 miles of natural surface trails, and the Carson Nature Center and classroom.
  • Lollipop Park (Centennial)–This indoor children’s amusement park is located inside the Family Sports Center and offers a carousel, bounce castles, train ride, small Ferris wheel, teacup ride and more.
  • Great Play (Cherry Creek and Parker)–This unique gym for kids 6 months-10 years old makes it fun while developing motor skills, sport skills, fitness and coordination in their patented Interactive Arena.
  • Gameworks (Stapleton)–This 36,000-square-foot pubby amusement center and sports bar features hundreds of electronic games, a laser tag arena, big-screen TVs and comfort food.
  • Robert F. Clement Park (Littleton)–Clement Park is set on a 60-acre lake with a 1.4-mile walking path around it, tennis course, baseball fields, batting cages, multi-purpose fields, horseshoe pits and three separate playgrounds.
  • Littleton Museum. Located on 39 acres, this free museum consists of two living history farms (one from the 1860s and one from the 1890s), a small lake, a collections center, and a main exhibition and administration building.
  • iFLY Denver Indoor Sky Diving (Lone Tree). Fun,  safe indoor skydiving adventure Safe for ages 3 and up.

EAST

  • Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum (Denver) –An extensive collection of aircraft and related aviation and military exhibits preserving the history of the service men and women who served at Lowry Airforce Base. There are more than three dozen aircrafts on display in this 44,000-square foot space.
  • Dart Warz (Centennial)–Want an ultra cool alternative to paintball or airsoft? Look no further than Dart Warz.
  • Centennial Center Park–This 11-acre city park has a killer playground, nature areas, amphitheater and a water area in the summer. Located on the north side of Arapahoe Rd., between S. Revere Pkwy. and S. Vaughn St., adjacent to the Centennial Civic Center.
  • Monkey Bizness (Centennial, Westminster, Parker) -You’ll find interactive inflatables, play structures, climbing walls, and games of all shapes and sizes. There is a separate section just for toddlers with their own play equipment.
  • Morrison Nature Center at Star K Ranch (Aurora). Star K Ranch “regulars” include mule deer, painted turtles, snapping turtles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, western meadowlarks, great horned owls, and blue jays. Costumes, blocks, puppets, kids’ books, and live animal exhibits make Morrison Nature Center a great place for kids.
  • Plains Conservation Center (Aurora)–The Plains Conservation Center is an outdoor education facility and state-designated natural area that educates children about Colorado’s eco-history, and nurture conservation efforts.
  • Unser Cart Racing – Kids… go carts. Can’t lose right? 

 WEST

  • Dinosaur Ridge (Morrison) – Part of the Morrison Fossil Area National Natural Landmark, Dinosaur Ridge area is one of the world’s most famous dinosaur fossil localities. Enjoy exhibits, a shuttle tour, and real dinosaur tracks. 
  • Majestic View Nature Center (Arvada)–Majestic View Nature Center and Community Park has more than majestic views–The 3,000- square foot Nature Center features hands-on nature and environmental displays, wildlife exhibits, a kid’s area, classrooms and meeting space.

    Apex Center

    Apex Center

    Earth Treks Climbing Center (Golden)–Earth Treks Golden features more than 28,500 sq ft of climbing with walls up to 48 ft high, including tons of bouldering and roped climbing for all ages and abilities.

  • Majestic View Nature Center (Arvada)–Majestic View Nature Center and Community Park has more than majestic views–The 3,000- square foot Nature Center features hands-on nature and environmental displays, wildlife exhibits, a kid’s area, classrooms and meeting space.
  • Apex Center (Arvada)–Perfect for an inclement weather day, this recreation and entertainment center houses two ice rinks, an awesome indoor aquatic play area, climbing wall, gyms, indoor track, themed indoor playground and more.
  • Colorado Railroad Museum (Golden)–Lose track of time year-round at this 15-acre railyard featuring over 100 engines, cabooses and coaches, a garden railway, renowned library and roundhouse restoration facility with working turntable.
  • Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave (Golden) – The Buffalo Bill Museum’s exhibits include memorabilia from Buffalo Bill’s life and Wild West shows, Indian artifacts, antique firearms and more. The spectacular views overlooking Denver are a bonus!
  • Casa Bonita (Lakewood) – It’s about the atmosphere and entertainment, kids love it, menu is limited.  Euphoric memories from your childhood?  Visit again–it hasn’t changed.
  • Lookout Mountain Nature Center (Golden)–Lookout Mountain Nature Center invites kids to connect with the natural world through interactive exhibits about the flora and fauna of the foothills ecosystem. Kids enjoy a hands-on play room and observation room.
  • Hiking. The western slope is home to some of Denver’s best hiking trails. Our favorites including Red Rocks, Matthews/Winters, Evergreen, Deer Creek and much more. Go here for maps, directions and regulations: http://jeffco.us/parks/open-space/.

Family Vacation: Your Guide to Spring Break in Colorado 2020

Believe it or not, Spring is right around the corner! While springtime in the Rockies brings plenty of snow, temperatures across the state begin to warm, and unique experiences beckon travelers to break away from the ordinary. Don’t miss:

Spring break in Denver 2020: Over 50 activities listed!

30+ Spring Break Getaways in Colorado

15 Affordable Family Spring Break Adventures in Colorado

20 Best Places to Go Sledding in Colorado

Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Skating in Colorado

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Colorado.com has also compiled an awesome list of lodging packages, seasonal events and springtime experiences that families will love!

Spring Lodging Deals and Packages

Frozen Worlds Weekends at YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park: YMCA of the Rockies is offering specially-themed Frozen Worlds weekends from March 13 through April 2 with counselor-led activities for all ages including snow fort building, snowflake crafts, educational polar bear and deer talks, penguin egg races, winter science experiments and more. Frozen Worlds activities are free for overnight guests or day passes are available for $25 per person. Cabins ranging from 2-4 bedrooms start at $109 per night, and lodge rooms are available starting at $89 per night.

Snow Mountain Ranch is conveniently located between the alpine ski resorts of Winter Park/Mary Jane and Ski Granby Ranch and unique on-site Spring Break activities include dog sledding, fat snow bikes, Nordic skiing, tubing/sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, indoor archery, indoor climbing wall, swimming pool with water slides and climbing wall, craft shop, ping-pong, basketball, roller-skating, plus creative weekly programming such as Human Hungry Hungry Hippos game and snow games. The Spring Festival at the Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center is set for the weekend of March 21-22, 2020 with free events and activities featuring snowshoeing, fat biking, backcountry skis and Nordic skiing for the whole family.

Double Down on Lodging at Winter Park: Guests visiting Winter Park who book a two-night stay receive 50 percent off the second night of the stay and 25 percent off additional nights when booking before March 2. This deal applies to stays before April 30. Additionally, guests can enjoy the Winter Park Triple Play deal and ski any three days from April 1 through the end of the season for less than $50 a day.

Glenwood Hot Springs Resort & Sunlight Mountain Resort Offer Soak & Slope Combos: Travelers to Glenwood Springs can hit the slopes at Sunlight Mountain Resort for the day and then soak tired muscles and stay overnight in a comfy bed at Glenwood Hot Springs Resort (GHSR) through the Ski Swim Stay Package. All adults registered at GHSR through Ski Swim Stay receive Sunlight Mountain Resort lift tickets and free transportation to and from the mountain. The package also includes a full hot breakfast poolside at the Grill and unlimited access to Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. Additionally, one child (age 12 and under) per paying adult receives a free lift ticket. This package is available through April 5, 2020. Contact GHSR for up-to-date rates.

Ski & CBD Spring Break Getaway at Vail Mountain Lodge: Located creekside in the heart of the Vail Village, this boutique luxury hotel is just a short walk from Vail’s Gondola One for easy access to the slopes as well as Vail’s famous Bridge Street for shopping and nightlife. The Vail Mountain Lodge Ski & CBD package includes ten percent off of three nights’ lodging, two 50-minute CBD massages including gratuity. For up-to-date rates, contact Vail Mountain Lodge. 

Ski Extravaganza Package at The Windsor Hotel, Del Norte: The Windsor, located just 45 minutes from Wolf Creek Ski Area, is offering its Ski Extravaganza package now until the end of the ski season. Guests who show valid lift tickets for that day to Wolf Creek will receive a nightly room rate of $100 or if two nights are booked, they receive the 3rd night for free.

Spring Break at C Lazy U Ranch, Granby: This spring break, guests can enjoy western hospitality at C Lazy U Ranch. Packed with activities for the entire family, guests can indulge at the top-rated spa, embark on a horseback ride or take in the majestic views of the Rocky Mountain on a cross-country skiing adventure – all while the ranch’s chef prepares gourmet meals daily. Spring Break activities include horseback riding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, snow tubing and more. The Spring Break dates are March 2 through April 5, 2020. Rates (per person per night): adults double occupancy: $440; adults single occupancy: $490; and children: $250.

Spring Events

Ski Joring & Crystal Carnival, Leadville- March 6–8, 2020: A fearless skier navigates an obstacle course connected by towrope to a horse and rider galloping at top speed, and it all takes place in the middle of town, in addition to a winter carnival with other snowy activities.

Frozen Dead Guy Days, Nederland – March 13-15, 2020: Celebrating its 19th year in 2020, Frozen Dead Guy Days continues to be a world-renowned spectacle. This homegrown festival pays homage to Bredo Morstol (aka Grandpa), who is frozen in a state of suspended animation and housed in a Tuff Shed on dry ice high above Nederland. Highlights include coffin racing, costumed polar plunging, frozen t-shirt contests, icy turkey bowling, human foosball and more.

5th Annual Frisco BrewSk– March 14, 2020: The fifth annual beer festival invites guests to dress up in their favorite costumes and ski between local Colorado brewery tents at the Frisco Nordic Center. The day concludes with an after-party with even more beer tastings, music and prizes awarded for best costume, best team costume and toughest costume to ski in. This event is also family-friendly, so the littles can dust off those Halloween costumes and sip on kid-friendly beverages along the trail.   

Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington, Denver Art Museum – March 15-June 7, 2020: Featuring 60 artworks, this exhibition will reveal connections between artistic themes and techniques used by the two acclaimed American artists. Born a generation apart, both artists succeeded in capturing the quintessential American spirit through works of art at the turn of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, an era of growing industrialization and notions of the closing of the American western frontier.

Snowcat Dining Excursion at Purgatory, Durango – March 21, 2020: Guests looking to enjoy an on-mountain dinner experience can book the snowcat dining excursion at Purgatory. The enclosed snowcat departs the base area around 5 p.m., and guests are taken to Powderhouse Restaurant to enjoy a uniquely-themed meal while enjoying incredible views of the Needles Mountains.

(Steamboat’s Springalicious)

Steamboat Springalicious Festival, Steamboat Springs – April 1-12, 2020: This annual festival celebrates springtime and the close of the ski season at Steamboat Springs. This two-week event includes live music, the 40th annual Cardboard Classic, pond skimming and more. (Featured image: sleigh rides at the Haymaker)

25th Annual Fruita Fat Tire Festival, Fruita – May 1-3, 2020: Celebrate hundreds of miles of world-class trails, test out the latest bikes at the demo at the 18 Road trailhead, try out new equipment at the product expo in downtown Fruita and more.

Great American Horsedrive, Northwestern Colorado – May 5-11, 2020: Guests can join the family and riders from around the world in this unique experience pushing one of the largest saddle horse herds in the nation. Covering approximately sixty miles of open range, highways and back-roads, this six-day adventure is an authentic Western experience that includes cowboy entertainment, a guest-favorite cookout, many hours in the saddle and memories to last a lifetime.

CSK PaddleFest, Buena Vista – May 22–25, 2020: Considered the kickoff to the always-anticipated Colorado rafting season, Buena Vista Paddlefest invites lovers of rapids to the banks of the Arkansas River, one of the nation’s most popular whitewater destinations. Festivalgoers can check out clinics, gear swaps, concerts and a disc-golf tournament. All of the activities center around the fest’s main event — the Buena Vista Whitewater Pro Rodeo. This freestyle competition among the world’s top playboat athletes will take place at the Buena Vista Whitewater Park.

Springtime Experiences

Explore a Colorado Creative District, Statewide: The Centennial State boasts 26 designated creative districts, communities brimming with galleries, artists in residence and special arts events. First Friday gallery art walks take place in several districts while others are known for outstanding performance art. New this year, the Colorado Symphony launched the Beethoven 2020 Statewide Celebration tour, which will stop in multiple creative districts, including Steamboat Springs, Salida, Crested Butte, Pueblo, Trinidad, Mancos and Grand Junction. 

Follow the Colorado Gold Trail, Statewide: Colorado mines tell the stories of early explorers, fur trappers and prospectors who came to the state in search of treasure. The Colorado Gold Trail is a scenic tour of gold rush towns and mines that flourished in the boom of the late 1850s. Towns on the trail include Boulder, Black Hawk, Central City, Idaho Springs, Breckenridge, Fairplay, Alma, Como and Leadville. Many of these communities still host mine tours—some with live reenactments sure to entertain young history buffs.

Visit the Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver and Littleton: The Denver Botanic Gardens offers a range of programming in March and April. The Orangery’s spring theme is Scents of Spring and will feature well-known blooming plants of the season like sweet peas and primulas. Visitors can get ready for gardening season with gardening workshops on perennials, herbs and a new-gardener boot camp series. Family programming includes the Science Studio and Bumblebee Jamboree. At the Chatfield Farms location, adults can enjoy a guided forest bathing walk.

Take a Farm Tour, Statewide: What’s cuter than baby animals? Visit a Colorado farm this season and you may get the chance to see one. Springtime is the perfect time of year to take a farm tour and meet farmers preparing for planting season and learn about where the state’s food is grown. The Living Farm in Paonia hosts tours and offers meals at its onsite farm-to-table restaurant. The Art of Cheese in Longmont hosts weekly cheese-making classes for all levels and also includes farm tours in the price of the class. Mesa Winds Farm and Winery in Hotchkiss offers not only tours but wine tastings and is known for its peach wine. 

Ski and Bike in One Day, Mountains and Mesas: Colorado’s wide range of elevations gives outdoor enthusiasts even more ways to catch thrills in the springtime—even several in one day. Pack two helmets and experience Powderhorn Ski Resort in the morning, located alongside Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flattop mountain. Then, in the afternoon, put on a bike helmet and take a road bike ride at Colorado National Monument, one of the region’s most breathtaking cycling spots or head to nearby Fruita for some of the state’s best mountain biking. If cycling isn’t your speed, check out one of the many scenic golf courses near Grand Junction. 

Spot Migratory Birds on the Eastern Plains: Springtime brings delight to birdwatchers as winged migrators make their way north for the season. The eastern part of the state is home to a variety of favored habitats including plains, semidesert shrubland, riparian, pinyon juniper woodland and canyons. Migratory birds that can be spotted as they pass through include snow geese, sandhill cranes, hummingbirds, plovers, meadowlarks and more.

 

Mountaineering legend coming to YMCA of the Rockies Mountaineering Weekend!

(Tommy Caldwell)

YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park is proud to announce Tommy Caldwell will be a special guest at the 4th Annual Mountaineering Weekend, February 14-17, 2020. The professional rock climber, star of “The Dawn Wall” movie, and author of The Push, will discuss the importance of embracing fear in an inspiring keynote presentation on Saturday night.

Mountaineering Weekend features three days of inspiration and fun for all ages over President’s Day weekend. Located on 860 acres bordering Rocky Mountain National Park, YMCA of the Rockies is an easy, unplugged mountain getaway for families. Mountaineering Weekend activities include guided snowshoe hikes through Rocky Mountain National Parkdog sled presentationsice climbing demonstrationsglow-in-the-dark rock climbingsleddingand more. Details and the full schedule are below, including a second motivational keynote by incredible adaptive alpine climber, Quinn Brett, on Sunday evening.
 
All activities are free for guests staying in lodge rooms (starting at $89/night) or pet-friendly cabins(starting at $109/night). Three meals a day are served buffet-style in a dining hall (no meal planning for mom & dad!) and regularly-scheduled programming will be available throughout the long weekend, such as ice skating on a natural pond, archery, and making tie-dyes or mosaics in the craft & design center. 
 
Registration is available at https://ymcarockies.org/mountaineeringweekend/ or by calling 888-613-9622.​ Day passes are also available for $25/person ages 13 and up.​ and $10/person ages 6-12. ​

MOUNTAINEERING WEEKEND SCHEDULE OF ACTIVITIES 

 *All activities are optional and included in lodging fees*

Friday, February 14
5:45 PM        Cosmic Climbing – Glow-in-the-dark climbing! Participants must be at least 5 years old. No previous climbing experience required!
6:00 PM       Munchies & Mountains – Kick off the weekend with s’mores and the movie, “Mountains” (showing at 7 PM) featuring breathtaking imagery and thought-provoking narration that takes viewers to the summits of some of the world’s most amazing mountains.      
7:00 PM       Cosmic Climbing               

Saturday, February 15
8:00 AM       Yoga – Get a relaxing start to your day by joining instructor Laura Collins for a morning flow class great for beginners but adaptable for all skill levels.                      
9:30 AM       Snow Caves – Learn how to build, set, and maintain your very own snow cave!            
11:00 AM     Broomball & Ice Skating
1:00 PM       Dog Sledding Presentation – Learn the history of dog sledding and how it has evolved to the sport it is today
3:30 PM       Glacier Creek Hike – The perfect hike for families! Hikemasters will lead a 2-mile hike on YMCA property along the beautiful Glacier Creek
7:00 PM       Keynote Speaker, Tommy Caldwell, professional rock climber, star of “The Dawn Wall,” and author of “The Push,” ​will discuss the importance of embracing fear and doubt, as he shares insight from his worldwide climbing adventures. 

Sunday, February 16
8:00 AM       Yoga                         
9:30 AM       Ice Anchors – A hands-on learning session about ice climbing, building ice anchors, and the equipment ice climbers use
11:00 AM     Sledding                         
1:00 PM       Magnificent Mountain Women – Jan Robertson, author of Magnificent Mountain Women, will discuss the evolution of females in the Colorado mountains
3:30 PM       Winter Navigation – Learn how to use a map and compass, then practice your skills on a special orienteering challenge course!
7:00 PM       Keynote Speaker, Quinn Brett, adaptive alpine climber Quinn Brett will discuss her experiences as a climbing ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park, technical rescuer, and first responder.       

Monday, February 17
8:00 AM       Emerald Lake Hike – Hikemasters will lead an enjoyable, introductory 3.5-mile snowshoe hike to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park (past the beautiful Nymph and Dream Lakes)

For more information: https://ymcarockies.org/mountaineeringweekend/​.

7 Places to Share Colorado’s Rich Cultural Heritage With Your Kids

You don’t have to travel far to experience many different cultures in Colorado. Below is a sampling of experiences that showcase the state’s rich cultural heritage.

Black American West Museum & Heritage Center, Denver: Located in the historically black neighborhood of Five Points, the Black American West Museum features exhibits, events, a gift shop and rental space. The museum was originally founded to share stories of black cowboys, but now includes the tales of black settlers and homesteaders who helped shape the West.

Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Dolores: Covering 176,000 acres, the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is a rugged and breathtaking landscape containing the highest known density of archaeological sites in the United States. 6,000 ancient sites, some visible to the eye, dot the landscape, including cliff dwellings, villages and rock art. Plus, the monument is just 10 miles from the heart of Cortez. The outdoor site contains miles of trails ideal for hiking, mountain biking and by horseback.

(Comal Heritage Food Incubator)

Comal Heritage Food Incubator, Denver: Comal is a lunch spot with the goal of training low-income women, many of whom are immigrants and refugees from Mexico, El Salvador, Syria, Ethiopia and Iraq, in restaurant and business skills.

Indigenous Roots LLC, Weston: Indigenous Roots offers an authentic living history immersion experience that includes educational offerings on history, human geography, sustainability and cultural anthropology from a Native American perspective. Participants live in a tipi village near the historic Santa Fe Trail for a four-day, three-night program learning through firsthand experience and deepening understanding of traditional Native American culture.

Latino Outdoors Colorado Chapter, Statewide: Latino Outdoors works to inspire, connect and engage Latino communities in the outdoors and has an active Colorado chapter. The group organizes outdoor recreation experiences, promotes conservation and recreation across the state, and gives community members the chance to connect and enjoy the natural wonder of the state.  

Mango House, AuroraMango House is a refugee resource center with several non-profits operating inside, along with a food hall with international offerings, including Burmese, Sudanese, Syrian and Somali cuisine.

Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, Mystic San Luis Valley Region: The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is located in south central Colorado and was designated a heritage area in 2009. Originally settled more than 11,000 years ago, the region has been home to Pueblo, Ute, Latino and Anglo people, all who have created a distinct cultural region.

-Colorado.com

Freebies and fun for Colorado’s Ski and Snowboard Safety Month

Colorado ski resorts take safety on the mountain very seriously. They have even devoted a full month (January) toward ski/snowboard safety. And each resort does some special events and offers to help highlight it. Guests are encouraged to ask ski area employees for help and assistance if they have safety-related or other questions during their visit in January or at any time during the season.

Colorado Ski Country made a super cute video series focused on chairlift safety starring Penny the Safety Penguin. The videos are geared towards the general public and skiing and riding families and provide guidance and tips for children and adults on how to load, ride and unload a chairlift safely.

Aspen Snowmass has planned a whole month of fun and informative activities to celebrate safety all winter, but in January each of Aspen’s four mountains will dedicate a week to safety education during National Safety Month. Buttermilk will observe January 2 – 8, Aspen Highlands will observe January 9 – 15, Aspen Mountain will observe January 16 – 22, and Snowmass will observe January 23 – 29. Highlights include information on lift safety, avalanche dog demonstrations, staying in control, right of way, safe stopping and observing posted signs and closures. Aspen Snowmass will also host a Safety Tent with avalanche dogs, stickers, and safety materials from the National Ski Patrol.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area would like you to meet their avalanche rescue dogs in the Safety Village on January 11. Children can earn a Jr. Ski Patrol badge when they show they know the Your Responsibility Code. 

Copper Mountain’s Safety Fest is January 18-19. The events include avalanche dog demos, visits with ski patrol, and prize giveaways including a 2020/21 Copper Season Pass. Guests who visit each safety tent will be entered into a daily-prize drawing with prizes totaling $10,000! Plus, you can enjoy free hot chocolate every day in January by visiting Patrol Headquarters or at Timberline Patrol.

 

Loveland Ski Area will have kid-friendly snow safety education, ski patrol demos, sun safety tips, terrain park safety, helmet information and a Know the Code challenge with prizes January 18-19. It is FREE to participate, find the Loveland Tent in the base of the Basin. Loveland’s ski patrol will have patrol dogs on hand to demonstrate avalanche rescue techniques, conduct beacon demonstrations and talk about avalanche awareness and tree well safety. Loveland employees will be quizzing kids on the Your Responsibility Code and handing out prizes for those that can recite the entire code. The Sport Shop will also be offering discounts on helmets and the Ski & Ride School will offer free helmets with any kid’s lesson package.

Powderhorn Resort invites you to spend the day skiing alongside a ski patroller. The “Ski Patrol Ski Along” program serves to educate guests of all ages about ski patrol and how to safely enjoy the slopes. 

Monarch Mountain offers Backcountry/Avalanche Safety Day on January 11 with backcountry themed events and activities. The day will include a Know Before You Go (KBYG) program, backcountry merchandise vendors, an uphill/downhill event, beacon camp, avalanche dog demos and Colorado Avalanche talks and presentations. On January 18, Monarch will partner with the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) and Central Mountain Regional Emergency Medical and Trauma Advisory Council (RETAC) to provide educational information and help with helmet fitting and sunscreen education. 

Steamboat’s Powder the Safety Dog will visit elementary schools for safety talks and will often greet guests around the mountain as well.   

Sunlight Mountain Resort will host their Safety Day on March 2. The event includes a free testing clinic and educational safety booths. Safety is not just conducted on the mountain (which is important) but also sun safety and being aware of how to reduce the effects of being outside in Colorado.

Telluride Ski Resort will host a community safety dinner at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, January 22 at the Telluride Conference Center. There will be raffle prizes if guests visit each of the safety stands set up around the conference center.

Winter Park Resort will enter guests who answer questions about the Responsibility Code correctly to win several prizes including early resort access with patrol, two hours of guided skiing and dinner for two at the Lodge at Sunspot. And Grand County children can submit a poster featuring the Your Responsibility Code with winners receiving the chance to be a Winter Park Junior Patroller for a day.

Wolf Creek Ski Area is hosting a Safety Poster Contest and avalanche drills will be open to the public. First through third place winners will be awarded prizes. Posters will be displayed in the Base Camp Building where the illustrations will be voted on by Wolf Creek staff and guests.

 

 

 

 

Colorado’s Best Eco-Friendly Adventures & Unplugged Escapes

We all know that Colorado is Mother Nature’s playground.  With beautiful landscapes, fresh mountain air, pristine rivers, wondrous wildlife and signature blue bird skies, Coloradoans have long taken pride in protecting the land on which they live, work and play.  Throughout Colorado, businesses have worked to develop programs that protect and nurture the environment, and help visitors do their part by immersing themselves in environmentally friendly accommodations, dining experiences and activities.

Along with a plethora of eco-offerings, many of Colorado’s getaways encourage families to disconnect and experience an unplugged vacation where guests can escape from buzzing cell phones and Wi-Fi passwords and take in the Rocky Mountain views. Because really, who doesn’t want to have their kids unplug from their devices for a few days and tap into nature!

Eco-Escapes
 
Estes Park Outfitters Lodge (Estes Park). Surrounded by national forest and Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park Outfitters Lodge is a secluded mountain retreat that is solar powered and receives its water from mountain springs at the headwaters of Fish Creek. In the winter months, guests can take advantage of several miles of groomed trails for cross country skiing/snowshoeing right outside their doorstep. During the summer, taking a hike means coming across mountain meadows, hidden ponds and incredible pinnacle views of Estes Park. 
 
Sylvan Dale Ranch (Loveland). Located near Loveland, Sylvan Dale Ranch is close to town, but a world away. With no televisions or telephones, the ranch encourages guests to leave technology behind to experience an authentic rural getaway. The ranch also strives to maintain the property as natural as possible with its very own herd of All Natural Grass Fed Beef and sustainable agriculture practices. Along with traditional ranch activities such as horseback riding and bass fishing adventures, visitors can learn how the ranch produces sustainable foods and manages the lands in a regenerative and ecological way.
 
Monarch Mountain (Salida). Nestled into the Continental Divide, Monarch Mountain is one of just three ski mountains in the state that operates on 100 percent all-natural snow. The mountain receives more than 350 inches of snowfall a year and doesn’t require any water to manufacture the bountiful powder. Guests who are looking to “earn their turns” can try skinning and snowshoeing on the mountain by receiving no assistance from lifts. Uphill travel, winding alongside already established trails, is often thought as one of the best ways to unplug and get exercise outside during winter months. 
 
Tomichi Lodge (Whitepine). The Tomichi Lodge is a rustic, off-the-grid backcountry lodge perched at 10,300′ just west of the Continental Divide in the Gunnison National Forest. The lodge’s power supply stems from an on-site, hydro-electric system which harnesses the gravity-flow of mountain creek water and transforms the force into usable amperage/electricity that can be used at the lodge and/or stored for later use. The system is also backed up by a single solar panel. Guests can truly enjoy an unplugged stay as there is no internet or cell phone service at the lodge but an array of outdoor activities keep adventurers entertained all year long.
 
Devil’s Thumb Ranch (Tabernash). Amidst 6,000 acres of frosted meadows and lush woodlands, Devil’s Thumb Ranch is an eco-luxe ranch resort and spa that is environmentally sensitive year-round and incorporates a geothermal radiant heating system and water sand filtration system. The Ranch House Restaurant sources its food from sustainable and locally farmed produce, fish, meat, and game (85% from Colorado sources), including its own Ranch raised pure bred Wagyu beef.
 
Sun Water Spa (Manitou Springs). Visitors are invited to de-stress as they soak in the healing waters of the Manitou Springs mineral springs. The cedar wood tubs are filled with mineral water from the famous Seven Minute Spring; the same water which flows from the Manitou Karst aquifer. Using an array of solar panels, the water’s temperature is raised generally to between 100 to 104 degrees. Guided yoga class, open-air massage and other treatments are also offered at this solar-powered escape.
 
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. Colorado is home to 58 majestic “14ers” (14,000 ft. mountains), providing adventurous hikes, spiritual renewal and a chance for visitors to connect with nature. The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative offers sustainable tourism programs that help to protect and preserve the natural integrity of Colorado’s 14’ers. Visiting hikers and nature enthusiasts can volunteer time and funds to assist with trail upkeep so generations of visitors can enjoy these unique Colorado attractions.
 
Unplugged Adventures
 
The Broadmoor Fishing Camp (Colorado Springs). At the Broadmoor Fishing Camp, guests can get away at an old-time fishing lodge on 76 acres next to one of Colorado’s top-rated trout streams. Boasting more than five miles of private river frontage, the Tarryall River offers some of the best angling in Colorado. After a day of fishing for wild brown and brook trout, guests can relax in one of the camp’s rustic yet well-appointed guest cabins that are far from the reaches of cell phone reception. During the evenings, visitors gather in the Main Lodge for artfully prepared meals and relaxation. 
 
Waunita Hot Springs (Gunnison). Like numerous other hot springs in Colorado, the Ute and native tribes were some of the first to call Waunita Hot Springs home and to relish in their healing powers. Today, Waunita Hot Springs Ranch is a family-friendly destination where guests feel as if they’ve stepped back in time into a scene from “The Waltons.” This remote lodge provides an unplugged getaway for the whole family where guests can participate in horseback riding, fishing, swimming in the geothermal hot springs-fed pool and much more. 
 
Chautauqua Cottages (Boulder). Located at the bottom of Boulder’s famed Flatiron mountains, the cottages at Chautauqua are accented by hiking trails right outside guests’ front door. The cottages are without TV and offer very minimal Wi-Fi. Guests are entertained throughout the year by the various programs, lectures, concerts and films hosted in the Chautauqua Community House and Auditorium. 
 
Bear Grylls Survivor Academy (Granby). The Bear Grylls Survival Academy 24-hour Family Course in Colorado takes place at Snow Mountain Ranch, where the wild and rugged environment is ideal for Bear’s unique style of survival training where participants benefit from a wide range of learning opportunities. A team of highly trained experts facilitate learning, offer advice and guide participants through this grueling 24-hour course. Guests learn to forage, identify animal runs and lay traps, skin and gut using survival knife skills, navigate by day and by night, build emergency shelters, stalk, protect from attack, wilderness first aid and much more.
 
For more ways to discover eco-friendly and unplugged getaways in Colorado please visit: http://www.colorado.com/co/attractions-entertainment/ecotourism

Colorado family travel: 10 winter ideas for non-skiers

 I feel at home in the mountain towns of Colorado. I like to snowboard. But skiing/snowboarding is not the ONLY reason to head up to the mountains this time of year. There are a ton of events that you don’t need equipment to enjoy.

Aspen. The four-day festival called Winterskol will take place January 9-12, 2020. It includes on-mountain activities, film screenings, broomball and fat-bike competitions and a whole lot more! Then come again January 23-26 for the Winter X Games – the biggest non-Olympics snowsports competition anywhere! Not only can you see amazing athletes (Shaun While has been there before – but there are usually well-known artists in concert and most of it is FREE! 

Breckenridge. Art and snow go hand in hand at the International Snow Sculpture Championships January 24-29 (different sets of dates for carving and viewing). For the 30th year, artists from around the world will compete to make a giant block of snow look like the most intricate piece of sculptured art.

Copper Mountain. The Dew Tour comes to Copper February 6-9, 2020. The innovative contest series that showcases athletes’ creativity and style in the disciplines of modified superpipe, slopestyle, and street-style, as well as a team challenge competition. You can enjoy a free front-row seat to all the action as well as free concerts, sponsor village, autograph signings, and more!

DurangoSnowdown, the biggest party of the winter in southwest Colorado has been going on each year since 1979 in Durango. Advertised as “the cure for cabin fever,” January 29 through Feb 1 will be a weekend of music, parties and skiing at nearby Purgatory and Hesperus ski areas. This year’s theme is rock ‘n roll, so dress up as your favorite rock star for the occasion.  

Kidtopia. This is Keystone’s ultimate kid party with the Ripperoo’s Village Parade, bingo and face-painting, Super Snowy Science, tubing, winter movie matinees and the World’s LARGEST snow fort atop Dercum Mountain! 

 Steamboat Springs.  All things celebrating western winter can be experienced at Winter Carnival Feb. 5-9!! Celebrating 107 years of winter with events like ski jumping and skijoring (skiers pulled by horses), as well as a parade (it was such a thrill for the 6-year-old me to get to be in the parade), fireworks and plenty of frivolity, including adults pulled through snow on shovels and skiers racing through flaming hoops. It’s the longest continuously-celebrated winter festival west of the Mississippi River. Also, for something truly unique (and adrenaline-charged), check-out the Bridgestone Winter Driving School or Bumper Cars on Ice at the Howelsen Ice Complex. 

Vail. Free guided snowshoe tour. Meet at the Nature Discovery Center, at the top of Lionshead gondola. Travel by snowshoes on an educational tour through the forests atop Vail Mountain. Learn about winter ecology and animal adaptations as you gaze at majestic alpine views. Please come prepared to spend an hour outside in the winter environment with snow pants, hats, gloves, sunglasses and waterproof boots. Snowshoes are provided. Participants sign up online. Ages 10 and up, FREE. (featured image). Also, the Burton U.S. Open is back at Vail February 24-29. The event is FREE to view and you will be able to see Olympians truly catch some air!

Winter Park. On January 18, enjoy spectacular slopeside fireworks at the free Winter Park Family Fest. Gather around the bonfire at the base for front-row views of the firework display following the sunset. Satisfy your sweet tooth at the s’mores bar, enter to win great giveaways, & dance to the music with their DJ.

*We will have more details on Spring Break concerts and last day festivities later this spring. 

Skip the I-70 ski traffic nightmares and travel by train or bus

Winter Sports enthusiasts can enjoy new travel options to Colorado’s ski areas this winter by bus or train. New bus services and added train service make it easier than ever. Residents may also consider air service into Colorado’s eight regional airports for their ski and ride travel. These options provide expert and first-time skiers and riders alike a stress-free journey to the slopes.

And if you still want to brave the crowds? Don’t miss these I-70 Pitstops When You’re Stuck in Traffic. 

Train

 For a fourth consecutive season, the Amtrak Winter Park Express will transport passengers from downtown Denver’s Union Station to the slopes of Winter Park Resort. New this year, the Amtrak train will run every Friday through Sunday every weekend from Jan. 10 through March 29. Fares start at $29 each way for adults and are available at Amtrak.com/WinterParkExpress.

 The daily Amtrak California Zephyr has 6 stops in Colorado including stops in Glenwood Springs, where visitors can catch a shuttle to Sunlight Mountain, Granby where guests can access Granby Ranch or passengers can unload at the Fraser station to access Winter Park Resort.

Bus

 Snowstang Bus Service – New this winter, the Snowstang bus service will provide direct access to ski areas from Denver’s Union Station and RTD’s Federal Station in Lakewood to Loveland, Arapahoe Basin and Steamboat Resort. Roundtrip fares for Loveland and Arapahoe Basin will be $25 for adults and Steamboat will be $40, with 50 percent discounts for children 2-11 and 25 percent for seniors and those with disabilities. There will be 40 days of service to each resort, running weekends from Dec.14 through April 19, plus the Martin Luther King holiday, Jan. 20, and President’s Day, Feb. 17. For more information, click here.

Bustang Bus Service– The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has expanded its statewide Bustang bus service to include Salida as well as daily service to Monarch Ski Area from Dec. 14, 2019 to April 5, 2019. With this expansion, Bustang now serves mountain towns near several Colorado ski areas including Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Copper Mountain, Echo Mountain, Monarch Mountain, Purgatory Resort, Sunlight Mountain Resort and Telluride Ski Resort. For more information, click here.

Vail Resorts

It’s easy to get to Vail, Beaver Creek, Eagle, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Aspen or Snowmass whether you’re flying into Denver International, Vail/Eagle County Airport or Aspen’s Sardy Field. Colorado Mountain Express (CME) offers numerous daily departures to and from resort towns. In winter months, there are hourly departures to/from Denver International Airport

And, you don’t need a rental car once you arrive. Ski towns including Vail, Keystone, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Aspen and Snowmass are pedestrian-friendly and so much is within walking distance. Many outlying properties offer complimentary van service.

Avoid parking fees and take a break from driving on your holiday and ride CME.

Vail – Vail Village has the largest free public transportation system throughout town, making it convenient and practical to leave your car at home. For full information, including schedule details, click here. Most Vail lodging properties offer a van to the ski slopes if they are not within walking distance or are not ski-in or ski-out properties.

Beaver Creek – Offers complimentary on-call transportation as well as scheduled routes from Village Transportation – read more here.

Breckenridge – Take either the Free Ride transit system operated by the Town of Breckenridge or the free Summit Stage. Breckenridge, Copper Mountain & Keystone are serviced by the Summit Stage, a free county-wide bus service to resorts and surrounding communities. Breckenridge and Copper Mountain provide additional service in town and to the slopes Both transit systems are convenient and free.

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 Colorado Ski Country Resorts

Arapahoe Basin – The free Summit Stage bus service runs from the park-and-ride lot in Keystone to and from A-Basin. Front Range skiers and riders can also enjoy direct access with the new Snowstang bus service. For more information, click here.

 Aspen Snowmass – RFTA, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s bus system, provides transportation to all four Aspen Snowmass mountains. For more information, click here.

 Copper – Summit County visitors can take advantage of the free Summit Stage bus service. For more information, click here.

 Eldora – The Ski-N-Ride provides bus service from multiple locations along the Front Range straight to Eldora every day of the week during ski season. For more information, click here.

 Loveland – Running on weekends from December to April, the Snowstang bus service offers riders pick up locations at Union Station in Denver or the Denver Federal Center RTD station. For more information, click here.

 Monarch – The Salida Ski Bus provides access from Salida to Monarch. Visitors can also access Monarch with daily Bustang service from Dec. 14, 2019- April 5, 2020. For more information, click here.

 Purgatory – The skier shuttle runs from Durango to Purgatory on weekends and select holidays for $10. For more information, click here

 Steamboat– Guests can enjoy the free town bus system running from town to the resort and other locations. For more information, click here.

 Telluride – The Galloping Goose bus service provides free transportation in and around the town of Telluride, Mountain Village and Lawson Hill. For more information, click here.

 Wolf Creek – Shuttle service is available from Pagosa Springs via the Wilderness Journey Shuttle for $20 one way or $30 roundtrip. For more information, click here.