Denver is called the ‘Mile High’ city. Due to its altitude (approximately 5280 feet) above sea level, the nickname has also taken on fantastic new connotations now however, given that Colorado was the second US state to legalize marijuana, giving its residents (and me), endless joy in parodying various ‘high’ references.. what a state it turned out to be and rather a chilly change from New Orleans. All Flights will arrive into America’s newest major airport (it’s massive, like proper big so get ready for some walking), which is a bit of a drive outside of the city.
We arrived at the giant freezer.. I mean Colorado.. in temperatures somewhere in the 10-15 degree Fahrenheit vicinity (-12 to -9 degrees Celsius), meaning that all previous references I had to the cold now had to be re-evaluated. Freezer at your local bottle shop? Warm. The Ice cold stare of airport Security staff? Somewhat chilly. Colorado temperatures in winter. Proper Cold. Now before anyone from Siberia pipes up with something about how 10 degrees (-12 degrees Celsius) is warm enough to sunbathe in, please remember that I am a child of Western Australia, beaches, palm trees, deserts, beer and cocktails with those tiny umbrellas in them…
Living in the state of Colorado, you have to really embrace the outdoor lifestyle to experience the place properly, especially given it gets 300+ sunny days a year! (made for an interesting change from New Orleans)Beautiful mountains, stunning national parks, streams, skiing, hiking, 4×4 driving, camping, white water, climbing.. basically every great outdoor activity imaginable at your doorstep.
I’d say a conservative estimate would be that every second person here owns a Jeep, and those who don’t are probably in the market.. and fair enough really given there’s so much great outdoor stuff here to get into. During the warmer months, camping, hiking, trail running, bouldering, climbing and kayaking are favourite pass times while in winter obviously skiing becomes the major drawcard with so many great slopes in the surrounding Rockies.
Well it’s taken me far too long but this was the first time I was to go snowboarding and so we headed to the fairly close resort of Eldora to ‘get amongst it’ as my instructor put it, which I think was in there somewhere between ‘right on!’, ‘Booya!’ and his 15th fist pump…
After a few hours on the small beginners slope I made the jump up to the green runs, and I may now have officially decided to cancel the rest of my life to spend it on the slopes. I’ll sum up my experience by saying that snowboarding is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I would also go on to say that if I could, I would totally snowboard naked so in fact it’s right up there with the most fun you can have naked as well.
Moving on.. Boulder, a small city squatting right at the foot of the mountains swiftly became one of my favourite places in the States. A small town feel, partnered with friendly locals, some great local craft breweries and its proximity to such great hiking and skiing, make it a prime spot to base yourself for some outdoor living. A great day hike around Boulder I’d recommend would be trekking up to the Flatirons (a series of 5 rocky outcrops that are flat and resemble irons – surprisingly) .
Also located in Colorado is Estes Park, the home of the famous (or infamous) Stanley Hotel. The Stanley is the (supposedly) haunted hotel that was the inspiration for the Steven King novel ‘The Shining’ – later to be turned into the Stanley Kubrick film starring Jack Nicolson. It’s a pretty creepy looking old building with fantastic views of the local peaks and Estes Park, worth a visit if you’re in the area. They even sell ‘Redrum’ chocolates!
Estes Park happened to be holding a Chili eating festival that day also, so for $10 we got to eat as much chili as we could and then vote on a favourite. Great fun after a morning of fruitless ghost hunting at The Stanley, where sadly, no ghosts materialized at all. In fact the only thing we were haunted by after we left Estes Park were the memories of the life and death struggle we each experienced on the toilet the next day.
Colorado is an outdoor enthusiast’s version of heaven. As picturesque as Middle Earth (without the hobbits) mixed with some urban spaces that are chilled and fun to explore and recover from your latest outdoor adventure. Whether you prefer the small town vibe of Boulder, the trendy ‘mile high’ Denver or the ‘burbs of Littleton, Colorado is as rewarding as you make it, an adventure centered mountain paradise. If you do decide to venture there in winter just remember to pack your hot water bottle, your sense of adventure and a your ski gear.. and you’ll be fine.