Vail Resort (credit: CBS)
Denverites could not be any luckier to have some of the best snow in the world right in their backyard. After the ski and snowboard boots come off and the sore and tired muscles need a rest, there are five ski towns close by that are an absolute must-visit. Whether winter enthusiasts are there for the weekend or just a day, there is nothing better than kicking back for some cold brews and fun food with friends.
Breckenridge has some of the best skiing in Colorado without the snobbiness of some other resorts. Whether visiting for a day or for the weekend, skiers and riders know how to have a good time. This city knows how to welcome guests as friends. The pubs and hangouts just feet from the lifts are ideal for a lunch or beer break. Once the sun falls behind the mountain, there are amazing and fun restaurants to hang out with old friends and make new ones. The Breckenridge Brewery on Main Street has handcrafted beers and delicious foods. Angel’s Hollow on Ridge Street is well known amongst the locals and happens to have some of the best margaritas anywhere. Base Nine Bar is another favorite hot spot that offers specialty martinis, HD TVs, free WiFi and free pool tables. The hotels and condo rentals are plentiful in Breckenridge, and the scenery is spectacular.
Avoid the dreaded tunnel and jump off Highway 40 to where two amazing ski resorts combine to make a day or a weekend of rocky mountain high. Winter Park and Mary Jane never run out of runs for every skill level and have some pretty sweet deals on places to stay. There are pubs and hangouts just feet from the lifts ideal for a lunch break beer or an afternoon party. Then after the legs and knees have taken about all they can handle, it will be time to administer the relaxation of what Winter Park has to offer. Downtown offers a local favorite, Deno’s Mountain Bistro, serving up all sorts of good food with a side of sports viewing. Freestyles Sports Bar will keep the playing going well in to the night with DJs, tons of TVs, foosball, shuffleboard, darts and more. For those who don’t want to go any further than the resort, there is the Moffat Station Restaurant & Brewery which happens to be a true micro-brewery with locally crafted beers and ales.
Coloradoans know that just down the road from “The Tunnel” is the city of Idaho Springs. After skiing their hearts out at any of the fabulous resorts off I-70, this former successful mining town fills up quickly during the winter with tired skiers looking for a cold beer, good food or a soak in the hot springs. The town’s old fashioned and fun atmosphere welcomes winter enthusiasts with some great restaurants. Anyone who has been to a Beau Jo’s knows that its pizzas are so characteristic of Colorado culture that they are actually called mountain pies. Right next door is the famous Buffalo Restaurant and Bar for some good old-time burgers and friendly service. For those who need to soak the tired muscles, the Indian Hot Springs just across the road is ideal. It has mineral baths, thermal caves, mud baths, a beautiful indoor pool and massages.
A bit of a drive from Denver, Steamboat Springs will make a memorable getaway well worth the 3.5-hour travel time. First on the list of any skier should be a soak at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. This place is a back-to-basics rustic resort that brings visitors closer to nature in the pools built with a unique stone masonry design. For only $10, you can enjoy this off-the-beaten-path experience. There are, of course, the main hot springs resorts but there will be more kids around and far less of a party atmosphere. Then there is the party time and mouthwatering food that show visitors how fun the West is. Sunpie’s Bistro is one of the hottest hangouts among Steamboat locals with its killer hurricanes and a large selection of beer. Mahogany Ridge Brewery and The Boathouse Pub have live music and are must stops for a late-night good time.
When skiers around the world think of Colorado powder, Vail is one of the first places that come to mind. Hobnob and party with the variety of skiers and riders that travel from all over to try one of the largest ski areas in the US. While skiing is a tiring sport that leaves many headed for their soft resort beds, there are plenty who are ready for partying into the night. The restaurants in Vail Village and Lions Head have just about everything right off the base of the slopes. Garfinkel’s has a huge deck from which to take in some amazing food and drink along with people watching. The 8150 offers known bands for guests to jam and party with on its famous ‘bouncing floor.’ Yet if that is not enough, there is the Turtle Bus Bar which shuttles guests around town with an actual moving bar!
Colleen Bement is a freelance writer covering all things Denver. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.