Accommodations in Colorado vary from the very posh ski resorts in Vail, Aspen, and Telluride to basic chain hotels and independent motels. Dude and guest ranches often require a one-week stay, and the cost is all-inclusive. Bed-and-breakfasts can be found throughout the state. Hotel rates peak during the height of the ski season, which generally runs from late November through March or April; although rates are high all season, they top out during Christmas week and in February and March. In summer months, a popular time for hiking and rafting, hotel rates are often half the winter price.
Properties are assigned price categories based on the cost of a standard double room during high season. Lodging taxes vary throughout the state.
Most hotels and other lodgings require you to give your credit-card details before they will confirm your reservation. However you book, get confirmation in writing and have a copy of it handy when you check in.
Be sure you understand the hotel's cancellation policy. Some places allow you to cancel without any kind of penalty—even if you prepaid to secure a discounted rate—if you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. Others require you to cancel a week in advance or penalize you the cost of one night. Small inns and B&Bs are most likely to require you to cancel far in advance. Most hotels allow children under a certain age to stay in their parents' room at no extra charge, but others charge for them as extra adults; find out the cutoff age for discounts.
Most hotels in Denver and Colorado Springs cater to business travelers, with facilities like restaurants, cocktail lounges, swimming pools, fitness centers, and meeting rooms. Many properties offer special weekend rates of up to 50% off regular prices. However, these deals are usually not extended during summer months, when city hotels are often full. In resort towns hotels are decidedly more deluxe; rural areas generally offer simple, sometimes rustic accommodations.
Ski towns throughout Colorado are home to dozens of resorts in all price ranges; the activities lacking at any individual property can usually be found in the town itself—in summer as well as winter. Off the slopes, there are both wonderful rustic and luxurious resorts, particularly in out-of-the-way spots near Rocky Mountain National Park and other alpine areas.
Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association (303/297-8335. www.coloradolodging.com.)
Apartment and House Rentals
Rental accommodations are quite popular in Colorado's ski resorts and mountain towns. Condominiums and luxurious vacation homes dominate the Vail Valley and other ski-oriented areas, but there are scads of cabins in smaller, summer-oriented towns in the Rockies and the Western Slope. Many towns and resort areas have rental agencies.
With a direct home exchange you stay in someone else's home while they stay in yours. Some outfits also deal with vacation homes, so you're not actually staying in someone's full-time residence, just their vacant weekend place.
Home Away (www.homeaway.com.)
Home Exchange. This service costs $120 annually to list and exchange properties with other members. 800/877-8723. www.homeexchange.com.
HomeLink International. Membership costs $89 yearly, or $39 for access only to homes located in the U.S. 800/638-3841. www.homelink.org.
Intervac (800/756-4663. www.intervacus.com.)
Local Rental Agencies
Colorado Mountain Cabins & Vacation Home Rentals (719/636-5147 or 866/425-4974. www.coloradomountaincabins.com.)
Colorado Vacation Directory (303/499-9343 or 888/222-4641. www.thecvd.com.)
Bed and Breakfasts
Charm is the long suit of these establishments, which often occupy a restored older building with some historical or architectural significance. They're generally small, with fewer than 20 rooms. Breakfast is usually included in the rates. The owners often also manage the B&B, and you'll likely meet them and get to know them a bit. Breakfasts are usually substantial, with hot beverages, cold fruit juices, and a hot entrée. Bed & Breakfast Innkeepers of Colorado prints a free annual directory of its members.
BedandBreakfast.com (512/322-2710 or 800/462-2632. www.bedandbreakfast.com.)
Bed & Breakfast Innkeepers of Colorado (800/265-7696. www.innsofcolorado.org.)
Bed & Breakfast Inns Online (800/215-7365 or. www.bbonline.com.)
BnBFinder (888/469-6663. www.bnbfinder.com.)
If the thought of sitting around a campfire after a hard day on the range is your idea of a vacation, consider playing dude on a guest ranch. Wilderness-rimmed working ranches accept guests and encourage them to pitch in with chores and other ranch activities; you might even be able to participate in a cattle roundup. Most dude ranches don't require previous experience with horses, although a few working ranches reserve weeks in spring and fall—when the chore of moving cattle is more intensive than in summer—for experienced riders. Luxurious resorts on the fringes of small cities offer swimming pools, tennis courts, and a lively roster of horse-related activities such as breakfast rides, moonlight rides, and all-day trail rides. Rafting, fishing, tubing, and other activities are usually available at both types of ranches. In winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing keep you busy. Lodgings can run the gamut from charmingly rustic cabins to the kind of deluxe quarters you expect at a first-class hotel. Meals may be gourmet or plain, but hearty. Many ranches offer packages and children's and off-season rates; ask when you book. No special equipment is necessary, although if you plan to do much fishing, you're best off bringing your own tackle (some ranches have tackle to loan or rent). Be sure to check with the ranch for a list of items you might be expected to bring. If you plan to do much riding, a couple of pairs of sturdy pants, boots, a wide-brim hat to shield you from the sun, and outerwear that protects from rain and cold should be packed. Nearly all dude ranches in Colorado offer all-inclusive packages: meals, lodging, and generally all activities. Weeklong stays cost between $1,300 and $3,600 per adult, depending on the ranch's amenities and activities.
Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association (866/942-3472. www.coloradoranch.com.)
Hostels offer bare-bones lodging at low, low prices—often in shared dorm rooms with shared baths—to people of all ages, though the primary market is young travelers, especially students. Most hostels serve breakfast; dinner and/or shared cooking facilities may also be available. In some hostels you aren't allowed to be in your room during the day, and there may be a curfew at night. Nevertheless, hostels provide a sense of community, with public rooms where travelers often gather to share stories. Many hostels are affiliated with Hostelling International (HI), an umbrella group of hostel associations with some 4,500 member properties in more than 70 countries. Other hostels are completely independent, and may be nothing more than a really cheap hotel.
Membership in any HI association, open to travelers of all ages, allows you to stay in HI-affiliated hostels at member rates. One-year membership is about $28 for adults; hostels charge about $10 to $30 per night. Members have priority if the hostel is full; they're also eligible for discounts around the world, even on rail and bus travel in some countries.
Hosteling through Colorado is an inexpensive way to see the Rockies and national parks. Colorado has 10 hostels—geared more toward younger, budget-minded travelers—in such prime locations as Boulder, Crested Butte, Breckenridge, and Glenwood Springs.
Hostelling International is also an especially helpful organization for road cyclists.
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