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Denver morning snow
Welcome to Denver!

For our second trip of 2014 we decided on a long weekend in Colorado. Travis had a Thursday/Friday conference in Denver, so I tagged along for a fun Colorado exploration weekend.

We decided to let the weather dictate our plan for this trip. Clear weather would bring exploration of nature and mountains. Party cloudy, also explorations. Snowstorms… perhaps we would hole up in a ski resort and drink hot chocolate for two days straight.

As we left Denver, we decided to drive out to the ski towns. We were considering Breckenridge or Vail, but Aspen wasn’t completely out of the picture because of the Maroon Bells (pretty peaks).

We decided fairly early we could make it to Aspen, though we took a car break in Vail and found the town quaint and lovely. As we resumed our journey past Vail, I finally started my last-minute car research and realized that the Maroon Bells are inaccessible in winter without snowmobiles, skiis or snowshoes, none of which sounded like realistic options.

We quickly scrapped Aspen and found a decent one-night rate at a ski resort in Vail. We explored Lionshead (the other village in Vail), found some pizza, found some hot chocolate, and got some nice sleep.


Vail View
View from our hotel window in Vail.

The next morning we rode up the gondolas in Vail to check out the top of the mountains. Travis commented that he’d like to go back there and ski sometime (he used to ski as a child). I, myself, have never skied, and I can only imagine I’d wipe out spectacularly.

Vail Gondola
View of Vail Village from the gondola. I could fall down that.
Vail Gondola

We played the Vail free parking game (first 2 hours are free, then it jumps to $15) by parking at one gondola station then moving the car to the other station.

We found the top of the Lionshead gondola to be more scenic than the Vail Village gondola, though this may have been because they actually had some scenic viewpoints marked off for non-skiiers.

Vail View
View from the top of the Lionshead gondolas

After our Vail sightseeing, we decided we’d go head over to Rocky Mountain National Park and check out the mountains we couldn’t see three years ago.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Unlike three years ago, this time the weather was clear.
Rocky Mountain River
But it was just as cold.

We’ll have to revisit Rocky Mountains National Park in Spring or Summer eventually, since most of the park roads are closed and everything pictured here is along the main entry road.

I had a conflict with sunrise… I knew the sun would hit these mountains (below), but there were some other mountains with more interesting clouds. We ended up driving back and forth in the few minutes before sunrise trying to make a decision on which would be better, but eventually we ended up back at the original choice (the others were a little too cloudy).

Rocky Mountain National Park
Morning sunrise glow in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
River leading into the mountains at sunrise.
Rocky Mountain Elk
And, of course, the elk in Rocky Mountain National Park


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