The Extremist's Dream
Playtime: Grumbling north of 12,000 feet in one of Chicago Ridge's snowcats, you'll be glad you both rented those extra-chubby skis. If you hadn't, the 2,400 acres of deep natural powder might have made the day at Leadville's Ski Cooper a little less epic. Instead, the two of you will easily float over the treed slopes and open bowls of this advanced terrain. There's a max of two guides and up to 12 guests in each cat. A full day of skiing ($325) includes a hearty hot lunch.
After a day of playing in the powder at Ski Cooper, a short snowshoe to the potbelly-stove-warmed Tennessee Pass Cookhouse sets up time to relive the day's best moments and banner crashes. Less than one mile from the Ski Cooper lodge, this giant yurt doles out highbrow cuisine (elk tenderloin, rack of lamb) in a completely casual setting (Gore-Tex and Capilene welcome).
Downtime: A stroll through Leadville's small historic downtown reveals its rich mining history and recalls an era when men armed with pickaxes marched to the nearby shafts morning, noon, and night. You too can take a tour of the mines by following the 12.5-mile Mineral Belt Trail, six miles of which meander through the Leadville Mining District. Downtown, much of the old architecture has been preserved, including mining structures, an opera house, 1880s-era hotels, and turn-of-the-century homes.
Stay the Night: Tucked just one-half block off Harrison Avenue, the Leadville Inn serves up inviting accommodations (we like the Copper and Attic rooms) and gourmet breakfasts. Innkeepers Dan Houtchens and Tracey Lauritzen welcome visitors into their circa-1895 purple Victorian, and offer a wealth of knowledge for perusing Leadville. A nighttime soak in the garden hot tub presents two enticing opportunities: Ski-weary muscles get a chance to relax, and you can take in a killer view of the unobscured heavens. Rates start at $90.