Visiting one of Colorado’s many ski areas is a treat to the senses any time of year. Most of us do not think about ski areas until the snows of winter begin to fall and Christmas music is heard wafting out of our stereos. When the weather turns chilly. we break out our parkas and gloves, take the skis out of the storage shed or the rafters in the garage, and begin to plan our next trip to the slopes. But what many of us forget is that the ski areas are wonderful to visit in and out of ski season. Remember, most of Colorado’s ski areas are huddled around a charming town or village that is full of great dining, shopping, and lodging during the winter months; yet those things do not go away when the snow melts. Summertime is one of the best times to visit a Colorado ski area because we can enjoy the town, the mountains and the scenery in a different light, and we don’t have to bring all the cold-weather clothing for our outdoor activities!
Our family used to make it a summer tradition to visit Vail, Colorado in the summertime. We lived only two hours away and had friends who let us use their condo there. Vail was fun, because like some of the other larger ski areas, Vail had a gondola that took skiers and other adventuresome visitors to the top of the mountain. The gondola operated in the summer months as well, so our family, clad in shorts, t-shirts, and hiking boots, would ride the gondola to the top, share a lunch out on the grass or a picnic table, and then walk back down the mountain, via the grassy, open ski slopes, to the town. It was a long walk that took us most of the afternoon, and often our shins were sore the next day from so much downhill hiking, but it was a pleasure to see the ski slopes up close in the summer. When we were used to seeing the slopes covered in snowy moguls, now they were covered in wild grass and wild flowers. Birds and butterflies flitted in and out of the woods and it was not unusual to see other wildlife such as deer, woodchucks, and the occasional hawk. The scents which greeted us on that mountain were pine, wild flowers, and fresh air. The sunshine warmed our backs and we wished the day would never end.
Once back down in Vail village, we enjoyed walking casually to the various shops the town offers. There were plenty of fun places for children including toy stores, stuffed animal stores, and eclectic candy shops right out of a fairy tale. The adults found art galleries, pottery stores, and a plethora of specialty shops to delight all types of tastes. And of course there were the ski shops and Christmas shops, which were also open in the summer, tempting folks to purchase and make plans for the upcoming winter season.
In the summer, the restaurants in Vail often open their doors to outdoor patios where diners can enjoy a meal under a sunny umbrella or simply under the stars at night. The crisp mountain air is clean and invigorating, but mild enough to require only a light sweater at night. Vail has a multitude of restaurants for every taste under the summer sun: Mexican, Asian, American, formal, casual, unusual, and everything in between.
Not far from the village of Vail, families and vacationers will find opportunities to go horseback riding, white water rafting, hiking, sailing on mountain lakes, fishing, and many more summer mountain activities. Glenwood Springs is just a bit of a drive up the road from Vail and it offers the natural hot springs for which it is famous. A drive to Glenwood Springs for a day is well worth the trip from Vail. Hanging Lake, a popular hiking trail to a high mountain pond, is set on the highway between Glenwood Springs and Vail.
Consider taking your summer vacation to one of the Colorado ski areas, to get a different perspective on the slopes this year. Vail, and many of the other beautiful spots, are waiting.