Accommodations in Colorado vary from the 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 them as extra adults; find out the cutoff age for discounts.
Hotels in Denver and Colorado Springs cater heavily to business travelers, often with facilities like restaurants, cocktail lounges, swimming pools, fitness centers, and meeting rooms. Many properties offer considerably lower rates on weekends, particularly during the colder months. 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.)
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.)
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.)
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 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. 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 sophisticated or plain but hearty. 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 $4,000 per adult, depending on the ranch's amenities and activities.
Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association (866/942–3472. www.coloradoranch.com.)