Tags Posts tagged with "Colorado"


By Matt Payne, 

One of my favorite parts of living in Colorado is the fall colors that come each September and October. Over the years, I’ve come to note in my mind the best areas to view fall colors around the state, and I thought I’d share my top five areas with you!

1. Dallas Divide

Not only is the Dallas Divide home to some of my favorite mountains to climb, it is also home to some of the most breathtaking areas for fall foliage. Start in the town of Ridgway, which is located south of Montrose. You will see the mighty 14er, Mount Sneffels as you enter Ridgway. Mount Sneffels is one of my favorite mountains to climb. From there, head west on Colorado Highway 62 over the Dallas Divide. You will be afforded incredible, classic views of the Sneffels Wilderness Area and a bounty of color will explode before your eyes from the aspen trees. At Placerville, drive southeast toward Telluride on Colorado Highway 145. From here, you will head towards Lizard Head Pass and see incredible views of Wilson Peak, which I climbed back in July. Did you also know that Wilson Peak is featured on the Coors Beer can?

2. West Elks and Kebler Pass

I’ve not had the chance to visit this area yet, but through my admiration of one of Colorado’s best photographers, Kane Engelbert, I feel like this is one of the best areas for viewing fall colors in the country. To get there, head west out of Crested Butte on Gunnison County Road 12. You will be immediately pleased by the fall colors in this area. The aptly named Ruby Range add contrast and more color as you continue. This would be a great area to stop and hike in. At Colorado Highway 133, you should drive north toward McClure Pass for more incredible colors and opportunities for incredible fall hiking.

3. Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness Area

The Maroon Bells are quite possibly the most photographed mountains in the world, and it is really no wonder as to why. The fall colors, as seen in this area, are quite splendid indeed. I feel that this area needs no further introduction, and examples can be found in the slideshow. According to the Colorado Tourism website, on weekends in September, access to the Maroon Bells is limited to shuttle buses that leave Aspen on a regular basis. But if you reserve a campsite along Maroon Creek Road, you can drive your vehicle all the way to the scenic Maroon Lake. This whole area is incredible – I visited it twice this year, once to backpack to Snowmass Lake, and another time to climb Snowmass Mountain and Hagerman Peak.

4. Cottonwood Pass

The mighty Sawatch Mountain Range is home to several 14ers and 13ers, including some of the best fall colors around. When driving in from the east on Highway 285, the majestic Mount Princeton greets you with huge groves of aspen at its base. Driving up to Cottonwood Pass places you between both Princeton and Mount Yale, another huge 14er. As you pass beneath the 14ers, you’ll find yourself in a valley full of aspen trees ranging from green to gold. Last year, I was able to view all of this from the summit of six 13ers, all in one day!

5. Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway

To reach this superb area, drive south out of the historic town of Georgetown to the summit of 11,699 ft. Guanella Pass. The changing aspen are pretty amazing, especially on the south side of the pass. Turn right on US Highway 285 and take the highway for 15 minutes to the top of Kenosha Pass, where you will be afforded more incredible views of aspen trees near South Park.

By Matt Payne, 

I read far too many stories of beginner and experienced hikers alike getting lost or dying in the mountains. Usually the circumstances are all the same: the hiker was not fully prepared. These guides will give you the basic knowledge to prevent this from happening to you. Staying with the same format, this article will highlight three important tips to hiking in Colorado.

1. Wear layers!

Dressing in multiple layers is very important, regardless of the season. Your clothing should be made of a synthetic material, never cotton. If you’re like me and go for very long hikes, you may start hiking very early in the day and finish in the afternoon. Having a nice warm pair of gloves or mittens and a stocking hat becomes even more important if you’re planning on hiking at higher altitudes, irregardless of the season. Even in July and August, the temperatures above 12,000 ft. can be life-threatening due to the wind chill. Wearing layers and coming prepared can prevent and / or mitigate this.

2. Know your location!

Anyone interested in survival (which should be everyone) should make sure that they have the appropriate maps of where they will be hiking, especially if you are hiking in the wilderness, at high elevations, or far away from a large metropolitan area. My personal preference is to carry a GPS with me that has TOPO! maps loaded on it. I also would highly recommend that you learn how to use a compass and how to apply it to a Topo map.

3. Tell people where you are going to hike at!

It may sound simple, but letting your friends and loved ones know where you are going to be hiking and sticking to that plan is very important in the event that you get lost or injured. If people know where you are at and you do not come home on time, they can properly notify search and rescue teams of your general location. A friend of mine even goes so far as to send those people a full page email on his blood-type, allergies, medications, expected date of return, and search and rescue contact information for where he is hiking in case he does not return when he says he will. These steps will hopefully ensure that if you were to become lost or injured that you will be found and rescued in a timely fashion.

By Deb Stanley,

It may just be one of the best problems to have, how do I find a good hiking trail? Colorado is a beautiful state with breathtaking places, but how do you pick a hike that’s not a dud? Here are some of the best places and hikes to consider:

Rocky Mountain National Park. There aren’t many dud hikes in the park. Mills Lake, Calypso Cascades & Ouzel Falls,  Flattop Mountain, Gem Lake, Bridal Veil Falls,  Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes,  Fern Falls & Fern Lake,  Finch Lake, Mount Ida,Spectacle Lakes, Ypsilon & Chipmunk Lakes, Shelf & Solitude Lakes, Jewel Lake, Timber Lake,  Arch Rocks/The Pool,  Spruce Lake, Alberta Falls, MacGregor Falls.

There are two wilderness areas just south of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Indian Peaks Wilderness and James Peak Wilderness. Both are filled with dozens of trails to scenic lakes and mountain peaks. Two of the easiest hikes to get you started in this area are Lost Lake and Diamond Lake. Or hike to Isabelle Lake, Mitchell/Blue Lakes, Crater Lakes, Forest Lakes,Arapahoe Lakes and Woodland Lake & Skyscraper Reservoir.

Want to try something different, how about hiking to an arch? There’s Harmonica Arch in the Pike National Forest, Royal Arch in Boulder and the Rattlesnake Arches near Grand Juction.

Interested in history? Then don’t miss the chance to see several homesteads from the late 1880’s and early 1900’s. Homestead Meadows is in Larimer County, just about 10 miles south of Estes park. There’s also the Shafthouse hike (a failed reservoir project) in the Pike National Forest.

Want something even more unique? Check out the dinosaur tracks at Dakota Ridge in Golden. There’s a castle at Lair O The Bear that you can see from the trail, especially in the winter when the trees lose their leaves. And there are the castle ruins at Mount Falcon. You can even hike to an old fire lookout tower on Squaw Peak near Evergreen or at Devil’s Head in the Pike National Forest . Or try a “hike” underground by exploring Fulford Cave.

Dreaming of climbing a 14er? One of the best for first timers is actually two peaks, Grays & Torreys.

Traveling to the high country? Don’t miss South Willow Falls in Summit County. Or visit Hells Hole in the Mount Evans Wilderness. In Glenwood Springs, there’s the very popular hike to Hanging Lake or try the trial at the next exit at Grizzly Creek. You can also hike to Doc Holliday’s grave and the Storm King Memorial.

While in town hikes may not be as exciting as mountain hikes, two of the best areas to hike on the front range are the Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks and the Jefferson County Open Space parks in Golden, Morrison and Evergreen. Boulder and JeffCo have informative Web sites with good maps and easy to use information on their trails. Hikers often choose Jefferson County hiking trails because they are so well marked, with easy to find and read signs.

Like waterfalls? Here are my favorite waterfall hikes and my favorite waterfalls to visit with little to no hiking. Here are some waterfall hikes: Bridal Veil Falls (RMNP), Alberta Falls,  Lost Lake (Indian Peaks Wilderness),  Maxwell Falls (Evergreen), Horsetooth Falls (Ft. Collins),Boulder Falls.

County Web sites: Boulder open space trailsJefferson County open space trailsLarimer County parks & open landsDenver parksDouglas County parks & trailsSummit County open space & trailsEl Paso County parks & trails

Federal government Web sites: Rocky Mountain National ParkIndian Peaks WildernessBrainard Lake Recreation AreaArapahoe & Roosevelt National ForestsPike & San Isabel National Forests.

State Web sites: Colorado State Parks Web site

By Deb Stanley,

Need a trail? Pick one of these! I have them organized first by area – Jefferson County, Douglas County, Boulder County, Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks & James Peak Wilderness, State Parks, Colorado Springs, Pike National Forest, Summit County, Holy Cross Wilderness, Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Northern Colorado, Grand Junction, urban areas and others.

Then I have the hikes in different categories – waterfalls, homesteads, arches, fire lookouts, snowshoes and odd/interesting hikes.

Let’s go!

Jefferson County Open Space & nearby area:

Douglas County:

Boulder County:

Rocky Mountain National Park:

Indian Peaks Wilderness & James Peak Wilderness:

State Parks:

Colorado Springs:

Pike National Forest:

Summit County (incl. Leadville):

Holy Cross Wilderness:

Glenwood Springs area:

Aspen area:

Northern Colorado including Steamboat Springs & Fort Collins:

Southern Colorado, near Silverton:

Grand Junction/Fruita:

Urban trails:

Other areas:




Fire lookouts:


Odd/Interesting hikes you have to check out:

By Matt Payne,

In my travels, I’ve noticed that many people are unprepared for the rigors and particulars of hiking in Colorado. Having led many backpacking trips at Colvig Silver Camps, I taught the importance of what I call “the big three.”

1. Water!

Make sure you bring enough water for your hike. People often take far too little water on their hikes. I typically bring about 10 oz / mile of hiking. So if you are hiking 10 miles total, 100 oz. should be good. My preference is to bring a 100 oz. Camelbak and keep another 32 oz. Nalgene of Gatorade. If you are planning on hiking for longer distances or over multiple days, it is essential to bring a high-quality water filter. I used to rely on the emergency iodine water tablets, but I’ve learned that they do not properly kill Cryptosporidium, a parasite that can live in the intestine of humans and animals which is passed in the stool of an infected person or animal. Both the disease and the parasite are commonly known as “Crytpo.” It is also possible to drink too much water, known as water intoxication. As a general rule of thumb, the human body can typically only process about 8 oz. of water every 15 minutes. Additionally, if you are hiking at high altitudes and are not acclimated to that altitude, you will want to drink even more water than normal in order to prevent Acute Mountain Sickness or “AMS.”

2. Sunscreen!

Even in the winter months, the sun’s UV rays are extremely damaging to your skin. These UV rays can result in severe sunburns and possibly skin cancer, otherwise known as melanoma. It is therefore very important to ensure that you are properly applying a high quality sunscreen (SPF 30) at regular intervals during your hike.

3. Raincoat!

It is vitally important to make sure you bring a very nice nylon “shell.” A nice lightweight shell can stop the wind, keep you dry, and keep you warm, or even be used as a shelter during an emergency. Staying dry is one of the most important components to survival in the wilderness. My personal brand preference is North Face, Marmot, or Columbia. I also like to wear a shell that allows for a fleece lining to be zipped into it.

By Deb Stanley,

Have you ever hiked in the Steamboat Springs area? While it may seem far to drive to Steamboat, it’s just three hours from the Denver metro area. The Chamber of Commerce calls Gilpin Lake a “blue alpine lake of magnificent beauty.” I agree. Not only was the lake beautiful, so was the hike there.

The hike starts at the Slavonia Trailhead, about 29 miles from town (directions below). The dirt parking lot has a bathroom and signboards. There’s one trail from the parking lot, but there are more trails along the path.

Just 0.2 miles from the parking lot, hikers come to their first trail split. A sign has an arrow pointing right for Gold Creek Lake (Trail No. 1150) and left for our destination, Gilpin Lake (Trail No. 1161).

Over the next 3 miles, hikers wind their way through a forest of aspens making this the perfect fall hike. When the trees open up, you’ll enjoy beautiful meadows with views of the peaks in the distance. Gilpin Lake sits at the top of this valley on the right side. As you hike, you may get your feet wet. The trail crosses over several streams. Sometimes there are rocks and logs to help you cross, sometimes there are not. As you can hike, you’ll likely hear a loud river nearby, don’t worry, there are close-up views of the cascades occasionally as you hike toward Gilpin Lake.

The trail has lots of ups and downs as it gains about 1,000 feet over that first three miles. Take it easy, because the trail is about to get a lot harder. There are three sets of closely set switchbacks to the lakeshore. Hikers gain about 850 feet over that final mile or so.

When you come over the ridge to the lake, it will be all be worth it. An open field leads right to the shoreline of Gilpin Lake. The lake sits in a bowl below tree line. The lake’s rocky shoreline is surrounded by trees and peaks. Find a spot in the open field for lunch or find a secluded spot on a rock in the trees.

During lunch, you’ll have a decision to make. Hike back 4.5 miles to the trailhead on the Gilpin Lake Trail or continue on the so-called Zirkel Circle loop trail to Gold Creek Lake and back to the trailhead. The loop hike is 11.2 miles. Even if you decide not to do the loop, consider hiking up the trail a short distance to get a better view of Gilpin Lake.

Details: 9 miles RT to the lake with an elevation gain of about 1,850 feet.

Directions: From U.S. 40 in Steamboat Springs, drive west through town to Elk River Road (County Road 129) and turn right. Follow CR 129 about 18 miles to Seedhouse Road (also known as NFSR 400/CR 64) and turn right. This is a dirt road that can be rough, but manageable for passenger cars. (Check with the Forest Service for the latest conditions.) Drive 11 miles to the end of the road at the Slavonia trailhead.

For more great hikes in Colorado and the west, click here.

By David Kotzebue,

Volcanoes in Colorado? You betcha! One of the most famous, and a still-active volcano, is the Dotsero Volcano. It erupted some 4,000 years ago, and a mud flow crossed across what is now I-70. The Dotsero volcano, two miles northeast of the town of Dotsero is on the radar screen of the U.S. Geological Survey, which rates the threats of volcanoes across the country.

In the first comprehensive report on volcanoes since Mount St. Helens erupted 25 years ago, Dotsero was rated as a moderate threat for its potential to spew volcanic ash into the air and disrupt airplane traffic. Also active in our area is the Yellowstone caldera, which underlies most of Yellowstone National Park.

Dotsero, however is not likely to erupt in our lifetime. So, go ahead and climb it! The crater itself is north of the interstate, above the trailer park. The summit is at 7,316 feet, and the base is at about 6,155, making for an elevation gain of 1,161 feet, a moderate climb.

The reward of this climb is not only the 360-degree views, but diamond collecting! Low-grade diamonds can be found around the rim. Take some home!

While in the area, you may want to take in the great kayaking centered around State Bridge, just to the north of Dotsero. Dotsero is also home to 23 other mountain peaks, check for details.


By Claudia Carbone,

Lots of restaurants in Colorado boast inspired cuisine, international wine lists and impeccable service. But when you get it all above 10,000 feet in the midst of the magnificent Rocky Mountains, dining out just doesn’t get any better than this.

Whether you ski in for a sit-down lunch or ride a snowcat, gondola or horse-drawn sleigh up for a romantic dinner, you’ll find dining at these mountaintop eateries to be an unforgettable and unique experience and, yes, even an adventure. On-mountain restaurants feed you the most spectacular eye candy in the state. They are the ultimate treat for a holiday vacation or special occasion. Night time is the best time, when fires glow in the fireplace, candles flicker on the table and lights of the resort twinkle far below against a black sky. Plan to spend some bucks and be sure to make reservations well in advance.

Game Creek Club at Vail

Mountain clubs are ski resorts’ answer to golf clubs. At Vail, Game Creek Club is such a place. But non-members can taste the good life – or shall we say the good food – at the club’s Game Creek Restaurant, for dinner at least. In the richly appointed main dining room with upholstered chairs, savor wild game and fresh seafood dishes served with award-winning wines. The restaurant is hidden in Game Creek Bowl. From Lionshead, ride the gondola to Eagle’s Nest from where you’ll be shuttled by snowcat to the glowing lights of the lodge.

The Outpost atop North Peak, Keystone

This gastronomic escapade begins with two gondola rides over the slopes of Keystone to The Outpost atop North Peak, the massive timber home of Alpenglow Stube at 11,444 feet. Inside North America’s highest fine dining restaurant, trade your boots for comfy slippers before entering the Swiss-style dining room. Under the eye of Executive Chef Skip McCarthy, award-winning chefs prepare exquisite (and expensive) seven-course prix fixe dinners. Or choose from the a la carte menu of the chefs’ favorite creations. Finish it off with cognac or port in front of a roaring fireplace.

Allred’s at Telluride

The timber and stone building housing Allred’s perches on a cliff 1,800 feet above Telluride. To reach it, board the gondola, the historic town’s umbilical cord to chi-chi Mountain Village. As you rise upward on your ride to the midway station, the twinkling lights of the tiny town become distant as the snowy 13,000-foot San Juan Mountains engulf you. Inside, cozy up for the night with small plates and cocktails or enjoy fine dining from the à la carte menu. More than 250 wines from around the world complement the gourmet food.

Zach’s Cabin at Beaver Creek

Zach’s joins Beano’s and Allie’s Cabins at Beaver Creek as elegant yet rustic romantic sleigh-ride dinner destinations. This one is named for Zach Allen, father of Beaver Creek’s first female resident Allie Townsend, for whom Allie’s is named. With vaulted ceilings, a massive stone fireplace and huge windows for dazzling views of the Gore Range, 13,000-square-foot Zach’s is hardly a cabin. But its secluded location in an Aspen grove between Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch give it a cozy cabin feel. Sleighs leave from the Ritz-Carlton for dinner Thursday-Saturday.

Hazie’s at Steamboat

The Werner family brought fame to Steamboat with three Werner kids sharing Olympic glory. It is fitting, then, that their mother Hazie is immortalized with a restaurant named in her honor. The alpine bistro sits halfway up Mount Werner in the Thunderhead Lodge. Ride the gondola, watching the twinkling lights of the Yampa Valley grow smaller as you reach the top. The dreamy ambiance temporarily fades walking through the terminal building—until you sit down for dinner. The set-priced Continental meal is as romantic as the ride.

By Karen Rubin,

“Waltz with the mountain,” Allan Lawrence, my Keystone, Colorado, ski instructor says to me, as he banishes me from the blue-trails to spend an hour on the bunny hill to try to find the rhythm and flow in my skiing that has always eluded me.

The phrase comes to mind, as well, when I think about choreographing our stay. A ski holiday is never easy – there are so many moving parts – and Keystone Mountain Resort offers so much for families, on and off the slopes, that advance planning is key to choreographing your holiday

Keystone is as perfect a destination mountain resort there is – and not just because when we visited this month we had a daily freshening of powder snow and blue-bird skies for which Colorado is duly famous, and the cold dry air make 30 degrees feel like spring.

Few places have the quality of skiing and riding, the depth of family and children’s programs, the range of activities, the high level of service (with a smile!), the superb quality of dining, the variety of accommodations, the value in pricing (not cheap, but value for dollar), logistics of getting around (really important for a ski resort) and the convenience to reach, all bundled together in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable. Resorts excel at one or more, but few excel in all these categories that make for an exceptional visitor experience.

All of this comes home to me on Keystone’s shuttle bus.

Yes, the shuttle bus. It is the evening, and we have just returned from a fabulous day of skiing just in time to get to our massage at the Keystone Lodge & Spa. We call the shuttle bus, and he comes in five minutes so we get to our appointment on time. Then, when we want to return to our lodge in Ski Tip townhomes, the bus is there within minutes again.

That morning, we had a bit of an emergency – to get to the mountain even before the regular shuttle service started in order to get our rentals and get to the KAT Adventure ski tour in time. We called, and though the bus is usually engaged picking up employees, they made a special trip so we could get there on time. Another time, they made a special trip and waited so we could drop something off.

Keystone is really a series of lodging complexes lining the road at the base of its mountain, with a main base at River Run and a secondary base at Mountain House. But you don’t need a car at all. The shuttle bus connects everything like a tidy bow.

Ski holidays are usually a logistical nightmare – getting everybody their rental equipment, getting to lessons and programs, a myriad of activities and reservations on time. Keystone manages to ease this so that after less than a day of getting acclimated (not just to the altitude, but to the layout), you really can settle in to a luxurious vacation.

It’s like the grandest of choreography worthy of a Tony-Award winning Broadway musical or a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film – and it happens because there is so much you can pre-plan and pre-arrange, and because the resort is designed with all of this in mind.

Keystone has a long and storied history going back to the 1970s, and has been a perennial favorite for Front Range Coloradans – largely because it is so convenient to Denver. Since Vail Resorts acquired Keystone, it has added the upscale amenities and service for which Vail Resorts – Beaver Creek, Vail, Breckenridge, Heavenly and the newest addition, Northstar-at-Tahoe – are justifiably renowned. This has made Keystone tops, in my mind, as a long-haul ski destination.

Keystone affords the absolute best of everything imaginable, from the lessons and children’s camps, to the adult programs, to topnotch guided snow cat skiing adventure (KAT) that takes experts to the pristine powder of the back bowls, to the fact that Keystone is the only major Colorado ski resort to offer night skiing (600 of Keystone’s 3000 skiable acres open, the equivalent of an entire Vermont ski resort open for night skiing!).

And when you have had enough of down hilling or if skiing/riding is not your thing, there is still so much to enjoy at the resort such as adventure tubing, the most fun a family could have speeding madly, uncontrollably down a hill (disco lights and music at night!), a 45-minute scenic tour on a snow cat that takes you from the top of Dercum Mountain into Erickson and Bergman Bowls to the same stunning view of the Continental Divide, Gore Range, Ten Mile Range that the expert skiers get to experience; snowmobiling, snow biking; a world-class spa; two outdoor skating rinks (free skating, skate rentals available), a Nordic ski area, moonlight snowshoeing; a horse drawn sleigh or wagon ride dinner (with entertainment); extraordinary and varied dining experiences (three 4-star restaurants!).

Logistics, Logistics

But logistics are important to me (I’m the designated trip planner in my family; everyone else takes the smooth flow for granted) – and is why, as a long-haul mountain resort, you get so much more out of your trip.

To begin with, Keystone Resort is one of the closest major resorts to Denver International Airport – reached in about 1 1/2 hours (allow two for traffic) off of I-70- and you go through the Eisenhower Tunnel instead of having to go over one of the mountain passes, which can be hairy in a snowstorm.

Colorado Mountain Express, which operates the shuttle service from DIA (and is now owned by Vail Resorts which also owns Keystone), is marvelously efficient and children’s rates make it a reasonable alternative to renting a car for families. This is something to consider since once you arrive at Keystone, you don’t need a car at all because of the superb free shuttle system (actually, all the buses in Summit County are free, so you can even travel to Arapahoe Basin and Breckenridge, where the Keystone lift ticket is valid). New this year is free Wi-Fi in the vans, though frankly, the 1 1/2 hour ride is so pleasant – you get to see a herd of buffalo, owned by the city of Denver, just outside the city; keep on the lookout for elk and bighorn sheep, and the historic gold mines and old mining towns like Idaho Springs and Georgetown are really interesting.

But the convenience of reaching Keystone means that you can leave New York at 10 am, be at the mountain by 5, pick up your rental equipment (you can pre-order from, also owned by Vail), and enjoy night skiing until 8 pm (Thursday-Saturday, Sundays until 6, but check the calendar) – actually getting a free half-day, since you don’t pay for rentals after 4 pm. Regardless of whether you ski that first night or not, pick up your rental equipment and lift tickets the night before, if possible.

Here’s another huge benefit that eliminates much of the hassle associated with skiing: if you rent at one of the Keystone shops, you can store the equipment overnight at no charge. They are absolutely terrific in taking it quickly and letting you pick it up quickly the next day.

Keystone has a charming village, with lovely shops, a delightful array of restaurants, cafes – several that have live entertainment and are great for apres-ski – and a general store. Stock up the night before on snacks and breakfast things, so you are ready to go in the morning.

Despite its upscale amenities, the atmosphere at Keystone is comfortable, folksy, unpretentious atmosphere – probably because it gets so many regulars, and of Vail’s Colorado mountain resorts, offers the best value.

Topnotch Skiing

Keystone is home to three magnificent mountain playgrounds—Dercum Mountain, North Peak, and The Outback.  There are more than 3,000 vertical feet and over 3,000 acres of bowls, bumps, glades, steeps and groomers. There’s enough for skiers of every ability. What I love best is that even green trail skiers, and especially blue-trail skiers, have gorgeous, long, cruising runs.

My sons have long ago left me in the proverbial “dust” on the slopes – so while they headed off to a full-day KAT (Keystone Adventure Tour), where a snow cat takes them up to the pristine powder of the back bowls (more on that to follow), I met up with the free Mountain Tour offered by the Ambassadors, absolutely lovely people who take you around the mountain. This is a fabulous thing to do, especially when you are on your own and new to the mountain, and may be a little nervous to try some trails. The Ambassadors take you to where you are comfortable skiing, and give you the confidence you need to try new areas. Thanks to John Koobs and Marci McCleneghan (who has a business as a concierge for destination weddings), I made it to the highest lift-served peak, the Outback at 11,980, and had a really superb tour of Keystone’s blue (intermediate) trails. (Offered twice daily, 10:30 and 1:30 pm).

Keystone also offers a free naturalist tour with a Ranger (Fridays at 11 am).

The next day, while the boys take advantage of a $5 ride on a CAT back up to the back bowls, I polish up my skiing with a private lesson. Private lessons are like taking 3 or 4 group lessons – you really make progress. My goal has always been to get a rhythm and flow to my skiing, to get to that Zen place where you don’t really think about your skiing, you just flow down the mountain. My instructor, Allan Lawrence, basically took me back to the basics – actually spending an hour on the bunny hill helping me undo bad habits and create a foundation for good skiing – and don’t you know, by the end, I accomplished my goal of finding my flow. Alan calls it “waltzing with the mountain.”

Keystone has an outstanding lift system – something that ranks high on my list of what makes a mountain resort. Skiers and non-skiers alike can ride the gondola to the top of Dercum mountain, at 11, 640 feet (named for Keystone’s founder, Max Dercum who died in 2011 at the age of 98) where there is the Adventure Center, snow fort and scenic cat tour.

Dercum Mountain has some of the best green trails (Schoolmarm, Silver Spoon) and easiest blues (Spring Dipper, Frenchman, Paymaster) – names that all are based on the gold mining heritage, as I learn from the Mountain Ambassador. The runs are all long, gorgeous cruisers with breathtaking views of the Gore Range and Lake Dillon below. You don’t have to go all the way down to the bottom – you can cut off to take the Gondola at mid-mountain, or the Montezuma lift, so you have that much more skiing time. And, if you wind up being too tired because you have pushed yourself to ski until the lights come on, or decide to eat dinner or enjoy tubing on the mountain, you can ride down the gondola.

From the top of Dercum, you connect to the Outpost Gondola, one of the best rides in all skiing – as you follow the contours of the two mountain peaks, dipping then rising again, to get to  North Peak, and its 11,660 summit.  When you ride The Outpost Gondola back after dining (two of Keystone’s fabulous restaurants are there, Alpenglow Stube and Der Fondue Chessel), it is absolutely magical – complete quiet and the black of night punctuated by stars and the lights of Breckenridge off in the distance. If you are coming up for dinner, you check in at the Mountain Service Center, located at the base of the River Run Gondola, at least 40 minutes prior to your reservation time to allow for travel time.

Family Programs

Keystone’s family programs are unsurpassed – there are a variety of full-day camps (skiing for 3-14, snowboarding for 7-14), day care and camps for non-skiers from two months to 6 years; Mom, Dad and Me programs, Women’s programs.

One of the most distinctive experiences is coming upon an entire snow fort, big enough to climb on and over – it brings a smile to your face. It is a centerpiece of Kidtopia, a kids festival that is offered during family holiday periods with special activities, but the snow fort is there like this fantastical playground.

Also exceptionally popular is the A-51 terrain park and learning areas.

Interactive Experience

Two years ago, Vail Resorts introduced Epic Mix ( – a way of integrating technology with the mountain experience through the lift pass. This year, Epic Mix has been further enhanced with Action Photo – a photographer stands down the mountain and gets you skiing or riding down, then you can see the photos later, post to your Twitter or Facebook page at no charge (there is only a charge if you download a high res photo). You also use Epic Mix to keep track of where you have skied and your vertical feet (one ambassador said he had accumulated 500,000 vertical feet in the first 50 days of the season).

Dining at Keystone

One of the most remarkable aspects of Keystone is how fine the dining is, and how special each of the venues are to create a total experience.

Our first evening together, we enjoy Ski Tip Lodge, which is not just an extraordinarily fine dining restaurant (four-star) with the most charming ambiance of a cozy European inn, but is Keystone’s heritage. This former 1800s stagecoach stop was transformed by Keystone’s founder Max Dercum and remains the quaintest of country bed-and-breakfast inns. It is the oldest running ski lodge in United States.

But the dining experience is legendary and as elegant as can be – a fire in the fireplace, candlelight, and pewter napkin holders. There are two settings each evening for the four-course, prix-fixe meal, and the menu changes frequently

Ski Tip is so extraordinary, it has its own sommelier who gives us a tour of the substantial and creative wine list and, like solving an intricate puzzle, helps us pick just the right bottle to satisfy everyone’s dining choices and tastes.

I start with a soup of butternut squash puree, sweetened with molasses; followed by pan seared diver sea scallop served with caramelized Brussel sprouts, parmiagiano reggiano chip pancetta and lobster cream; a smoky garlic salt grilled Colorado lamb chop (raised locally, the sweetest, thickest, most tender  lamb you will ever have) served with hedgehog mushrooms, charred onion, whipped potatoes and a garlic sauce.

The fellows order a Rosemary Balsamic glazed Muscovy duck breast, served with caramelized salsify, french brie risotta and pistacchio beurre blanc and shallot marinated grilled swordfish and bacon lardons served with roasted cauliflower and golden baby beet cous cous, tossed machine and mushroom fennel cream – we all share each other’s selections.

Dessert selections are only “revealed” at the end of the meal, when you have moved over to the lounge, where a crackling fire is in the fireplace. Utterly incredible: a cobbler of blueberry, cake and ice cream served piping hot from the oven; a coffee cake; a lemon meringue with all sorts of interesting features. (($69/adult, $40 for children’s three-course meal; reservations are a must, call 800-354-4386.)

The next evening, after having a rollicking time adventure tubing, we hop the Outpost Gondola to enjoy another signature Keystone dining experience, the most fun that a family can have eating on a mountaintop: Der Fondue Chessel.

By day, this is the Outpost Lodge, but by night, you think you have been teleported to Bavaria.

The room is decorated with European flags; a roaring fire in the stone fireplace, you look out to the trees and snow-covered mountains, the wait staff are in traditional Alpine dress.

The best part are the strolling musicians – accordion, tuba, two guitars – who sing and yodel and throw in at least one Chicken Dance each evening. It makes for a marvelously festive and fun evening.

The prix-fixe, four-course dinner (expect to stay two hours) starts with a Traditional Swiss Cheese fondue, a  savory blend of Gruyère and Emmentaler Cheeses imported from Switzerland mixed with white wine and kirschwasser. You choose what you would like to swirl in the fondue from a plate of assorted vegetables, bread cubes and crisp apples.

While you wait for the cheese to bubble, you enjoy a classic Caesar salad.

You get to be the cook for the Raclette course. Everyone gets to select two options from meat and seafood selections to grill on tabletop Raclette grills. (A vegetarian option of assorted vegetables, tofu and polenta is available.) Roasted potatoes, assorted dipping sauces, bread and a special plate of Raclette cheese accompany the grilling items.

The regular menu offers chicken breast and natural pork loin as the selections, but you can also substitute or add from a long list – lamb, lobster tail (amazing), beef, shrimp, scallops (at additional cost). The waiter gives us instructions on the best way to prepare.

Everyone becomes a kid again for dessert: a chocolate fondue. You can choose from a Classic Dark Chocolate Fondue, Milk Chocolate Fondue or upgrade to its Signature Flaming Turtle (they add flaming rum) or Oreos and Cream, served with a tray of choices for dipping includes fresh fruit, banana bread, pound cake, marshmallows and wafer cookies.($58 pp; call 800-354-4386 for more information or reservations).

When we leave to take our “chariot” – the Outpost Gondola – we are provided  with blankets.

The ultimate dining experience at Keystone is also on top of North Peak: Alpenglow Stube, which boasts being the highest four-star dining experience in North America, at 11,444 feet. (They claim that Alpenglow Stube would have been a five-star, except they don’t provide valet parking – they are the top of a mountain, after all!).

We get to enjoy the famous Sunday brunch, an utterly elegant repast.  When you arrive, they offer you warm, fuzzy slippers in exchange for your ski boots.

Alpenglow Stube is famous for its Signature Champagne Sunday Brunch, a feast that begins with a complimentary Mimosa and continues with selections of massive oysters, and green lip mussels (so big you have to cut them and impossibly sweet), shrimp and king crab legs from a raw seafood bar, fresh fruit, charcuterie, smoked seafood, salads and cheeses from around the world.

The Champagne brunch also includes your choice of two soups (the cream of chicken masala with an amazing blend of herbs and spices is scrumptious), continues with a choice of  five brunch entrées (I enjoy a spinach and cheese omelet; Eric has the House Cured Canadian Bacon Benedict, prepared with Spinach & Grilled Tomato, Sauce Béarnaise, Red Breakfast Potatoes) and finishes with your choice from a scrumptious dessert buffet.

This gourmet restaurant was named after the optical phenomenon “alpenglow” where a horizontal red glowing band can be seen on the opposite horizon after the sun sets, easiest observed in the mountains. “Stube” is German for “a cozy, comfortable place.”

Executive Chef David Scott is hovering over the buffet and greeting guests with good humor. Chef Scott tells me he was working at the famous Belvedere Room at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, and was about to accept a position at the Four Seasons Maui, when he got a call from Keystone’s Food & Beverage Director to head up the on-mountain dining. He came for a visit, fell in love with Keystone, and has been here ever since. He also is on the faculty of the Culinary School at Keystone.

The restaurant is open daily for lunch (two-course menu is $23.95; three-course is $28.95).

Dinner is even more spectacular – you can choose from a 4-Course, Signature 6-Course or 7-Course Dégustation Menu.

Alpenglow Stube also hosts special events, like “An Evening with the House of Walker,” a whisky-tasting event.(Reservations are a must; call 800-354-4386 or email [email protected]).

One of the reasons Keystone’s dining experiences are out of this world is that Keystone is actually home to a Culinary Institute, and many of the students staff the restaurants and many graduates have gone on to become chefs, each trying to outdo the others. We are the beneficiaries of their competition.


On Sunday afternoon, I am determined to ski until the lights come on. I stick to some of the easier trails in order to practice my “rhythm and flow,” and “waltzing with the mountain” technique. I decide to take a break for an hour and go back up the mountain when it is really dark, and get a taste of Keystone’s apres-ski.

I stop into Inxpot, a delightful mix of coffeehouse, bar, bookshop, filled with plush sofas and easy chairs and a Library-looking setting (that’s where the name comes from, Ink pot), where on a Sunday afternoon, 3-6 pm, Keith Synnestvedt provides the most enchanting folk music rendition of an eclectic songbook. I love that he explains the inspiration for his own songs; such as a song about Colorado’s cowboys, which he said came to him when he was stopped on the road by two cowboys moving cattle herd, that took 1 1/2 hours for the herd to cross the road, and then, coming upon a VFW with an aging sign, “Dance Saturday Night”

It is dreamy, and as I settle in and look outside, the light flurry of snow has turned into a blizzard. I am feeling so satisfied and comfortable as I enjoy the music. Then, just as magically, as Keith finishes his singing, the snow stops, the night is clear, but I get to the Gondola just moments after it has closed. Drat.

Inxpot is one of the marvelous places to go for a light breakfast, as well; . It’s the place that seems most popular with the locals (the ski instructors all gather there).

Where to Stay

One of the reasons Keystone Resort offers excellent value is that it offers a full spectrum of lodging options, from modest to ultra-luxurious.

River Run, which is walking distance of the Gondola and has the best access to the shops, restaurants at in the village base, has marvelous condominium-style accommodations, including Expedition Station.

Our stay at Ski Tip Townhomes, 3/4-mile up the road from River Run (serviced by the bus shuttle but a delightful 15-minute walk if you aren’t wearing ski boots or hauling skis) was ultra-luxurious – a charming and spacious three-bedroom house gorgeously furnished with personal touches (these are owned units which the owners put into a rental pool when they are not using it), with a full kitchen (granite counters), dining area, living room with fireplace and cozy seating, 2 1/2 bathrooms. This is the closest thing to having the mountain home of your dreams.

Keystone Lodge and Spa is a luxury hotel with indoor and outdoor pools as well as the spa, and its fine-dining restaurant, The Bighorn Steakhouse, which has a marvelous view overlooking Keystone Lake and Keystone’s lighted ski trails.

We discovered that it is easy to get around, so you can take advantage of lower rates at various condo units and hotels. There are so many choices, call the Keystone Reservations agent to discuss what would work best for you.

Four-Season Resort

Keystone is very much a four-season resort, with horseback riding stables, mountain biking (you should see the jumps off the trails!), music and concert festivals among the many activities, and is also extremely popular as a wedding destination and as a meeting and conference venue (there is a major conference center in the resort).

There are so many options – and advance planning and reservations are really a must – you are best to go online, check out the specials and deals (when you book online, you are guaranteed the best rates on lodging and lift tickets).  You can call a Reservations agent to discuss your choices.

It’s about logistics, after all.

Call 800-328-1323 for help with lodging & vacation planning or visit


Courtesy of Summit County

By Deb Stanley,

If you’re driving through Steamboat Springs, don’t miss Fish Creek Falls. The trail is just 3.5 miles from town and the “hike” is really just a short walk. A trek of 0.2 miles takes visitors to a 280-foot waterfall.

The trail starts at a paved parking lot with about 40 spaces (directions below). Before you start, you’ll need to pay a fee. Cash only.

The wide, dirt trail drops about 100 feet in elevation from the parking lot to a bridge with a view. The hike to Fish Creek Falls is easy, it’s downhill. Remember you have to hike back up after you visit the falls.

At the bridge, find a good spot and take lots of pictures. There’s the falls, the cascades below it and the historic bridge.

A trail on the other side of the bridge leads to the upper falls and Long Lake. The hike to the upper falls is another 2.25 miles with about 1,200 feet of elevation gain. The hike to Long Lake is about 5 more miles with 2,400 feet of elevation gain.

If you’re looking for more waterfall hikes, check out my favorite waterfall hikes and my favorite waterfall hikes with little to no hiking.

Details: The hike to Fish Creek Falls and back is just 0.4 miles with 100 feet of elevation gain on the way back.

Directions: From Steamboat Springs, turn east on 3rd Street, then take the first right turn on to Fish Creek Falls Road. The trailhead is about 3.5 miles from town.

For more great hikes in Colorado and the west, click here.

Don’t miss any of my hiking reports, follow me, HikingDebbie on Twitter or DenverHikingExaminer on Facebook.


Aretha Franklin canceled a pair of upcoming concerts, including a headlining gig at New Orleans' Jazz Fest, after her doctor recommended that the Queen of Soul take a break fromThis article originally appeared on Aretha Franklin Cancels Upcoming Concerts on Doctor's Orders