Each summer, a host of runners, riders and hikers test their mettle on grueling trails around this spunky mining town that claims the title of highest incorporated city in the U.S.A. But, check the place out in the winter, and you’ll find even more raw adventure, sans the crowds.
Thought you had to trade your bike for skis once Jack Frost grabbed hold? Not here. In Leadville’s Winter Mountain Bike Series, brave souls ride trusty steeds (a.k.a fat bikes) on exciting courses that follow snowmobile and groomed Nordic ski trails. These races (three of which are held at night) emphasize fun and camaraderie and are followed by food, drinks and laughter. And, it’s all for a good cause; proceeds support the advocacy efforts of Cloud City Wheelers. cloudcitywheelers.com
SKI IN LUXURY
With over 25 kilometers of world-class, groomed trails, the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center (perched at 10,500 feet) is a must-visit for nordorks and even those who simply dabble in skinny skis. Enjoy striking views of the Sawatch Range as you ski and snowshoe over a range of varied terrain, from steeper, forested trails to open glades for all abilities. Lessons, rentals, a coffee bar and snacks are available on-site. After working up your appetite, enjoy an intimate, delectable four-course dinner at the Cookhouse, an inviting, rustic yurt warmed by a wood burning stove. Make a weekend of it by spending the night at a ski-in yurt located just one mile from the center ($225/night, sleeps up to six). Reservations required for yurts and meals. tennesseepass.com
A winter season that lasts well beyond most other spots in the state gives you more time to shred the vast high country surrounding town. For lift-access alpine skiing, hit Ski Cooper (skicooper.com), located atop Tennessee Pass. Or skin out into the San Isabel National Forest and Mt. Massive Wilderness Areas for backcountry options. Nordic enthusiasts (including snow bikers and snowshoers) can enjoy trails in a variety of spots like Colorado Mountain College campus, the Mineral Belt trail, Turquoise Lake and the Mt. Massive Golf Course & Nordic Area. Pick up a copy of the new winter trails map at area businesses or the Visitor Center at 809 Harrison Avenue. visitleadvilleco.com/wintertrails
EMBRACE YOUR INNER CHILD
Remember how much fun it was to plummet downhill at breakneck speeds as a kid? Well, grab the kids—or some friends—and relive those days at the Dutch Henry Tubing Hill, just one minute south of downtown Leadville on Highway 24. Bring your own sledding apparatus. It’s free. Or, rent a new, luxury tube from the Recreation Department on weekends from 11 to 5 pm ($5 per hour, $3 per half hour).
The Leadville Ski Joring and Crystal Carnival (March 6-8, 2015) is a must. Festivities center on the skijoring competition, that famed spectacle of a cowboy on skis towed over obstacles by his horse. Countless other activities including sledding, balloon rides, Nordic ski sprints, snowshoe races, sled dog competitions and Mineral Belt Mayhem (part of the Winter Mountain Bike Series) make this an unforgettable experience. leadvilleskijoring.us
Delicious baked goods (we love the mini-quiches and giant ginger cookies) and tasty caffeine concoctions abound at City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso (cityonahillcoffee.com). This quaint café located on Leadville’s main drag (508 Harrison Ave) is the meeting spot in town. For lunch or dinner, we love the Tennessee Pass Café (222 Harrison Ave) offering up a wide selection of unique sandwiches (like our favorite the Dill Havarti), burgers, soups, salads and entrees (like the Goat Cheese & Spinach Enchiladas). Don’t leave without trying the Brussel sprouts!
For 14 years, Wild Bill Clower & Cathy Hacking have run The Leadville Hostel (leadvillehostel.com) a clean, 41-bed inn for travelers. Bill and Cathy greet each guest at the door and from that moment on they put their hearts into making sure every patron leaves well rested and feeling like family. The common areas overflow with camaraderie and buzz with activity as explorers of every ilk share stories. Clearly, this dynamic duo is doing something right: upwards of 300 guests return year after year and they’ve stopped advertising because they hate turning people away. Rates start at $25/night.
Looking for homegrown gear? Melanzana designs and produces high-quality, stylish outdoor clothing right in their shop (716 Harrison Ave). Stop by to purchase their latest and get a sneak peek of locals busily sewing each piece by hand. melanzana.com