There are two types of men in the world: those that use the snow as an excuse to retreat to their duvet caves, and those that use it as an excuse to throw on their ski pants and high-tail it to the freshly groomed corduroy of the Alps.
Then again, there’s a strong chance that you’ve joined a splinter group of gents that’ve outgrown the same old Euro slopes and the well-trodden Alpine après bars, and now want more than just a week of downhill and fondue from their sacred winter getaway. And that’s precisely what we found when we rolled through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains in February.
From never-ending tree-skiing to snowshoeing at 10,000ft, here are seven reasons to upgrade your European winter holiday to a multi-activity, muscle-testing, cold-weather transatlantic adventure…
Train like a champion at Copper Mountain
Copper Mountain has some of the best skiing you’ll find in Colorado. So good, in fact, it is one of the locations that US Ski Team head to for their early-season training. But these slopes are no secret. As we found out on our way there, sat in gridlock traffic with everyone else trying to train like a champion.
We would fully recommend you block out a day or two from your schedule to try out their 2,500 acres of all-ability terrain. Not to mention their exceptional dining options.
Gorge on Steamboat’s champagne powder and tree runs
The story goes that, in the 1950s, a local rancher named Joe McElroy was stood in the soon-to-be super exclusive Steamboat ski area and noticed the snow was so light that it tickled his nose like champagne bubbles. Ever since then, the icing sugar pow that falls onto this high-end resort has been known (and officially trademarked) as “champagne powder”.
Quite why it has just 6% water content compared to the 15% that other resorts have to put up with is the subject of ongoing scientific beard-scratching, but if you’re putting your energy into answering that question and not making the greatest turns of your life through endless incredible tree runs in this featherweight white stuff, you’re doing it all wrong.
And the champagne lifestyle doesn’t end on the slopes — book you and your crew a stay in one of One Steamboat Place’s four-room residencies (from $1816 per night) for an outstanding five-star, piste-side experience worth cracking out the vintage fizz for.
Soothe your bones at a natural hot spring
You’ve just spent all day out on the slopes, tackling some of the hardest runs Steamboat has to throw at you. What better way to soothe those tired muscles than taking a dip in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. While we’ve heard talk that past a certain hour swim suits become optional, we didn’t stick around long enough to find out.
But these geothermally heated mineral water pools are a big part of Colorado culture, with tales of the founding residents trekking for days just to reap the benefits of these “miracle waters”. If it worked for them then why not you?
Snowshoe through the wilderness at altitude
“It’s just kinda like… walking,” imparted Tom, our impressively and endearingly perma-stoked snow shoe guide at Beaver Creek, the third resort on our itinerary in our mad dash through the Rocky Mountains. After what has to be one of the most stunningly beautiful two-hours drives in America along Highway 131, and checking into the comfortable Beaver Creek Lodge (from $479 per night) we welcomed the opportunity to strap a set of hi-tech tennis rackets to our feet and stretch our legs.
But what sets snowshoeing in Beaver Creek apart from anywhere else you may have done it, is where you’re doing it. All too often, resorts merely offer a schlep around a very flat snow-covered, out-of-season golf course at the base of a mountain. After gearing up at the Nordic Center, you start heading up, way up, to the idyllic McCoy Park, 10,000ft above sea level, and into 20 miles of pristine trails between the chattering wildlife and bear-scarred trees.
It’s so highly regarded, in fact, that halfway through we nodded our heads at an extremely svelte passer-by. Who turned out to be a multi-medal-winning international champion cross-country skier, mid-training session. Good enough for him, good enough for us.
Burn serious calories at Devil’s Thumb Ranch
Take our word for it, you really won’t want to leave this luxury winter sports playground when your check-out time rolls around. Recently named by USA Today as the country’s best destination for cross country skiing, and a mainstay of many a Best Hotels In America shortlist, the high-class wild west touches, 6000-acres of secluded grounds and year-round adventure opportunities make Devil’s Thumb Ranch (from $269 per night) the spot for anyone who loves the idea of wilderness exploration but prefers turndown service.
Day one here saw us take to toothpick-thick Nordic skis for a lesson in cross country, which, it turns out, you only need to do for about an hour before your screaming thighs and core declare you chronically exhausted (blame it on the altitude). You don’t need to go too far for a life-reviving cure though – the in-house tavern will bring you back to the land of the living with their ever-changing local craft beers, and steaks from their home-reared and happy as heck organic Wagyu herd, whom you can thank profusely just a few hundred metres up the road.
Land an elusive rainbow trout on the Colorado River
You’d need rocks in your head to think we’d travel 4,600 miles to some of America’s finest trout fishing grounds and not drop a fly on the water. Starting its life deep in the Rockies and fed from snow melt, team up with fishing guide Rachel at Devil’s Thumb and drop your crosshairs on the wild Colorado River, where a well-placed nymph might bag you a bragworthy brown. Or, if you’re as undeservingly lucky as we were, have you feel the ecstasy of battling a hard-to-hit and hungry native winter rainbow into your net.
Take our advice, though – given you’ll be spending most of your time wading in icy-cool waters, doubling up on your socks is a really good idea.
Explore America’s coolest new district
Imagine a place between Venice Beach’s Abbot Kinney without the nose-in-the-air pretentiousness, and Shoreditch just as it started cleaning the dirt from under its fingernails, and you’ll arrive somewhere pretty close to Denver’s RiNo District.
Pronounced like the armoured animal, this booming arts hangout is buzzing with successful young professionals in pristine Patagonia down jackets, turned-up chinos and caps. It has finally earned The Mile-High City a spot on any epic Colorado itinerary.
And here’s exactly how you do it: book into the luxe, trendy and sultry The Ramble right at the epicentre of the action; bag some outerwear souvenirs at local hero brand Topo Designs; eat like a local at the gourmet Central Market; beer at the extremely cool Ratio Brewery; re-beer at the extremely cool and very beardy Our Mutual Friend Brewing Company; night cap at the world-famous Death and Co conveniently located at your hotel; breakfast on eggs at the hangover-slaying Snooze; and head for home.
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