The history of the popular skiing region of Colorado – which largely revolves around the affluent city of Aspen – is dotted with skirmishes with local Native Americans and a history of mining. Indeed, the lure of rich minerals is what drew many of the area’s earliest settlers. Such people were willing to put up with the punishing terrain of the Rocky Mountains in order to get their hands on extremely valuable types of ore. Still, all good things must come to an end – and the various rushes that brought the region to prominence eventually came and went. The area thrives today based on its phenomenal skiing opportunities, among many other exceptional vacation attractions.
Sightseeing and Attractions: Colorado Ski’s Best Kept Secrets
The vast majority of people who arrive in the Aspen and Colorado ski area immediately strap on their skis. To be sure, skiing is the primary attraction in the area – but there are other things to enjoy as well. When visiting, try to include a few of the following sites:
One of the best ways to get a feel for the fleeting nature of the area’s various mines – and their payouts – is by visiting a genuine ghost town. In the Aspen area, the very best one has to be the old mining town of Independence. Tucked up more than 10,000 feet high in the Rockies, Independence is a fascinating place to explore and is a can’t-miss attraction in the Colorado ski region.
Four Pass Loop
For those who are in exceptionally good shape, the Four Pass Loop is one option that should be kept in mind. This 28-mile, multi-day hike is a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with the Colorado ski region’s nature and topography. Along the way, hikers get to pass right by four different 12,000-plus-foot-high peaks. The fun begins over at Maroon Lake; if you want to take it on, be sure that you have the right kinds of gear.
Fly fishing is a very popular local pastime, so if you want to see what the natives of the Colorado ski region enjoy doing, you should try it out for yourself. The Roaring Fork Valley near Aspen is one of the very best places to try it out. Several local outfits offer tours and trips that revolve around fly fishing; even complete novices can get in on the fun during such excursions.
Far beneath the summits of the loftiest peaks lie many mines. Mining is an important part of the history of this part of Colorado, and a visit to Smugglers Mine allows you to get a feel for what miners had to contend with. You can travel 1,200 feet into the mine, which was the site of the largest silver nugget that was ever excavated.
Best Kept Secrets For Families & Couples
The Colorado ski region is chock full of fun for families and couples. If you are traveling with small children – or if it’s just the two of you – you will quickly see that there are many prime places to enjoy. These include:
Rock Bottom Ranch Wildlife Preserve
It’s easy to forget that there are many exciting kinds of wildlife in the Rockies, especially when you spend the vast majority of your time there hitting the slopes. Let the kids get a taste of the local farming traditions of the region by visiting the Rock Bottom Ranch Wildlife Preserve. This sustainable farm is a neat place where kids can feed the animals and learn many interesting things.
Couples can enjoy the solitude of nature by visiting the hiking trails at Maroon Bells. Here, you can choose trails that are anywhere from one to ten miles in length. 14,000-foot-high peaks provide a stunning and unforgettable backdrop to any adventure here.
During the summer, be sure to take the kids to a rodeo. Rodeos are very popular in and around the Aspen area, and there are always several of these events to choose from during the summer months. It’s an important part of the local culture, and a whole lot of fun.
Eating - Sample the Local Cuisine
As a very popular tourist region, the Colorado ski area features all of the usual suspects in terms of dining. No matter where your tastes may lie, you should be able to find something that will please your palate. However, to get a feel for the local and more traditional cuisine, try to enjoy some authentic chuck wagon fare when in the area. Beans and stew are both very popular examples of such food, and they are great ways to sustain yourself before hitting the slopes.
When To Go & How to Get There
Although the Colorado ski region has many small airports, the vast majority of the people who come here for vacations fly into Denver International Airport. Depending on the time of year, driving over to Aspen and the surrounding area can be a breeze – or can be difficult, as roads become hard to pass due to really snowy conditions or ski traffic. Driving to Summit Country (Breckenridge, Vail) takes approximately 1.5-2 hours on a good day, and 3.5-4 to get to Aspen/Snowmass (make a pit stop at Glenwood Springs to visit the Vapor Caves and Hanging Lake).
December and January are great times to be in the Colorado ski region when you want to participate in all of the snowy fun. July and August can be hot, but they are great times to explore the scenic areas in and around Aspen. Watch out for the spring, when runoff and melting snow can create soggy conditions.