Boulder, Colorado-Winter Fun

Winter Fun in Boulder, Colorado

by Lester Picker

[This article originally appeared in Better Homes & Gardens. Some material may be dated. Please check beforehand.]

“This valley is so beautiful that people seeing it will never be happy anywhere else and will always return.”

  • Arapaho Chief Niwot’s ‘curse’

Sitting at the foot of Colorado’s imposing Front Range mountains, the scenery around Boulder is nothing less than spectacular.  Streets radiate from the town center and quickly turn into valleys, gorges and peaks of incredible beauty.  From any point in town you can see the Flatiron Mountains dominating the scenery with their imposing presence.

Despite its reputation as a training ground for Olympic hopefuls, Boulder is a family mecca for winter recreation. With more than 300 sunny days a year, mild winter temperatures, and a city psyche geared toward active pursuits, Boulder is the perfect winter get-away destination.

Skiing

Whether your preference is cross-country, downhill or snowboarding, Boulder has ten ski resorts within a two drive. Thirty minutes from downtown is the Eldora Mountain resort, boasting 43 trails for beginners through advanced, and a complete child care facility for newborns to pre-teens. Views of the Continental Divide from Eldora Mountain are magical. Snowboarders are welcome.

Eldora’s Nordic Center is one of the best in Colorado, with 45 kilometers of cross-country trails, instruction, rentals, ladies days, and even a mountain cabin which is available for rental.

Snowshoeing and Ice-skating

For a special family treat, take a scenic 20-mile drive through mountain passes and gorges, to Gold Lake Mountain Resort in the nearby old mining town of Ward. Perched on the shores of pristine Gold Lake, the resort is an environmentally friendly facility with spectacular views and every amenity possible.  Enjoy ice-skating on the lake, or hiking one of the many snowshoeing trails.  Equipment rentals are free for guests.

If you’re a cross-country enthusiast, take off from Gold Lake Mountain Resort and enjoy the Brainard Lake trails, just across the road. At 11,000 feet, the trails weave through the forest and along the shore, with opportunities to stop at cabins run by the Colorado Mountain Club for coffee and hot chocolate.  Then, be sure to come back and dine at Gold Lake’s gourmet restaurant, Alice’s.  After dinner, relax in their indoor or outdoor hot tubs, or indulge in a full-body massage offered by professional masseuses.

In Boulder itself, ice-skating and sledding are available in Scott Carpenter Park.

Biking, Hiking and Horseback Riding

The Boulder Creek Trail is one of the finest examples of urban recreation parks in the country.  Meandering for eleven miles, the trail is plowed during winter to allow for family biking, running or just plain ambling.  Starting in town, the creek winds through breathtaking mountain passes and gorges.  True to the Boulder spirit, the trail is dotted with sculptures and roadway underpasses are painted with murals by local artists.  Bicycle rentals are available at many locations in town.

Since sixty-degree winter days are common, why not plan a session of horseback riding through pastures and fields with open vistas of Boulder’s Front Range?  Boulder ranches are family-friendly.  Dress warmly and stash a jug of hot chocolate in the saddlebags.

Rainy Day Activities

Whether its rain or moody children, taking an off-day in Boulder can be a wonderful opportunity to recharge the family batteries.  Try some of these out-of-the-ordinary activities.

The Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center is located midway between Boulder and Denver. It is a first-class science attraction, where the family can seek shelter from rain or cold amidst a tropical rain forest where butterflies flutter everywhere.  Children will delight when they land on their hands or heads.

Boulder is also the home to Celestial Seasonings Tea company, where a pleasant morning or afternoon can be spent touring the factory, sampling dozens of different teas, and viewing art exhibits. But, don’t miss the Mint Room, where natural mints for teas are stored.  It’s guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience.

And, don’t forget the Boulder Public Library when planning the day’s events.  With a full slate of films, lectures, discussion groups, children’s storytime, concerts and young adult activities, the library is a family’s best friend.  Best of all, the main library hosts a gift shop and espresso bar in an inviting open architecture that soothes the soul.

Lodging

For a carefree vacation, try the Gold Lake Mountain Resort, where the entire family will be alternately energized and pampered.  Every winter activity, from sledding and ice-skating to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are available on the property.  Each cabin is decorated in a funky, one-of-a-kind style.

In Boulder itself, try the Alps Boulder Canyon Inn, with its beautifully appointed Victorian rooms, each with a fireplace. The charming Inn, a former stagecoach stop and bordello, boasts walk-in fireplaces and lounge areas downstairs.

The Boulderado Hotel is Boulder’s most famous resting place, having hosted the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Douglas Fairbanks, Bat Masterson, Robert Frost and Helen Keller.  Its old West charm is complemented by a modern wing which blends comfortably into its architecture.

Boulder, Colorado Fact File

Elevation 5,430 feet
Number of People (1994) 96,076
Average Annual Snowfall 90.0 inches
Typical Winter Temperatures (degrees F): 47 daytime; 22 night
Average Number of Sunny Days: 313
Miles from Denver International Airport: 42
Winter Outdoor Recreational Opportunities: Downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, sledding, bicycling, in-line skating, ice climbing, snowshoeing, hiking and horseback riding
Miles of Recreational Trails: 150
Acres of Open Space: 58,000
Number of Parks: 56
Acres of Parks: 6,970
Wildlife You Might See: Bear, coyote, fox, mountain lion, elk, deer, many bird species.
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