The annual leaf-peeping season in Colorado's high country is upon us, as the weather this summer is expected to produce an especially vibrant autumn display.
Aspens turn when nights get longer and the arc of the sun descends closer to the horizon. The prime foliage viewing time in the Rockies is forecast to begin September in the northernmost elevations, and extend well into October as you move southward. Here's are some suggestions for autumn color tours:
Start at Steamboat Resort, Colorado's most northerly ski and snowboard mountain. The lifts are closed now, but aspen groves cover much of the mountain that looms over town. Take a 4x4 ride up the aspen-lined dirt road toward Buffalo Pass and Summit Lake. Hikers get bonus viewing by climbing into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness just north of Steamboat Springs.
Pair Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek together for top-end foliage, especially since both run their gondolas late in the season. Either one gets you up to 10,000 feet and opens up a full vista of yellowing "quakies" in the Vail Valley. Or, drive U.S. 24 between Vail and Beaver Creek to legacy mining town Minturn where the Eagle River rocks the colors.
A fall foliage tour wouldn't be complete without a stop at eponymous Aspen. Splashes of fall yellow dot the Roaring Fork Valley, and a visit to the legendary ski town should include a ride up Maroon Creek to the take the perquisite photo of the aspen-splashed Maroon Bells at the top of the road.
Head to southwest Colorado for a San Juan Range foliage extravaganza. Head over color-drenched Dallas Divide to Telluride, where aspen groves quilt the steep sides of its much-photographed box canyon. Bright canvases of yellows and reds pop out on both side. Hop the free gondola between the town and the resort village for a sky view of the aspen groves. Or take a Jeep tour to go deeper into the forest.
Take the uber-scenic San Juan Skyway to Ouray and over Red Mountain, Molas and Coal Bank passes to Purgatory. All along the way, dense stands of aspens spill down onto the road. At Purgatory, the chairlifts runs into October, rising through aspen groves to a 10,000-foot-high perch. Fall colors paint much of the 270-degree view of the southwestern flank of the San Juan Mountains.
At least a dozen ski and snowboard resorts in six states in the West have strung ziplines at or near the mountain to augment their offerings during the summer months.
In New Mexico, Angel Fire put its zipline network at the summit, with broad views of Sangre de Cristo Range. Guide-required for four-zip tour with six people max. Tours run every hour until 1 p.m, Friday-Monday.
Neighbor Red Riverloads two-seat Pioneer Flyer for backwards pull up to 600 feet elevation. A short pause for viewing, and then pairs are released for 35-mph free-ride back down. A shorter zip ride is incorporated into Hidden Treasure Aerial Park.
A couple of Colorado mountain resorts have ziplines at the mountain. Vail's on-mountain Epic Discovery Park incorporates a kids-only zipline -- about 10 feet in the air -- among its adventure package.
Utah is home to one of the world's highest and longest ziplines, at Sundance Mountain Resort. Tucked up above Provo, the Sundance Zip has four spans with side-by-side cables that total two miles in length. And, you drop 2,100 vertical feet with control of speeds up to 65 mph -- with mid-air stops, too.
Above Salt Lake City, zipliners climb a 50-foot tower at the base of Snowbirdand reach 30 mph on side-by-side cables, landing on the deck of the tramway building. The ride is 1,000 feet long on a 15% grade.
Over in Idaho, Zip Tamarackruns four tours a day for a max of eight people, which lasts four hours. Each tour hooks onto eight ziplines with two suspension bridges interspersed -- plus a total of 1.5 miles of downhill hiking between platforms.
In California, Heavenly Mountainhas several ziplines on the hill. The rock-star zip is Blue Streak, one of the longest at 3,300 feet with a 525-foot vertical drop. Speeds reach 50 mph. The nearby Heavenly Flyer also reaches 50 mph as it skims the tree tops on an 80-second ride. And, an introductory ride can be had on the Red Flyer, which goes 100 feet at 15 feet above the ground.
And at Mt. Hood SkiBowl in Oregon, the resort has set up an aerial park the in air above the base area that includes an 800-foot long zipline. It's open Thursday to Sunday.
Many other resorts in the West sit near independent zipline operations, like Ski Cooper, Palisades Tahoe and Big Bear.
Summer visitors to Colorado ski and snowboard mountains will see plenty of construction going on, as seven resorts across the state string new lifts for the upcoming season.
A modest price increase, more choice for multi-day passes, and a monthly no-interest payment plan are among the changes as the Epic Pass for the 2022-2023 winter season comes on the early-season market.
Coronavirus is still a worry, but now ski hill operators must wrestle with too few workers and not enough places to house the ones they’ve hired.
As the snow begins to fall, it's time to plan ahead and book a flight to your favorite Colorado resort -- whether flying in from East, West or in between.
It takes more than good terrain to be a truly great ski town. When you're walking in ski boots and lugging your equipment around, a town that sits at the base of the ski area or has a great bus system will make all the difference.
In Colorado, the most definitive way to know that summer is over and winter is not long off comes when the high-country aspen groves put on their brilliant yellow coats.
The month of August puts Colorado's mountains on display -- their high meadows flowing with chilly creek waters. What better to celebrate the high country with than a few mugs of craft beer.
When the snow melts and all that’s left of Colorado’s ski resorts are the seemingly endless trails, rushing mountain water, bright green aspen glades and wildflower-covered meadows, what is there to possibly do?
Chelsea Clapham and her family began snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain four years ago. They enjoyed it so much that they return to the resort year-round. “We like summer and fall up there almost as much as winter,” said Clapham, who lives in Santa Clarita with her husband, Shaun, and two kids. “We have family friends who let us use their condo, so we’re hooked.”
Thanks to a snowy March and persistent pent-up desire to hit the slopes, a slew of Colorado ski and snowboard resorts will keep their lifts spinning beyond original closing dates.
Gigi Girard, an OB-GYN in Louisville, Ky., says she has been to Vail approximately 50 times over the last 20 years. So, over dinner during our overlapping visit this month to Colorado's largest ski resort, I figured she'd be a perfect person to ask about how much her Vail experience during this Covid-19 winter differed from the norm.
Now more than ever, people will require a real sense of seclusion while on their ski vacations. Gone for the time being are the après ski parties, the socializing in the lodge during a quick break for lunch and eight-passenger gondola rides. These have been temporarily replaced with such wellness guidelines as chair lift rides consisting of family members only, food trucks as opposed to eating in the lodge and private ski instruction instead of group lessons.
Health officials in eight counties have not traced positive tests back to lift lines, chairlifts or ski slopes.
The holiday season is upon us and, despite the headwinds of Covid-19, thousands of skiers and snowboarders have been aiming toward the mountains for welcome relief.
Vail Resorts Inc., one of the largest financial contributors to Colorado’s cloud seeding program, has dropped out this year, leaving a major hole in the program’s budget.
Since the global coronavirus pandemic began, sports that lend themselves to outdoor social distancing (golf, cycling, hiking, fishing, etc.) have been red hot, and skiing and snowboarding hold the same appeal as cold weather sets in. Several new hotels are debuting at major ski resorts around the country, and while it is too early to say whether travel from outside the regions will be safe or advisable this ski season, it is worth begin informed if the travel landscape takes a turn for the better.
Vail Mountain will open on time, and with full terrain and lifts — conditions permitting, of course.
In a recent telephone interview, Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Beth Howard said operations this summer have given the company important insights in how to operate lifts, restaurants and other amenities safely as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Winter is the focus now, she said.
“Summer’s been great,” Howard said. “It’s terrific to be up and running … we’ve been pleased with how it’s going.”
Schools in Aspen, Vail, and Crested Butte are reporting record interest and enrollment as part-time residents relocate to their vacation homes and urban buyers flock to mountain retreats.