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Happy Birthday, Colorado! Here Is A Bit Of Colorado History For Colorado Day

Aspen - Dan Bayer
Aspen Snowmass – Dan Bayer 

What’s More Colorado Than Skiing?

Skiing and Snowboarding are Colorado’s favorite pastimes, there’s no doubt about it. Throughout the winter, people from all around the state flock to their favorite ski areas to slide, glide and float their way down the mountains. Even those Coloradans who don’t ski or ride know there’s fun to be had at Colorado’s ski areas. With live music in the spring, tubing and more all winter, and plethora activities throughout the summer, it is hard to find a Coloradan who doesn’t love spending time in ski towns.

What is it about skiing, snowboarding, and mountain towns in general that are so appealing to people from Colorado? After long deliberation, we’ve decided that skiing and snowboarding are the pinnacle of what it means to be Coloradan. Spending time on the slopes and in mountain towns combines all of the things that Coloradans love best and all the things that make us truly Coloradans.

Our Love for Nature

It’s no secret that skiing is a great way to explore the great outdoors. The fresh air, mountain peaks, evergreens and aspens make every visit to Colorado’s ski areas an adventure through nature. With lifts, gondolas and snowcats, we’re able to reach parts of the mountains that would be nearly impossible to get to otherwise. We can glide through glades, speed down steep pitches and admire views of fourteeners in every direction while we do so.

With ski areas in every corner of the state, you can experience every type of environment that Colorado has to offer. From the sprawling aspen groves of Steamboat, to the rugged San Juan Mountains of Telluride, from views of the two largest peaks in Colorado at Cooper, to the largest flat-top mountain in the world at Powderhorn, skiing gives you access to the best that Colorado has to offer. It’s no wonder Coloradans love it so much.

Our Fascinating History

Colorado’s history is rich with colorful characters and shiny rocks and evidence of this history is scattered across Colorado’s ski areas. Our mining history is the most apparent. Just driving up I-70 towards the ski areas and on many mountain roads, you’ll see countless reminders of how Colorado was shaped by early settlers searching for riches in gold, silver and more. Many ski towns started as mining camps; Telluride, Aspen, Durango, Leadville and many others likely wouldn’t be what they are today without a history of mining. Mining is even reflected in the names of Copper Mountain and Silverton and Telluride’s famous logo. Even one of Colorado’s most famous residents, Molly Brown, became a celebrity in part due to her family’s mining success in Leadville.

Colorado has its fair share of “Wild West” history as well, and many mountain towns were the homes and hideouts of the old West’s greatest legends. One of the most (in)famous outlaws in American history, Butch Cassidy, got his career of crime started by robbing Telluride’s San Miguel Bank and Billy The Kid allegedly had a hideout in Silverton.

The modern era has not seen a decline in Colorado’s colorful characters flocking to the mountain communities. Two of Aspen’s most famous residents, John Denver and Hunter S. Thompson—who ran for Sheriff of Pitkin County in 1970—are memorialized in shrines on Aspen Mountain, a park in town also bears Denver’s name. Many other celebrities and politicians have found homes in Colorado as well, recognizing the state for its beauty and serenity.

Perhaps the most legendary of all Colorado’s ski history is that of the 10th Mountain Division. These heroes of WWII and beyond are almost entirely responsible for the creation of the United States’ skiing industry. Trained at Camp Hale, which is now home to Cooper/Chicago Ridge, this division initially fought the Nazis in the Italian Alps then came home with a love of skiing and spread that love to Colorado and beyond. Still in service today, the 10th Mountain Division is the pride of Colorado. Without them, skiing in Colorado may not have ever become what it is today, and Coloradans could not be more grateful for their efforts.

The Freedom and Thrill of Exploration

Colorado is a land of exploration and while we may have missed the eras of Friars Dominguez and Escalante, Lieutenant Pike, and Alfred Packer (the latter, perhaps for the best), that doesn’t mean exploring is off the table. When you dip your skis into fresh powder on any of Colorado’s mountains, each turn is an exploration. Will you keep your trajectory and head straight for the lift and onto the next run? Will you go through the trees to find a hidden glade? Will you hit that roller and explore the air a little bit? The choice is yours, and it’s a feeling that is rarely matched. No matter how many times we ski the same runs on the same mountain, we’re never far from an adventure.

Beyond exploring the topography of a single mountain, skiing allows Coloradans to explore different parts of their state. No matter where you venture in the mountains of Colorado, you’re almost certain to stumble upon a ski area. Whether you want to explore a local mountain with few crowds or a massive resort with all the amenities, you’re sure to find the adventure you’re looking for. You’re never restricted when you ski or snowboard in Colorado.

Pride in Colorado and the Community

Take a look at bumpers, boards and beer koozies around Colorado’s ski towns and you’ll see the Colorado flag plastered on everything. Coloradans love our flag almost as much as the state it represents. Ask any Coloradan which state has the best skiing and they’ll immediately tell you Colorado, though they may give some concession to a few good days they’ve had in Utah or California. It’s not just the quality of the snow or the amount of options you have skiing in Colorado, it’s the community that surrounds the sport and the pride in this community.

One of Colorado’s biggest claims to fame is our output of winter Olympic Athletes and with more than 30 athletes coming from Colorado in the 2018 Winter Olympics alone, there is good reason. More winter Olympians have come from Steamboat Springs, 98 in total, than any other city in North America and Howelsen Hill—the popular training facility for these athletes—has been around since the early 1900’s helping to groom these athletes. Many of these Olympians return to their communities, acting as friendly faces for the resorts they love.

Coloradans love good food and great beer and ski areas make it easier than ever for us to enjoy. Local breweries have often partnered with ski areas—what’s better than a beer that was brewed a few miles away after a long day on the slopes—and some breweries take it even further, creating personalized beers for their favorite ski areas. Tommy Knocker Brewery in Idaho Springs partners with Loveland Ski Area, using spruce pine needles taken directly from the mountain itself to make their Pine Bough Pale Ale and Elevation Brewing created the retro-themed “Elevation Throwback Red Ale” to commemorate Monarch Mountains 80th Birthday. 

(To learn more about what local beers are based on or featured at ski areas, click here. )

Exceptional dining experiences are also easy to come by at Colorado’s ski areas. Winter Park’s Lodge at Sunspot and Eldora’s The Lookout have served as casual favorites to the Colorado community for years. Meanwhile, Telluride’s Allreds, Aspen Highland’s Cloud Nine Bistro and Arapahoe Basin’s Il Rufgio have provided high class dining at even higher elevations. Newer to the scene, but immediately adopted by locals, Steamboat’s Taco Beast brings delicious eats to skiers directly on the slopes. With access to great food and drinks, it’s no wonder Coloradans flock to the mountains so often.

Colorado has so much to offer, from nature to nourishment and everything in between and these aspects of what makes Colorado special are nowhere better represented than at the ski areas. Skiing and snowboarding offer the opportunity for Coloradans and beyond to see what makes our state special. All this leads us to wonder, what’s more Colorado than skiing?