3 Big-Yet-Charming Mountain Towns
Pack up and visit these renowned Rocky Mountain towns this winter
I’ve been writing about places to visit in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains for many years, and I often refer people to small, lesser-known towns, but this post is a little different. Just because a place has a big reputation doesn’t mean that it has lost its charm.
These three towns are well-known and people may have preconceived notions about them, but they also have an appeal that shouldn’t be overlooked just because they’re prominent places with a larger-than-life reputation.
Photo by Jeremy Swanson
Home to celebrities like Goldie Hawn, Melanie Griffith and Kevin Costner, just to name a few, many feel that they won’t fit in in Aspen. This is far from the truth. Despite being known around the world as a playground for the rich and famous, this former mining town has a charm that’s alive and well.
While luxury lurks behind every corner and is easy to find, Aspen is a bona fide town with a fascinating history and a down-to-earth ambiance that can be surprising to discover as a first-timer. Spend an hour at Aspen Brewing Company and it becomes apparent that dogs, beer and skiing are things that cross all cultural and financial boundaries.
Photo by Daniel Bayer
While expensive, meals here are divine and shopping is enchanting in Aspen. While shoppers can find art priced more than most cars, there are shops like the Emporium & Flying Circus and Explore Booksellers that cater to every taste and all pocketbooks. There are also several wonderful clothing consignment stores as well.
Photo by Jack Affleck
Vail sets the bar high when it comes to food. Perhaps because it’s the site of the long-running Taste of Vail, which pits chef against chef in a delicious challenge that has the public winning. Or maybe it’s because amazing chefs are simply drawn to the beauty of Vail Valley. Whatever the reason, scrumptious food is served up in town and across the region.
Photo by Jack Affleck
It’s also a scenic destination. During the winter, Vail Village is reminiscent of a Swiss mountain town with many buildings that have been influenced by European alpine architecture. The Gore Valley Trail running along Gore Creek is decorated in glittering trees and shrubs during the winter, making a walk here postcard perfect.
Photo by Chris McLennan
Despite its European influence, a stroll through Lionshead and Vail Village, across heated cobblestone streets, is quintessentially Colorado. The largest ski resort in the state looms above and the town offers up Rocky Mountain delights from locally-made art to locally-sourced food. There are so many reasons this famous town remains one of Colorado’s most charming destinations.
Photo by Telluride Ski Resort
It’s been awhile since I’ve visited Telluride but it’s has a magic that’s tangible to the visitor. It could be the scenery, but whatever that special something is, people are drawn here from all over the world.
In 2017, Larry Olmstead, a writer for “Forbes” argues that Telluride is “the single best ski vacation choice in the country.” He went on to write that “While some ski resorts excel at one or two things, like cuisine, lodging, diversity, challenge, charm or convenience, Telluride excel across the board and is a near-perfect gem.” (read the entire article here)
One of my favorite winter activities in Telluride and an event that sets the town apart is Telluride Fire Festival taking place December 7-9, 2018. The uniqueness of this event that features a Fire ball, fire dancing and interactive fire sculptures cannot be stressed enough. There is nothing like it in the Rocky Mountains.