By Heather Burke, Boston.com Correspondent
Parts of the west have had their challenges this ski season, but they are receiving a significant storm now. One thing you can always count on in Colorado is amazing ski towns with a great western vibe.
On a recent flight out west I saw an ad in United’s Hemisphere magazine claiming, “The Last Best Ski in Colorado.” Which ski town was this, dismissing all the other cool Colorado ski towns? It was Crested Butte.
I am fortune to have been to Crested Butte, to have skied its steeps on a powder day, dined at Uley’s Cabin mid-mountain, and walked the frontier-style streets of downtown CB (that’s local speak) 2.5 miles from the ski resort base. Crested Butte is undeniably cowboy cool on Elk Avenue…but it’s neither the last nor the only remaining special ski town in the Rocky Mountain state.
Here are six other worthy western ski towns in the Bronco state.
Steamboat is a classic cowboy town (3 miles from Steamboat’s ski village) with an iconic view of Steamboat’s ski slopes, a strip of western saloons, cafes, and even a few cowboy hat and leather boutiques to boot. There is also wonderful natural hot springs for après ski soaking.
Telluride is an amazing old mining town at the base of the gondola-served ski slopes. Telluride’s authentic silver-town-turned-skier-hamlet at the end of a boxwood canyon has true western character (and characters) right down to the 1913 Sheridan Opera House.
Vail Village is classic alpine chic. Carry your ski across The Covered Bridge, nod to the 10th Mountain Division Soldier statue, stroll past the Red Lion Bar and Pepi’s, and tell me Vail is not an awesome ski town with tremendous heritage. Mind you, many millions have been spent upgrading Vail Village and nearby Lionshead since my last Vail visit.
Durango is another western gem. Near Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort skiing, this funky Coloradan downtown has local flavor and fun loving spirit. Visit during Durango’s annual “Snow Down” and witness winter western wildness at its finest.
Salida Colorado, near Monarch Mountain, is the real deal for ski towns. Surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest, Salida has old-fashioned store fronts filled with ski and rafting gear, and earthy restaurants to fuel the outdoorsy set that lives and plays here. There’s a reason you have never heard of Salida -- or Monarch for that matter - it's because the locals want to keep their cool stash a secret.
Aspen will always be the ultimate ski town. You can see it as you ski down Ruthie’s Run, then take your pick of local watering holes or classy ski bars to saddle up still wearing ski boots. Sure there are fancy designer boutiques and lux hotels, but there is also a faction of die-hard powder lovers that frequent Aspen’s authentic brick-lined village.
That’s just Colorado’s collection of cool ski towns. There’s also Jackson Hole Wyoming, Whitefish Montana, Park City Utah, Sun Valley Idaho, I could go on and on. The East Coast has a handful of righteous historic ski havens too – Vermont’s Stowe, Waitsfield - Warren near Sugarbush, Manchester, Jackson New Hampshire, and Rangeley near Saddleback in Maine.
There are so many great American ski towns, so let’s not stake a claim to “the last best.”
By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke