Time for a Colorado mountain vacation

Friday, December 13, 2002

You relax to the crackle of a glowing fire as its flickering flames warm your face. Gazing out the frost-trimmed window at the moonlight as it cascades down a snow-capped mountain, you sip a hot cup of gourmet cocoa contemplating the day's activities. A sense of peace and happiness fills your heart as you realize the gift of a day well spent.

Sound too good to be true? Well then you haven't truly enjoyed a spectacular mountain vacation. Now is the best time of year to "think snow" with the Christmas holiday and New Year's right around the corner.

I love skiing, that is no secret, but the mountain is so much more than skiing, it is a way of life everyone should get to know at least once, and what better place than Colorado? Colorado is a treasure chest sprinkled with vacation gems and you need not be a skier to enjoy the hidden secrets of the Rocky Mountains.

Colorado is filled with luxury and fun that is pure and simple. Mountain vacations are more than terrain parks, halfpipes and chair lifts. And if you don't know the difference between killer vertical drop and a bunny slope, don't fear -- plenty lies beyond the horizon just for you.

There are 24 ski resorts in one great state. Wow what a feast! Below are a few suggestions for both the non-skier and slope expert to enjoy a mountain vacation to it's fullest:

1. Try something new

Snowshoeing, visit a gold mine or ghost town, ice skating, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, dining in the woods, cross-country skiing, racquet and athletic clubs, spa facilities, and most women's favorite -- shopping.

Oh, don't stop there, how about a gondola ride to a mountain top where you dine under the stars. Take a lesson on wilderness medicine or visit Silverton Mountain. There is world-class ice climbing. Bored? Try ice fishing or soak in a hot spring. If you have a need for speed but don't ski, remember that tubing is also available.

2. Music sounds better at 10,000 feet

Colorado music heats up every night in Colorado's high country. Any type of music and band can be found in intimate nooks and corner pubs Colorado is a notoriously fun place to play. Country, jazz, world-class local talent and even a piano bar can be found on a mountain getaway. So if you love music, I promise it sounds better at 10,000 feet.

3. Brews with views

A recent article by Karuna Eberl and Julie Moyers entitled "Brews with View" noted Colorado leads the nation in beer brewed per capita and is the micro brew capitol. Colorado has at least one microbrewery in every resort town. Every mountain resort town is filled with various restaurants, pubs and bars. Even if you are a non-drinker, some of the music and entertainment is a must-see.

4. Mountain lodging

Rustic, rugged or royal -- you can find your budget and comfort level. With its rich history, Colorado is a draw for travelers in search of and Old West experience. A recent article by Rebecca Heaton noted that there are over 40 dude and guest ranches around the state. And there is a smorgasbord of resorts and bed and breakfasts, and an experienced travel agent can find one that meets your budget and taste. Most of the lodging and accommodations are so unique they are a vacation in themselves.

5. Get cultured

Art galleries line the street as various local artists display their talent. There are some real unique pieces, and if you like art you'll like the galleries found nestled against a snow-capped backdrop.

Okay, you didn't really think I could talk about the mountains without talking about skiing. I can't help it, once mastered there are few things on Earth that are as fun. If you want to try something different go to Keystone and visit the Mahre Training Center, which allows you to practice your skills with Olympic medalists Phil and Steve Mahre. Plus, the world of skiing has a funky culture of its own that will be out in full force in early 2003 when the ESPN Winter X Games returns to Aspen.

Colorado is full of races and sports activities. If you're an avid skier I don't have to tell you how much fun hitting the slopes is. But next time you return try a new activity, mix with the locals, you might find there is more than meets the eye.

So if you are looking for a high-flying, adrenaline-pumping vacation that is higher, louder, faster and down right outrageous, or looking for a quiet, peaceful, soul-satisfying relaxing vacation, you can literally find one from A to Z in Colorado.

Carolyn Kempf is president of Elite Travel in Cape Girardeau. (334-1234 or carolyn@elitetravelinc.com)

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