The 2021 Perfect Winter Guide

Are you seeking the ideal winter escape you need after a tough year? Enjoying the season here in the Rockies is an art that mixes equal parts serious relaxation and laidback exploration. And we are here to help make it happen. This guide gives you the ability to book everything from days floating through bottomless pow to nights resting in cozy beds with fluffy pillows. Dig in.

The Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park 

The Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park 

Book a stay at this beautiful mountain lodging spot and you will find yourself right in the middle of in-town action and boundless outdoor adventure.

With easy access to both the lively downtown scene in Estes Park and outdoor adventures in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, the Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park makes for the ideal getaway in fall and winter. The comfy spot features a restaurant and bar on site, an indoor swimming pool, and the ability to be right in the thick of it when the leaves are turning and elk bugling. When the snow flies, the hotel hosts winter hikers, snowshoers, skiers, and splitboarders keen on exploring the surrounding wilds. It’s the ideal spot for everyone from couples looking for quiet romance to families seeking shared adventure.

Get Out There: Rocky Mountain National Park draws tourists from around the planet looking to immerse themselves in the stunning peaks, abundant wildlife, and untamed ecosystems of these mountains. In the fall, they come for the changing leaves and chance to see charismatic wildlife including elk, moose, black bear, and bighorn sheep. When winter arrives, the park is a prime destination for powder turns in the backcountry. Not your speed? No worries—the snowshoeing and winter hiking trails around Bear Lake make it easy for anyone to access the high country in the depths of the snowy season. Or head up to Gem Lake, a steep 3.1-mile roundtrip that puts you in touch with the quiet magic of the Rockies in winter. It’s ideal for hiking with microspikes or snowshoes. But the park is only one of the reasons why you need to book a stay at Ridgeline. From the hotel, you can take a leisurely stroll down the Riverwalk in Estes Park and check out the town’s numerous downtown boutiques, restaurants, and bars.

The Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park hotel room
The Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park signature cocktail

Lodging: The Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park boasts comfy rooms with stunning views that range in size from one king bed to two queen beds, and it offers pet-friendly accommodations. After you have explored the mountains and town, you can gather round one of the hotel’s outdoor fire pits or have fun playing arcade games or pool in the new game room located in Latitude 105 Alehouse. And the hotel takes your safety seriously. Its comprehensive Rest Assured program has introduced new health and safety standards aimed at helping to keep guests and employees safe while slowing the spread of COVID-19. It includes bolstered hygiene protocols that meet or exceed best-practice guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Plus, the hotel has updated its reservation policy: All reservations can be changed or cancelled up to 24 hours in advance of check-in to help accomodate the uncertainties of the times.

Eat and Drink: No stay at The Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park is complete without a visit to the Latitude 105 Alehouse, which is open daily from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and located right in the hotel. With 18 rotating taps and a full menu of signature cocktails, the bar caters to all tastes and makes for an easy option for an après-adventure drink or a post-meal nightcap. Most importantly, the food is sure to please: Latitude 105 Alehouse specializes in tried-and-true favorites—think loaded burgers and pizzas with create-your-own toppings options (and plenty of vegetarian options)—served in a sophisticated mountain ambiance. Or just snack on good old comfort food like nachos, wings, and quesadillas. Every palate will find something to savor here. 

ridgelinehotel.com

Photos courtesy of Ridgeline Hotel

Sheridan, Wyoming snowmobile

Sheridan, Wyoming

The perfect Cowboy State town offers a one-of-a-kind experience for adventurous spirits. From guided snowmobiling excursions to solo backcountry touring, the Bighorn Mountains are flush with opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Sheridan typifies everything Wyoming does best, blending wild landscapes with small-town charm. Serving as the epicenter of festivals and events in Northern Wyoming, the bustling town hosts a wealth of cultural, historical, and recreational opportunities and makes for an easy trip from Colorado’s Front Range that feels miles away. With dozens of restaurants and local businesses to choose from and access to over a million acres up in the public lands the Bighorn Mountains right out of town, the place gives visitors plenty of options for relaxation and exploration—even ini the winter. Whether you’re looking to roam the twinkling-light-strung streets in town or schussing through the star-studded night skies of the local wilderness, Sheridan serves as the perfect basecamp.

snowshoeing

COVID-19: Want to know the best part about pandemic safety in Sheridan? It’s easy! Visitor and resident safety is paramount to this community and the town continues to be committed to keeping things open. Plus Wyoming’s limitless opportunity for social distancing in sprawling open spaces, give visitors and residents alike ample opportunity to find a safe way to experience the area. 

Family Friendly: This Wyoming town prides itself on being the perfect playground for the young (and the young-at-heart). A family-friendly destination, Sheridan offers a wide range of opportunities for all ages to get out and experience winter recreation. Make your first stop Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area, the area’s leading family adventure destination, which provides accessible and affordable outdoor opportunities for all ages. With snowshoeing programs, backcountry skiing, and guided snowmobiling tours, families will find the best way to experience the magic of winter in the Bighorns here. 

Lessons: From skiing to wniter fly fishing, Sheridan’s local guides know a thing or two about leading anyone—from total beginners to advanced winter recreationalists—to new heights. Whether you’re looking to to tick off a fun, new adventure or hone your existnig knowledge and skills, Sheridan’s outfitters can make it happen.  

Lodging: In winter, Sheridan boasts over 1,800 hotel rooms to choose from, but its mountain lodges provide an extraordinary experience. These winter hubs give visitors unparalleled mountain views and intriguing histories. (We suggest you check out the century-old Spear-o-Wigwam Mountain Resort, where Earnest Hemingway finished A Farewell to Arms.) If you’re looking for a true winter experience, be sure to explore one of Sheridan’s four lodges this winter.

Après: Sheridan continued to bustle this year, welcoming five new restaurants among other businesses. The town offers a wide-range of food and drink options, and visitors can experience everything from the unique culinary delights of restaurants like Birch and Uptown Shabby Shacks to the much sought after craft brew and distilled spirits of the town’s three breweries and distillery. Whether you spend the day in the mountains or roaming the town, the après opportunities here are as diverse as the recreation.

Retailers: Sheridan is a small town shopping paradise that’s home to over 40 retailers. Tourists can shop like the locals along the town’s main street, which offers up an old Western vibe with a fresh feel. While you won’t find tourist-town-style gift shops, you will find everything from locally crafted pottery to authentic cowboy goods at the famed King’s Saddlery. 

horse in snow

Big Adventure: Sheridan is the trailhead to amazing adventure and unending exploration. Recreation knows no bounds in the Bighorn Mountains. Some visitors become ice climbers for a day or chase trout in the cold mountain streams, but the biggest adventures come by way of backcountry travel. Skiing and snowmobiling the Bighorns is an experience of a lifetime. You can explore the area’s 1,500 miles of snowmobiling trails all winter long and backcountry skiing offers fresh line after fresh line.

sheridanwyoming.org

Photos courtesy of Sheridan, Wyoming

YMCA of the Rockies, Colorado

YMCA of the Rockies, Colorado

The fun doesn’t stop when the snow starts flying. Experience a full slate of outdoor winter adventure at the YMCA of the Rockies.

YMCA of the Rockies has something for everyone. The Y offers opportunities to unplug and find real connections to the outdoors and each other. From rock climbing to guided snowshoe hikes, the budget-friendly destination is a true choose-your-own-adventure, winter retreat. Whether you book a trip to its Snow Mountain Ranch facility near Grand County’s Winter Park or the Estes Park Center at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience in the Colorado Rockies.

horse drawn sleigh

Family Friendly: YMCA of the Rockies is a family-centric organization and destination, offering activities for all ages and skill levels. From its variety of events (like this year’s Christmas Tree Cutting Experience at Snow Mountain Ranch and holiday programming at Estes Park Center) to its long list of outdoor activities—including ice skating, sledding, nordic/cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing the Y makes it easy to unplug and connect to the Colorado outdoors. 

Big Adventure: Guests don’t travel to YMCA of the Rockies to kick back and plug into screens. A key component of the Y’s mission is to provide opportunities to unplug and connect to nature and each other. And with YMCA of the Rockies’ ever-growing list of activities, adventure can be as big as your imagination! From renting snowshoes at the Estes Park Center and hiking into Rocky Mountain National Park to renting skis or snowboards at Snow Mountain Ranch and skiing Winter Park, the Y offers true Colorado adventure at its visitors’ fingertips.

And did we mention the 120km of groomed nordic trails? Led by Olympic silver medallist and World Champion, Todd Lodwick, the Y’s Nordic Center provides classic and skate skiers, snowshoers, and fat biking enthusiasts with fantastic winter skiing, hiking, and riding. The center is also raising the bar with biathlon courses, backcountry routes, and a robust educational program. 

New This Year: A new kind of adventure is coming to the 21/22 winter season: skijoring! YMCA of the Rockies is building on the success of its dog sledding program—families, couples, and individuals can now book an affordable experience in which the beloved sled dogs pull you along on your skis.

Lodging: YMCA of the Rockies offers three lodging options. Lodge-based, hotel-style rooms offer the most economic, budget-friendly experience. Cabins feature two to five bedrooms, fully-equipped kitchens, and indoor fireplaces for a fully self-sufficient experience. Finally, group rental facilities and cabins provide a space for family reunions, company retreats, and holiday escapes.

ymcarockies.org

Photos Courtesy YMCA of the Rockies

fishing lyons colorado

Lyons, Colorado

Visit the perfect front Range adventure town for a big dose of outdoorsy winter enjoyment.

Lyons, Colorado, is the perfect Front Rage escape. With a one-of-a-kind tiny home rental village, a distillery, outdoor ice skating, miles of trails, and so much more, make this the winter to experience Lyons. 

Tucked in a red rock valley, the town encourages visitors to get outside, explore a bit, and soak in the beautiful views. From hiking destinations (local favorite include Rabbit Mountain east of town and Button Rock Preserve northwest of town) to mountain biking nearby Hall Ranch, outdoor adventure is always nearby here, and the trails are often sunny in winter. 

If you’re looking to keep it low key, try family-friendly ice skating in LaVern Johnson Park. If big wall adventure is more your speed, visit the nearby St. Vrain canyon for traditional or sport climbing routes. And if you haven’t quite had your fill of fly fishing for the year, get your trout-casting fix at Bohn Park, which is located along the confluence of North and South Saint Vrain creeks.

Lyons offers everything you need to stay cozy, unplug and escape this winter. Whether you’re looking for easy access to the outdoors, local shopping opportunities, local eats, cocktails, or better yet, all of it rolled into one day, Lyons delivers.

lyonscolorado.com

Photo courtesy of Town of Lyons

skier at Grand Targhee Resort

Grand Targhee Resort, Wyoming

Find powder paradise and chill vibes off the beaten path with a visit to Grand Targhee Resort.

Grand Targhee is a bucket-list destination for good reason. With over 500 inches of snow annually, Targhee’s sleeper powder days and family-friendly vibe help take the stress out of navigating a resort. Why not check it off your list this year? 

Grand Targhee seamlessly bridges the quaint mountain town scene of Alta, Wyoming, with all the perks you’d expect from a Western resort. Nestled on the western slope of the Tetons, Targhee offers up great terrain for all abilities, slopeside après, ski in/ski out lodging, and endlless backcountry opportunities.  

Whether you’re new to snow sports or a well-seasoned steeps chaser, Targhee offers it all—without the lift lines. From Wyoming’s only snowcat skiing and riding operation to its Kid’s Adventure Zone, Targhee’s lift and cat-served terrain runs the gamut of advanced techy lines to gentle, beginner-friendly slopes, supporting all ages in the winter journey. And with on-site childcare options, ski and ride lesson packages for all ages, and some impressive Mountain Collective and season pass perks, Targhee’s ability to combine equal parts powder chaser’s dream and family adventure is unparalleled. 

In addition to the skiing and riding opportunities, Grand Targhee also manages beautifully groomed snowshoeing, Nordic and fat biking trails and offers professionally guided backcountry opportunities. 

If you’re seeking a friendly, value-priced destination to unwind, play hard, and get back to the pure joy of skiing and snowboarding, you are about to fall in love.

grandtarghee.com

Photo courtesy Grand Targhee Resort / Fred Marmsater

skier at loveland

Loveland Ski Area, Colorado

Deep powder is in sight from the I-70 corridor. Whether you drive yourself or snag a ride on the Snowstang, this is the year to find out what you have been missing at Loveland Ski Area.

Loveland Ski Area is bringing back all the things you love about the season at its 1,800-acre mountain playground. Thanks to the return the Ridge Cat and demo days, sane lift ticket prices, and fantastic après, the area’s long-standing tradition of powder days and family fun is within reach. And this year, Loveland is adding some sweet icing to its frosty, high-country cake. New guided snowcat skiing tours and facility upgrades, will make the mountain that’s just one hour from downtown Denver even better this season.

New This Year: Loveland’s Valley Lodge is expanding! Loveland Ski Area is currently working on a massive expansion of the Valley Lodge and facilities to enhance the guest experience at Loveland Valley. The result? Increased seating capacity in the cafeteria, a larger rental shop, and increased capacity at the Ski & Ride School check-in area. The Valley Lodge will be open and fully accessible to guests throughout the 21/22 season with work expected to be completed by the spring. 

Loveland Snowcat Tours: Have you ever wanted to ride a snowcat to hidden powder stashes in the Colorado backcountry but the cost and hassle kept you from booking a trip? Now, it’s easy. Loveland Ski Area is launching a guided snowcat operation in Dry Gulch (just east of Lift 8) in January 2022. Advanced to intermediate skiers and riders will get an authentic backcountry snowcat experience in terrain that looks out on the iconic peak The Citadel (13,294 feet) on the Continental Divide. Book a seat for yourself or or reserve the entire cat for a group outing to access advanced terrain outside the ski area boundary. The full schedule, reservation platform, and pricing options all come online in December.

loveland skier

Tickets: Affordability is one of Loveland’s highest priorities and its lift ticket and pass options speak to that ethos yet again this season with peak ticket rates set at $94 for adults and $38 for children (ages 6–14). Better yet, Loveland’s 4-Pak is one of Colorado’s best lift ticket deals. For just $199 (available through Nov. 21, 2021), you get four lift tickets to use any day of the season. Big bonus: There are no blackout dates. 

Loveland is also bringing back Advance Purchase Lift Tickets this year, allowing guests to buy lift tickets in advance at a discounted rate. Pick your dates as soon as possible on Loveland’s online calendar because the earlier you buy, the more you save. Of course, full-price tickets are also available at the on-site ticket window for those just-gotta-go, spontaneous days.

Season Passes: If unlimited access to the snowiest ski area in the Front Range is waht you seek—did we mention Loveland boasts an average of 35 feet per year?!— Loveland Ski Area offers outstanding season pass prices and perks. Pass holders get discounts throughout the ski area, including lift tickets for family and friends, and 102 bonus days at partner resorts from Colorado to Canada and Japan, thanks to its membership in the Powder Alliance, one of the world’s most powerful reciprocal season pass programs. Current pricing is valid through 12/1/21, so grab them while you can!

Lessons: The Ski & Ride School is back for another year of all-ages fun with half-day group lessons, private lessons and 3-Class Pass options, which includes three half-day lessons and a season pass for one low price. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to advance your skiing or snowboarding skills, Loveland has options for everyone from children ages 4-14 to adults.

Retailers: Looking for great prices on great gear? From souvenirs to a fresh kit, Loveland’s Valley and Basin Sports Shop locations have it. With skis from Icelantic, Atomic, Elan, Liberty, Völkl, and Nordica and snowboards from Never Summer, Rome, and Jones, guests have great options no matter which location they visit. 

loveland ridge cat

Big Adventure: Loveland’s Ridge Cat returns after being closed last year due to COVID-19. Loveland Ski Area is excited to bring back its signature free in-bounds snowcat skiing for season pass and/or ticket holders. The 18-passenger Ridge Cat provides access to big mountain fun along the Continental Divide, including Field of Dreams, Velvet Hammer, Tickler, 13,010, and Marmot. The cat operates first-come, first-served, conditions permitting. 

Guests can also take advantage of Loveland’s gear demo opportunities, including its Hat Trick Demo program, Christy Sports collaboration event (Nov. 20, 2021), and a plethora of independent brand demo days (think Icelantic and Never Summer). Check Loveland’s events page (skiloveland.com/events/) for all the details.

skiloveland.com

Photos courtesy Loveland Ski Area

Cover photo courtesy Loveland Ski Area

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