Xmas week in the Rockies

Dec 2nd, 2019, 03:45 PM
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Xmas week in the Rockies

Dear all,

We, (a family of 3 including a teenage girl) have planned a trip during the Xmas week, arriving at Denver on 22nd Dec and leaving on 29th. We plan to rent a car at airport. Have booked a lodge near Pinecliffe for first 5 nights and rest in Denver. We are intermediate level skiers (prefer XC) and would definitely like to visit some of the ski resorts in the neighborhood. What other activities can be done at that time of the year ? How are the roads typically at that time of the year? As of now I have a rough itinerary as follows. Is this practical? any other suggestions?

Day 1. Checkin at hotel, get acclimatized
Day 2. Visit Eldora resort, spend most of the day there, dinner at some place in Nederland
Day 3. Drive to Estes Park, visit RMNP, (Xmas eve, not sure what we can do there)
Day 4. Xmas day, spend mostly at hotel and in the neighborhood.
Day 5. Drive to Winter Park/Granby Resort, more skiing/family fun (looks like a 2+ hour drive, can we cover Hot Sulphur Springs) ?
Day 6. Drive to Denver in afternoon
Day 7. City tour, visit museum/zoo...
Day 8. Fly back

Request suggestions/corrections etc. This is our first trip to Denver area. Been to Ski resorts in other locations earlier.

Last edited by petemadz; Dec 2nd, 2019 at 03:50 PM.
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Dec 2nd, 2019, 09:22 PM
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Where are you coming from? You will not get "acclimatized" in one afternoon. The general rule is one day per 1000 feet. So if coming from or near sea level it will take most of the week to adjust to the altitude. I am not aware any XC skiing at Eldora. I think there is XC at the YMCA of the Rockies, south of Estes. You will not be able to see much of RMNP since it closed in the winter. Access to the lower parts of the park will be weather dependent.

It is about 60,70 miles to Winter Park and much further to Grandby and Hot Sulfur Springs. Sulfur Springs is over a hundred miles of mountain roads from Pinecliffe. You need to be looking at a map. Just to Winter Park could easily be a couple hours or more since it is the day after Christmas and you will have to deal with the day ski traffic from Denver to Winter Park and the Summit Cty ski areas. It will be bad especially on the return. Throw in a little weather and it will be impossible. I would say that both Grandby and Sulfur Springs are out of the question IF you are doing any skiing at Winter Park. There is no XC at Winter Park. That week between Christmas and NY is the busiest ski week of the year. Crowds at an all time peak and locals try to avoid that time in the mountain -- but many still do.

Pinecliffe is kind of a out of the way place to stay if you want to do the things you have suggested.

Last edited by fmpden; Dec 2nd, 2019 at 09:36 PM.
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Dec 2nd, 2019, 09:38 PM
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PS -- Given your Pinecliffe selection, where are you staying in Denver?
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Dec 3rd, 2019, 04:17 AM
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You may do better to plan to hang out around Summit County--Keystone/ Copper Mountain. They are both near I70
If you are skiiers, please don't miss out on improving your skiing abilities on the Colorado mountains. There is excellent ski instruction and the terrain for intermediate skiing is absolutely wonderful.
TAke LESSONS. It may even be better on a holiday because the classes will have priority on lift lines. Reserve ahead of time and line up your equipment.

Keystone has good Nordic skiing. It is just a few miles from Silverthorne

Keystone also has tubing but also requires reservations on busy times.

YOur daughter might enjoy going to the Woodward Center located at Copper Mountain which is just off I70 past Frisco. It is where trick skiiers and snowboarders practice their tricks by diving into huge areas of foam rubber. Without equipment it is fun for them to just jump around much like a big trampoline

In Denver the Art Museum has wonderful Native American exhibits. A teenager also might like to look around Boulder and in Westminster there is a butterfly pavilion.

You need to look at a map and really pay attention to the roads you will be on in winter. Others may disagree with me but the road to Winter Park is a difficult drive if there is any kind of snow/weather.
I have just checked the time from Pinecliffe to Silverthorne (near Keystone and Copper Mountain)--an hour and a half. You have really chosen a very difficult place to base for skiing anywhere but Eldora. If you wanted to take a ski lesson at Copper, for example, you would need to leave 3 hours before (5AM) in order to get skis, etc. As one who has skiied a 2.5 hour drive from the slopes in NC, this is NOT fun. ;o(

Last edited by Gretchen; Dec 3rd, 2019 at 04:40 AM.
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Dec 3rd, 2019, 05:48 AM
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Another fun thing in Denver is shopping and Pearl Street is expecially. Good restaurants also.
This is a wonderfully eclectic shop
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Dec 3rd, 2019, 09:01 AM
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RMNP is not actually closed in winter, only Trail Ridge Road is closed to vehicular traffic. But you can walk, snowshoe, or XC ski the road depending on conditions.

There is nordic skiing at Snow Mountain Ranch which is between Granby and Winter Park.

And plenty of backcountry trails for possible XC along the road from Nederland to Allenspark and beyond.
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Dec 3rd, 2019, 09:49 AM
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Gretchan -- while I agree with you, they are locked into Pinecliffe. Options at that time of year are very limiting. Assuming that got a very good deal given Pinecliffe's location. Their best option is to hang out in the area -- Estes, Boulder, etc. Otherwise the drives can be long. We are having a very earlier winter. Lots of cold and snow especially in the mountains but the ski areas are loving it. We were in Hawaii for nearly three weeks and came back to over a foot of snow in Denver -- unusual for this time of year.

I don't think we will hear back from the OP.

Last edited by fmpden; Dec 3rd, 2019 at 10:07 AM. Reason: addition
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Dec 3rd, 2019, 08:19 PM
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Thank you for all the inputs. We are flying in from Memphis TN. We are quite used to high elevations and cold weather from our previous stays and trips.

Looks like we need to stick around Eldora, Estes and Boulder/Golden area. How good is Eldora for skiers? Are there any XC facilities in that area? We hope to do some more XC in Estes neighborhood. Rest depends on weather and driving conditions. I will work out an alternate itinerary.

BTW we've booked a boutique hotel in Denver downtown.
petemadz is online now  
Dec 4th, 2019, 03:55 AM
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Fmpden, I agree and said they would need to stay at Eldora neighborhood. I had written about Summit before I looked up that distance.
And yes, you all have gotten socked. Hope it is a great ski season this year.
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Dec 4th, 2019, 09:11 AM
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Peter -- This is a couple of years old but it might give you some starting point. Eldora is a small, very local ski area. Very dependent on front range snowfall - we started well this year but who knows what it will be like by the end of the month. There is XC there. See ---


The other areas mentioned are near Winter Park and beyond. From where you are staying that is just not a convenient drive. But given your earlier schedule I don't think you have much time for skiing other than a day or two.

What is the hotel in Denver? If you are staying downtown, a horse drawn carriage to see the city and county building lights is really nice BUT advance reservations generally are required for that week. Second, again, if staying downtown I would dump the car on arrival. It is not needed and will just incur parking fees and an additional hassle for the airport.

Last edited by fmpden; Dec 4th, 2019 at 09:19 AM.
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Dec 4th, 2019, 09:36 AM
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We have booked Eldora Lodge for the first 5 nights as my family wanted to stay in a "log cabin" type environment. All real cabins were sold out by the time we decided. I am still open to chage my booking if it makes sense to stay closer to Winter Park, as that seems to be a better location overall. But then, drive to Estes/RMNP can be very long, I assume.

We have two booking right now in Denver, the ART and The Oxford, both totally different themes. Will cancel one of them based on proximity to to key points of interest.

Last edited by petemadz; Dec 4th, 2019 at 09:42 AM.
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Dec 4th, 2019, 10:24 AM
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Sounds like a good plan to stick closer to your lodging, and not try to day-trip to Winter Park. Just skip the RMNP/Estes plan.

If you're looking for a place to stay there, I always recommend Devil's Thumb Ranch. It will give you that log cabin feel you're looking for. For simpler lodging, look at Snow Mountain Ranch (a YMCA facility). Things will be booked up by now, though.

Correction, however, to fmpden's statement above:
there certainly IS cross-country skiing in the Winter Park area. Devil's Thumb Ranch is one of the best. Also Snow Mountain Ranch. (Or, drive further to Grand Lake, and nordic ski on their golf course.)

Coincidentally, I was just at the ART hotel yesterday for a tour of their art collection, and for lunch. It is a contemporary hotel, as you referenced, and much different than the Oxford. Service at the ART is outstanding. Rooms are fairly large, each one if different. Their resort fee covers drinks in the room, from what I understood. It seemed like a very well-managed hotel.

Last edited by MoBro; Dec 4th, 2019 at 10:26 AM.
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Dec 4th, 2019, 11:35 AM
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A second to Devil's Thumb if that looks good to you. We've not stayed there but have had meals, based on MoBro's advice, great place.

Are you OK with well-traveled backcountry XC trails? The closest to Eldora Lodge, if you wind up there, are probably Forth of July trailhead above Nederland and East Portal above Rollinsville. Initially you'd be on roads that are closed for the winter so it start outs relatively gentle. Check with the lodge about current conditions. Have a good trip.
Nelson is online now  
Dec 5th, 2019, 05:30 AM
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Iím glad you visited DTR, Nelson! Itís a special place to us. DD was married there. We go for special occasion dinners.

I wonder if the OP is finding availability for lodging anywhere else at this late date.
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Dec 5th, 2019, 07:24 AM
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MoBro, we visited a couple times. One was my 65th birthday dinner, we were staying at the Grand Lake Lodge and went down there for the day. Very enjoyable and memorable. We may stay there someday but tend to go on spur of the moment local getaways, so it depends on short notice availability. But thanks for the rec.

Back to the OP, I think Pinecliffe is actually a decent choice for a nice low key Colorado Christmas holiday. They might have to scale back their Day 5 plans depending on road conditions, an issue anywhere in the state then. But, plenty of outdoor stuff to do within an hour from them.
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Dec 5th, 2019, 02:31 PM
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Availability of good lodging anywhere else is almost impossible now. Will stick with what we have as we started planning quite late. Initial plan was to go to Park City in Utah. But we were there 2 years back and hence we thought we will try here.
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Dec 6th, 2019, 08:40 AM
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Pete, I think you'll be fine in Pinecliffe. Your family wanted a 'log cabin' experience, and you will be in a cute and relatively off-the-beaten-track area for that.

I'm not familiar with cross-country skiing at Eldora, but I know the CU ski team practices there, and it's a decent little place.
The infamous Caribou Ranch recording studio is in Nederland, though I don't know if it is open for tours or anything now. They do have a Facebook page.
If you're interested, Gold Hill has a very good restaurant: The Gold Hill Inn
Your teen might be interested in Boulder. The food scene there is excellent, also. Go to the Pearl Street mall to stroll around, and also the CU campus is gorgeous to wander around. Chauqauqua Park has a fantastic dining room, sitting in a gorgeous setting under the Flatirons. They have rustic cabins to rent there, too.
According to the weather, you can decide if you want to venture up to Winter Park, or go the other direction to RMNP.

Post specific questions, as you have them.
Enjoy Colorado!

P.S. Nelson, you mention Grand Lake Lodge, which is another favorite of ours. We make the trek to eat on their front porch every summer at least once.
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