The quintessential Colorado postcard shows snow-covered slopes and rosy-cheeked skiers sipping hot cocoa. Winter, after all, is king in the Centennial State. But here’s a surprising statistic: According to the Colorado Tourism Office, 4.8 million tourists visited the state during the months of June, July, and August in 2013—about 1.1 million more than visited during January, February, and March. In fact, according to Ralf Garrison, director of Denver-based DestiMetrics, a destination-travel research company that follows resort and lodging reservation activity, summer business in Colorado has been doing better than good. “Just prior to the recession, winter and summer experienced record years,” Garrison says. “But since then, the summer market has rebounded and grown much faster than winter commerce; summer has had three record years in a row [including 2014] and has increased by almost 50 percent in overall revenues from its prerecession highs.”
If you’re thinking, What the hell?, you probably aren’t alone. But the signs that summer tourism is becoming a bigger business are everywhere. Although winter revenues still dwarf summer ones in most resort towns, businesses that rely on visitors’ wallets have been doing their darndest over the past handful of years to create what Garrison calls “destination magnets” for the summer. “Snow sports are a mature mega-magnet—which is a metaphor for an activity that attracts a guest from far enough away that she needs lodging and dining options—for the winter,” Garrison explains. “But summer doesn’t have a magnet of equivalent size. Instead, resorts, mountain-town chambers, and high-country businesses have been trying to create a whole bunch of little warm-weather magnets to attract guests and broaden their economic bases.” Which is why, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed ads for new cycling races, novel festivals, expanded concert series, new on-mountain attractions such as roller coasters and tubing hills, patio dining at mountain eateries, and innovative retreats that combine activities like yoga and golf.
Fortunately for all of us, that means there’s a lot of exploring to be done and tons of fun to be had. We sent 5280 staffers all across the state to check out the newest, coolest, and most summer-weekend-worthy ways to experience seven high-country locales.
Epic Discovery is Coming
From your perch inside an Eagle Bahn Gondola carriage, you may not see yellow construction tape as you hit midmountain this summer, but changes of the structural variety are under way at the world’s most famous ski resort. When Vail opened Adventure Ridge in 1996, it viewed the modest activity area—which is mostly geared toward kids and includes tubing, ski biking, and zip lining in the winter and a ropes course and zip line in the summer—as a way to provide alternate activities for mountain guests. But when you’re Vail, modest doesn’t cut it. So, for the past three years, the resort has been planning a new recreation center (set to open in summer 2016) that will marry amusement-park fun with environmental education.
The Epic Discovery development will expand out from Adventure Ridge and allow summer visitors to experience the resort both from the air and terra firma. Seven new zip lines—ranging from 500 to 2,700 feet long—will whiz riders over the resort’s Game Creek area while the new Forest Flyer mountain coaster catapults twosomes down Vail Mountain on raised rails. An adrenaline rush won’t be required, though, to enjoy Epic Discovery: Other additions include an 18-route climbing wall, a 45-mile expansion of hiking and mountain biking trails, and an observation deck, where visitors will be able to take in views of the Holy Cross Wilderness and read plaques about the geography, ecosystems, and wildlife therein. If all goes according to plan with Vail’s new summer blockbuster project, “epic” will certainly be an apt name.
To tide you over until Epic Discovery’s summer 2016 debut, try out Vail Mountain’s newest attraction: the summer tubing hill on Adventure Ridge. Winter snow tubes are retrofitted with a hard bottom so riders can hurtle down a 550-foot-long waterless plastic track. The attraction is set to open by the Fourth of July.
NEAR TOWN: White-water rafting offers big groups, big boats, and big rapids. Yes, it’s exciting, but in all that chaos you can’t really commune with the river or notice your surroundings. That’s not the case with a duckie tour. Seated in individual 10-foot-long inflatable kayaks, paddlers experience nature in a more intimate way. Timberline Tours picks up river-runners at various Vail-area resorts before shuttling them about 40 miles west of Vail to the put-in at Rancho del Rio on the Colorado River. Paddlers quickly hop into their duckies (fair warning: your swimsuit-clad rear end dips into the chilly river immediately) and begin floating down the four-mile-long stretch of Class II and III waters. The 90-minute journey is guided, but you’ll paddle solo through five sets of rapids that splash enough to send a bit of froth into the boat (but not flip it). Quick tip: Only opt for a tandem duckie boat if your companion is under 12 years old—or if you’re looking for an argument with your spouse about correct paddling techniques. $88–$98 per person for a half-day trip
Where to Stay
Inside Scoop: After a full day spent outside, take advantage of the upscale amenities available at these four-and-a-half-year-old vacation rentals: a movie theater, a bowling alley, pre-arrival fridge-stocking services, and a personal assistant who can indulge your request to schedule a guided fourteener hike.
The Lodge at Vail
Inside Scoop: Open since 1962, the Lodge at Vail completed a 56-room renovation in the final months of 2014. Each room’s refresher included new beds, updated linens, swanky lighting, and, most important, air-conditioning units. Ask for a third-floor room with views of the resort and the Gore Range.
Where to Eat and Drink
You Should Order: Any dish with the wood-roasted Colorado lamb sirloin.
You Should Sit: On the Gore Creek–adjacent patio at this three-year-old eatery.
You Should Order: Street tacos with sautéed diced sirloin steak and a special tomatillo sauce.
You Should Sit: On the patio overlooking Gondola One. Quick tip for parents: If the wait is long or you need a few extra minutes to finish your margarita, there is a pirate-themed playground on the patio’s east side.
10th Mountain Distillery Tasting Room
You Should Order: The house-made whiskey from this year-old tasting room.
You Should Sit: At the bar, where you can make friends with whoever is plotting a can’t-miss adventure.
Over the past five or so years, Coloradans have embraced the stand-up paddleboarding craze. If you’re thinking, Been there, done that, keep reading—there’s a twist. The land surrounding the town of Crested Butte offers a diverse portfolio of watery options, and we suggest trading the stillness of a lake for the meandering Slate River. You can rent river-worthy boards from Colorado FreeSkier in town ($50 per day), but that means arranging your own transportation and route. For a more stress-free experience, contact Irwin Guides—which has been doing white-water SUP tours for four years—and let a seasoned guide take care of the logistics. Along with extras such as snapping sweet pics for your Facebook page, packing snacks, and sharing geographical tidbits about the scenery, your guide can help you learn to maneuver your board with precision. The four-mile Lower Slate section, which is often runnable through early August, is best for beginners learning to navigate a waterway’s riffles. If you’re after more of a thrill, your guide can take you to the white water of the nearby Gunnison River. Prices vary by group size but start at $100 per person (half day) and $160 per person (full day)
Evolution Bike Park
AT THE RESORT: As the self-proclaimed birthplace of mountain biking, it’s only natural that Crested Butte was ahead of the curve for the latest trend in fat tires: lift-served downhill tracks. Crested Butte Mountain Resort has allowed bikes on its lifts for at least 15 years (leading to the development of makeshift “pirate” paths on the mountain). But since Evolution Bike Park opened in 2009, the rideable terrain has expanded to include 16 professionally designed downhill trails (four green, four blue, six black, and two double-black). New to the sport? Take a two-hour group lesson ($63; it’s another $62 to rent a bike, helmet, and body armor for a half-day) to learn the fundamentals: Level pedals! Pick your line! Weight back! Then practice navigating Hotdogger’s relatively gentle berms before using one of Evolution’s 10 multiuse trails to connect to scenic CB single-track, including the legendary 401 Trail. Single-day lift tickets $41
Crested Butte’s arts and culture scene is so booming that its Center for the Arts is fund-raising for a new $15 million performance facility (ETA: June 2017). In the meantime, here are three can’t-miss musical events taking place this coming summer.
Pack a picnic and your hula-hoop for this free outdoor concert series, where you’ll jam to the likes of Mountain Standard Time and the Main Squeeze as the setting sun illuminates Mt. Crested Butte.
Mondays, June 22 to August 17
Mozart and Beethoven, step aside. A brand-new offering from the Crested Butte Music Festival (which puts on a variety of events in the summer), Time Spans’ five-concert lineup will feature two nationally lauded contemporary ensembles performing music primarily written in the past five years.
June 25 to 28
Opera in Paradise: Don Pasquale
For the fourth year in a row, Crested Butte’s hills will come alive with the sounds of CBMF’s Opera in Paradise. Rising stars and seasoned veterans will perform Gaetano Donizetti’s comedy Don Pasquale.
July 15 to 26
The 29th annual Crested Butte Wildflower Festival (July 13 to 19) will showcase the Wildflower Capital of Colorado’s blooms with more than 200 events. But the Indian paintbrushes and columbines are around for more than one week, as are eager tourists. To meet demand, in 2014 the festival decided to make its most popular offerings—including jeep tours ($55 per person) and guided hikes (starting at $45 per person)—available June through August. You could poke around solo, but we highly recommend going with the experts.
Where to Stay
Inside Scoop: This recently renovated 28-room hotel (it opened with the hill in 1963) is located within walking distance of the resort’s base but still has that boutique, ski-chalet feel—making it a perfect compromise if you’re traveling with kids.
Purple Mountain Bed & Breakfast
Inside Scoop: Proprietor Chris Haver’s gourmet breakfasts and afternoon craft-beer tastings bring lodge guests together to swap recommendations on where to explore next. Be sure to take advantage of the complimentary cruisers.
Where to Eat and Drink
You Should Order: The Instagram-worthy DIY guacamole, street tacos, and habanero-infused margaritas at this 11-month-old eatery from the team that brought you the Secret Stash pizzeria (which gained a basement expansion last summer called the Red Room).
You Should Sit: In the center of the dining room, where you have a 360-degree view of the eclectic-chic Day of the Dead decor.
You Should Order: Sourdough bagels and a Steampunk-brewed coffee with house-made almond milk at this year-old breakfast spot.
You Should Sit: On the deck out back for views of the Paradise Divide and Mt. Crested Butte.
The Sunflower, A Communal Kitchen
You Should Order: At lunch, your favorite deli sandwich with house-made chips. As of last summer, you can also make dinner reservations to sample constantly changing farm-to-table menus.
You Should Sit: On the front patio, which is ripe for people-watching on Elk Avenue.
You Should Order: A flight of rums for you and mocktails for the kids.
You Should Sit: In the courtyard or on the upper level of Montanya’s upgraded digs (the distillery moved its taproom to Elk Avenue in late 2013), where you can admire Montanya’s original copper still while the kids enjoy a pint-size play area.
Trestle Bike Park
If you can ride a two-wheeler, you can mountain bike. And if you can mountain bike, you can definitely downhill mountain bike—especially if you sign up to take a beginner’s lesson at Winter Park Resort’s outrageously cool Trestle Bike Park. Perennially ranked as one of the top mountain biking destinations in North America, the eight-year-old, lift-served park—into which the resort has invested more than $1.2 million—has more than 40 miles of downhill trails (categorized green, blue, and black) and plans to add more trails in the Vasquez Ridge area in the coming years. Veteran athletes with their own equipment can buy $39 full-day lift passes and scream down the mountain at their convenience. (Quick tip for advanced riders: Cruel and Unusual is the park’s signature trail.) Newbies—or those looking to amplify their skills—can sign up for a 3.5-hour lesson ($119.99 with gear and lift ticket), during which a coach will guide them down the mountain while demystifying the course, giving pointers, and offering a well-placed “kick-ass job, brah!” when earned.
Fat Tire Festivities
The fourth annual iteration of the Colorado Freeride Festival will take place at Winter Park Resort from July 22 to 26. The best athletes in the world will compete for $45,000 in prize monies while spectators cheer them on during events like air downhill, pond crossing, and five specialized enduro stages.
18-Hole Putting Course
AT THE RESORT: Although putt-putt purists might miss the old-school windmill, Winter Park Resort’s new 18-hole, contoured mini-golf course—which debuts June 13—may appeal to adults as much as kids. The course, located near the totally-worth-the-price alpine slide (Colorado’s longest!), is landscaped similarly to a regular golf course and has enough undulating terrain that serious golfers will enjoy knocking it around, even if the kids aren’t keeping quiet during the adults’ backswings. $10 to play golf only, or $49 for a full-day Adventure Pass, which includes mini-golf, alpine slide, climbing wall, human maze, disc golf lift access, and other activities.
Slip & Slide
This is more fun than any adult should be allowed to have: Yes, the 10-month-old, first-of-its-kind-in-Colorado Summer Tubing Hill at the YMCA of the Rockies’ Snow Mountain Ranch was built with families in mind, but there are no posted rules prohibiting, say, three 35-year-olds from whooping it up on the 400-foot-long track made of “synthetic snow.” And, truly, this is no sissy ride. SMR staffers at the top of the hill position riders and then ask questions like: Do you wanna go fast? Do you want to spin like a tornado? No matter what you choose, the descent is a blast, and the magic-carpet lift makes the journey back up a breeze. Use of the hill is free for SMR guests, who should sign up for hourlong slots in advance. Day passes ($15 to $35) are available to nonguests; call morning-of to reserve a spot.
Where to Stay
Snow Mountain Ranch
Inside Scoop: For a friends’ weekend or family reunion, book one of the cabins or yurts at this beautifully maintained YMCA of the Rockies property for next to nothing.
Where to Eat and Drink
The Mountain Rose Cafe
You Should Order: Corned beef hash at breakfast; the RU Nuts burger for lunch.
You Should Sit: On the patio under one of the large, tarplike umbrellas.
Pepe Osaka’s FishTaco and Tequila Bar
You Should Order: One Baja-style taco, one mahi mahi al pastor taco, and one spicy tuna taco, plus a margarita.
You Should Sit: Wherever you can get a table inside this compact restaurant, which reopened in 2013 after a 15-year hiatus.
Fraser Valley Hot Dog
You Should Order: The Chivi hot dog with bacon, cheddar, mustard, and caramelized onions.
You Should Sit: This five-year-old place is essentially a walk-up window, so you’ll wanna order and grab a picnic table outside in the high-elevation sun.
Hideaway Park Brewery
You Should Order: A pint of the BruBrew IPA, a fave at the one-year-old hot spot.
You Should Sit: At the bar.
You probably already have a stunning landscape photo hanging in your home. For true bragging rights, though, you have to shoot the image yourself. If you can’t tell an f-stop from the ISO, take a half-day or full-day (rates vary based on group size) tour with photographers from Telluride Outside, one of the area’s premier guide services. The six-year-old photography classes are still relatively new for the 31-year-old company, and co-owner John Duncan says summer and early fall are the most popular times of year for these workshops. Duncan’s photo guides tactfully handle a wide range of skill levels, from beginners who don’t know how to turn on their cameras to experts searching for the best sunset spots in the San Juans. Because Telluride Outside’s instructors have staked out the primo locations, you’ll easily nab shots of rusty mining equipment in the ghost town of Alta and fields of yellow wildflowers on Ophir Pass. Be forewarned: These guides follow the light, so you’ll chase the glow around the valley looking for that postcard-worthy shot to put above your mantel. With these guides, you’re sure to find it.
Off-Roading On Black Bear Pass
If you’ve got a four-inch lift on your own four-wheel-drive vehicle and pride yourself on your sense of adventure, you can navigate Black Bear Pass on your own. If not, let someone else (an expert maybe?) do the driving on this notorious road, which is only open for a few short weeks in late summer due to nearly year-round icy and impassable conditions. If the road is open, don’t miss booking a half-day excursion (from $95) through Telluride Ski Resort; the tour takes you above spectacular Bridal Veil Falls and, eventually, to treeline for eagle-eye views of Telluride’s box canyon. The path isn’t paved. Mere centimeters of road exist on either side of your tires. There are no guardrails. You will be exhilarated and terrified all at the same time. And you will, most important, want to do it all over again.
Get a Good Grip
If clinging to an iron bar high above Telluride’s box canyon is your thing (and why wouldn’t it be?), you must tackle the Telluride Via Ferrata, an in-the-side-of-a-cliff pathway made up of metal hand- and footholds along a rock face. The path was built about a decade ago but was essentially a local’s secret until a few summers ago, when the Forest Service began permitting guided tours (thank goodness—you need some climbing experience to manage this trek alone). Lean on an expert, like the guides at Telluride Adventures, to cross this thin-air activity off your summer to-do list. From $190.
IN TOWN: Thanks to Telluride’s gazillion warm-weather festivals, summer profits have surpassed winter’s in recent years. Of course, the popular Bluegrass Festival (June 18 to 21) and Film Festival (August 29 to September 9) draw massive crowds. Which is partly why locals love this month’s smaller Mountainfilm (May 22 to 25). This homage to all things outdoors has been inspiring festivalgoers’ next big vacations since 1979 and lets you mingle with the likes of writer Cheryl Strayed and environmental activist Tim DeChristopher. Bonus: Individual tickets start at $25, making this one of the town’s most affordable date-night options.
Where To Stay
The Inn at Lost Creek
Inside Scoop: This ski-in/ski-out resort gracefully transitions to a bike-in/bike-out destination in the summer. Rent a mountain bike through the hotel’s concierge, hop on the gondola, and spend the day carving dirt turns at the Mountain Village Bike Park. Rest your fat tires for happy hour and nibbles at the inn’s Thai-inspired Siam’s Talay Grille.
Where to Eat and Drink
You Should Order: Tapas-style appetizers like salmon-belly tostadas and pork and pickles steamed buns, chased with potent cocktails. (Try the jam drinks, a choose-your-own mix of spirits and sweet and savory jams.)
You Should Sit: Near the oversized window banquette to soak in the last rays of sun in this five-year-old eatery.
The Butcher & The Baker Cafe
You Should Order: A house-made bagel with lox, cream cheese, red onion, and capers.
You Should Sit: On the patio along Colorado Avenue, which acts like Telluride’s front porch—settle in for some serious people-watching.
Aemono Fine Foods & Catering
You Should Order: The bacon, Brie, apple, and miso Parmesan aïoli sandwich, served warm.
You Should Sit: Someplace else; there is limited seating here, so order lunch to go and eat it on the trail, preferably next to a gushing waterfall. (Hint: Try Bear Creek Trail, which starts in town.)
Sailing On Ruedi Reservoir
This summer, for the first time, guests of the St. Regis Aspen Resort with a penchant for water can climb aboard 12-foot Sunfish sailboats and cruise the waters of Ruedi Reservoir. Don Sheeley, owner of Aspen Sailing School and a longtime sailor himself, will provide instruction and then guide students to a gourmet picnic (with wine) waiting in a private cove. The adventure doesn’t end there: With the reservoir located about an hour from Aspen, participants are given a Lexus for the day to drive to and from Ruedi along a scenic route that traces the banks of the trout-choked Frying Pan River. Package prices, which include two nights’ stay and four hours on the water, begin at $2,000 for two sailors.
Power Of Four Ultra
With four ski areas—Ajax, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, and Buttermilk—to its name, Aspen-Snowmass is uniquely positioned to deliver a world-class ultra-running series. In just its third year, the Audi Power of Four Trail consists of a 50K, a 22K, and a Vertical K (in which you run straight uphill for one kilometer) for athletes who subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” mantra. The punishing 50K (July 19) takes runners over the resort’s four mountains. For the more faint of heart (or less athletically gifted), the mix of single-track and dirt roads offers many opportunities to spectate along the way. $40–$110
Clip In With Christian
When the USA Pro Challenge spins into town this year (August 19 and 20), it brings with it the biggest names in cycling. Watching the best athletes the sport has to offer is electrifying—so you can imagine how cycling fanatics might feel about actually riding with them. For the second summer in a row, the Little Nell hotel brings you a chance to ride with former pro cyclists Christian Vande Velde, George Hincapie, and Craig Lewis. The resort arranges this epic experience (August 17 to 20), during which you pedal Independence Pass and Ashcroft and dine al fresco at the hotel with Vande Velde and crew as well as gain VIP access to the Pro Challenge in Aspen. The three-night, four-day tour costs $3,999 for hotel guests (or you can lay down $2,500 to just do the day rides, no lodging included).
Aspen’s Swimming Holes
Just blocks from Aspen’s Main Street, the peaceful John Denver Sanctuary sits on the banks of the Roaring Fork River. Constructed by the town as a memorial to the beloved musician and Aspenite, the multifaceted park is made up of a natural amphitheater, perennial gardens, wetlands, stone slabs emblazoned with Denver’s famous lyrics, and a boulder chiseled with “Child’s Play” pointing you to an engineered splash pool, which opened in 2013. On summer days you can follow the sound of delighted shrieks to the sandy beach, where the water slows to a trickle and kids of all ages wade and play. When this area gets too crowded, there’s an unofficial swimming hole upriver, just off the Rio Grande bike path. Here, the river rushes with a bit more force and the water is deeper, but kids can still safely hop from rocks and float on their backs as the adults look on from the banks. Find it: The sanctuary sits across the park from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association Visitor’s Center, at roughly Rio Grande Place and North Mill Street.
Where To Stay
Inside Scoop: Most guidebooks recommend staying at the Little Nell at the base of Aspen Mountain. Indeed, it is lovely—and expensive. For a more reasonable getaway, the newly renovated Limelight’s modern decor and walk-to-everything location make it a winner. Amenities include a rooftop patio that affords pristine views of both Aspen Mountain and town, a tucked-away pool, an on-site dog walking area, and free bike rentals. Tip: Check the Specials board for hard-to-beat lodging deals.
Where To Eat and Drink
Meat & Cheese
You Should Order: The cheese board. Owner Wendy Mitchell is also the force behind the valley’s award-winning Avalanche Cheese Company (her creamy Lamborn Bloomers, a Robiola-style cheese, is a favorite). Mitchell, who opened the spot in October, knows her cheese, and there’s not one in her case that isn’t a showstopper. But one cannot subsist on cheese alone—order the hearty three-grain salad, the Korean rice dumplings, and the half-rotisserie chicken.
You Should Sit: On the shady (but tiny) patio—if you can find an open table at this always-jammed eatery.
Creperie du Village
You Should Order: A crock of French onion soup and the Classic, a fried egg–topped buckwheat crêpe filled with melted Gruyère, Swiss cheese, and smoked ham.
You Should Sit: On the four-year-old bistro’s patio; it’s subterranean, but that gives it an intimacy you don’t get when sitting curbside.
Victoria’s Espresso Wine Bar & Gourmet Grazing
You Should Order: Coffee or a perfectly frothy cappuccino plus a muffin top or scone. Return to this three-year-old cafe later in the day for pork green chile and the Fat Sanga: Bulgarian sheep feta, avocado, and tomatoes on Turkish bread.
You Should Sit: At the community table where you can hobnob with the locals.
Summer Dog Sledding
Orion Paiement will say almost anything to convince you not to try the scooter tour ($75 per person) at Snow Cap Sled Dogs, an activity he began offering six years ago at his Breckenridge dog-sledding operation. And although it’s weird having to persuade a business owner to take your money, Paiement has good reason to be cautious: This is a pursuit designed solely for thrill-seekers. If you can demonstrate some fundamental skills like skidding, stopping, and starting, he’ll let you loose with his best sled dogs. Here’s how it works: The scooter is basically a jacked-up version of a Razor. The dogs—purebred Siberian huskies—are hooked to a rope, which runs into a recoil system on the scooter. As soon as you push off and get both feet on your ride, the dogs are running at full tilt on a muddy trail through the forest. For 45 minutes, you’ll splash through puddles, skid around turns, speed down hills (thank you, God, for brakes), and try to calm your racing heart while your four-legged friends lap water. It’s electrifying. When you return to the kennel, you’ll be grimy, covered in paw prints, and raring to go again.
Breckenridge Music Festival’s Champagne Series
Musical notes—originating from violins and cellos—reverberate through the open-format living room. But these beautiful sounds aren’t coming from a Bose speaker: Instead, four musicians from the Breckenridge Music Festival are creating an old-fashioned version of surround sound in a private home. It’s an intimate experience that chamber music aficionados rarely encounter, which is why BMF organizers launched the summer Champagne Series brunch concerts five years ago. For $65, music fans mingle over mimosas and catered eats before sitting down to enjoy 90 minutes of music (the selections rotate every Sunday during the mid-July through August run) played by visiting musicians in the cozy confines of a different host home each week. Tickets go on sale in early spring, and limited seating means they won’t be available for long.
Introduce your kids to the vast world of hiking the easy way: with a chairlift replacing the uphill climb. The Guided Hiking Program’s scenic chair and nature hike packages ($29 per person), which the resort began offering in 2011, include guided one-mile walks that reveal peeks at the resort’s high-alpine garden—featuring more than 80 species of wildflowers—offer insight into the region’s history and ecology, and provide all-encompassing views of town, the Continental Divide, and Mt. Baldy. Lasting approximately two hours, these outdoor full-family excursions are just short enough to keep your kiddos’ attention (kids age five and older are welcome) and just long enough to make them ready for bed a bit early.
Where To Stay
The Bivvi Hostel
Inside Scoop: Don’t be dissuaded by the name: This charming log cabin, which opened in November 2013, is nothing like that dusty hostel where you stayed during your European backpacking trip. Beautifully appointed private rooms—the two-person supersuite has a king bed made of pine, an en suite bathroom, and a balcony—and lovely shared bunk rooms are both available at reasonable prices (rates vary). If that’s not enough to rid the “hostel” image from your mind, consider this: The Bivvi also has a fire pit, a bar, an outdoor hot tub, and complimentary breakfast.
One Ski Hill Place
Inside Scoop: Convenience is the word at this luxury lodge—as in walk out the door to reach Peak 8’s Summer Fun Park (mini-golf, an alpine slide, and a zip line, which typically open in June). Room options range from a studio to a four-bedroom condo; prices start at $200 per night. Plus, there’s a hotel bowling alley, and guests can hitch rides into town on a free shuttle. Find out more at visitbreck.com.
Where To Eat and Drink
The Warming Hut Restaurant & Bar
You Should Order: An edamame and chickpea burger (a flavor-packed take on the veggie burger) with sweet potato fries.
You Should Sit: Near the Colorado flag–painted cornhole boards on the outdoor patio at this three-year-old spot.
You Should Order: The cocktail of the day (it was pomegranate lemonade with vodka when we were there) to pair with an app from the seasonal menu.
You Should Sit: On the patio for the two-for-$10 happy hour (one drink, one appetizer) from 4 to 6 p.m.
Broken Compass Brewing
You Should Order: The spicy Chili Pepper Pale Ale—five peppers make appearances in the year-old brewery’s suds—which is sure to wake you up just in time for dinner.
You Should Sit: In one of the old lift chairs turned into bench seating.
Après Handcrafted Libations
You Should Order: Any of the 30 beers on tap at this one-and-a-half-year-old bar—or, if you’re not driving, a Buffalo Trace Distillery flight of three spirits ($16).
You Should Sit: At the bar for a nightcap.
Yampa River Core Trail
In 2010—two years before Steamboat Resort debuted the Steamboat Bike Park, a downhill playground at the top of the gondola with access to 50 miles of trails—the town of Steamboat Springs trademarked the moniker “Bike Town USA.” But “Bike Town” doesn’t just include white-knuckling it down Flying Diamond, the hill’s new jump trail. For those more interested in serenity than speed, the resort also began offering cruiser rentals in 2013 ($20 for three hours; $25 for the day). Our suggestion: Pack a picnic (and your swimsuit), pick up your ride at the Steamboat Bike Shop in the base area, then head downhill toward the Yampa River Core Trail, a seven-mile-long path that traces the river. Give yourself at least half the day because you’ll want to stop to explore the Yampa River Botanic Park, ogle the ski jumpers swooshing down the artificial practice slope at Howelsen Hill, and play lizard on the rocks at a swimming spot known as C Hole. Just make sure you fuel up before you head back to the bike shop (we suggest trying Sweet Pea Restaurant). Remember, you’ve got at least half a mile of hill to pull—and only one gear to do it.
Pit Stops Along the Way
1. Fetcher Pond: Stop to watch first-time stand-up paddlers play in this wake-free zone.
2. Yampa River Botanic Park: All six acres of this riverside paradise are pretty, but we love the hummingbird and butterfly gardens the most.
3. Rodeo grounds: If you ride past here on Friday and Saturday evenings, you’ll be serenaded by cheers from the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series.
4. Sweet Pea Restaurant: Colorado-grown goodies fill the kitchen at this riverside cafe. Vegan, veggie, or gluten- or dairy-free? No problem.
5. Howelsen Hill: Your awe at watching ski jumpers fly through the air on practice jumps will quickly change to an “eww” when you see the trail they have to hike up for another go.
6. Library: If you need a rest, the tables near the river-facing windows of the recently renovated Bud Werner Memorial Library make for an excellent inside option.
7. C Hole: On May 30 and June 1, pros will tackle the rapids here during the Yampa River Festival.
8. The Eleanor Bliss Center for the Arts: Trade natural beauty for the man-made variety at this historic property turned art gallery.
Drink It In
After a day of up-close encounters with the Yampa Valley—be it along the Core Trail or hiking on Emerald Mountain—you’ll be particularly appreciative of the perspective from higher than 9,000 feet. Launched in 2008, the resort’s Sunset Happy Hours (Thursdays and Sundays) provide an unparalleled peek at the valley, painted green and gold and pink. Twelve bucks—and a nine-minute gondola ride—gets you a front-row seat to the spectacle, plus $5 off your food or drink at Thunderhead Lodge and live music from 5 to 9 p.m. Little wonder the lodge must now staff six (or more!) bartenders at the snack shop just to keep up.
Steamboat Springs hiking and biking trails received a boost from residents in 2013 when voters agreed to earmark the town’s one percent lodging tax for trail improvements. You’ll get to savor some of the results this summer with new trails on Emerald Mountain, the aspen-draped hiking and biking mecca southwest of downtown. One can’t-miss new option: Morning Gloria. This 4.5-mile-long trail takes hikers, bikers, and horseback riders up a mild, switchbacking grade to the top of Emerald Mountain.
Burgess Creek Beach
Amid the lavish hotels—and accompanying aquamarine pools—in the resort area, there’s no shortage of sunbathing spots. But the best one requires no room reservation: Burgess Creek Beach. OK, so “beach” might be a generous description of the patch of sand and lounge chairs nestled along the creek, but landlocked beggars can’t be choosers. Created in 2014, when engineers brought Burgess Creek above ground, the cute sandy area sits within splashing distance of Gondola Square, where, in 2013, the resort began hosting free movies and concerts on Friday and Saturday nights.
Where To Stay
Sheraton Steamboat Resort
Inside Scoop: Planted next to Gondola Square, this mountain resort puts you in the middle of the action—in style. Last year, the hotel completed a $24 million renovation that created 56 new mountain suites (from $259), some of which are decked out with fireplaces and soaking tubs. Even better: While everyone else is jostling for a spot on the grass for the movie and concert series, you can take it all in from your fourth-floor perch.
Where To Eat and Drink
Aurum Food & Wine
You Should Order: The beef tenderloin—as an appetizer or a main—with brandied lobster jus if it’s on the menu, which changes often. The roasted apple, goat cheese, mâche, and radish salad with vanilla-bean vinaigrette is also a winner.
You Should Sit: Near the railing on the patio, where you can watch tubers and kayakers float by on the Yampa River. Also, it’s the best place to experience “local’s hour” from 4:30 to 6 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday.
You Should Order: As many fresh fruits and veggies as your daypack can carry. This six-year-old Strawberry Park organic greenhouse and farm sells produce at its farm stand two days a week (Tuesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.).
You Should Sit: On a sunny patch of grass at the end of your nearby hike (we suggest Fish Creek Falls).
Low Country Kitchen
You Should Order: Anything with grits (we like the vegetables and grits); anything involving fried chicken (the chicken biscuit starter is a must); and the peach sweet tea made with peach-infused Jim Beam.
You Should Sit: On the patio if possible; the place has been packed since it opened in spring 2014.
Storm Peak Brewing Co.
You Should Order: I Like The Way She Moos milk stout, a kind of dessert in a pint glass, from this one-year-old brewery.
You Should Sit: In lotus pose during the recently introduced yoga and beer classes on select Saturdays at the brewery. It’s balance and a Storm Peak brew for just $10.