By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
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By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
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By Melanie Asmar
Drink locally: "When you're ready to get out of Vail for a bit, it's definitely worth the ten-mile trek to Edwards to visit the Gore Range Brewery," Schroeppel says. "We don't distribute outside the brewery, so it's your only chance to try our beers. We also have an extensive gluten-free menu and some great food." Start with the $6.50 sampler to try any four beers on the menu, and ask for seasonal specialties like Farmhouse Ale and the new Scottish Ale, aged in bourbon barrels from the Breckenridge Distillery.
WINTER PARK RESORT
"Between Winter Park and Mary Jane, you've got everything from magic carpet rides for first-timers to a full terrain-park system, huge moguls, great trees, and even access to gates to drop into National Forest sidecountry that will leave you hitchhiking your way back to the chairlifts," says snowboarder Gary Zehner, bartender at the Library Sports Grille & Brewery in Winter Park.
This season, the resort is also offering a new snowcat ride called the Cirque Sled that will get people out to the Cirque terrain; it's selling unlimited passes for just $10, he adds. "If you've ever made the hike to the Cirque, you're going to be real stoked to catch the ride." Winter Park opens on November 13.
Splurge: The Powder Addiction snowcat tours on Jones Pass start at $300 per person in the low season and $400 per person during the peak season (January 5-March 7). "For lodging, there's actually pretty competitive pricing at the resort and in town, but if you're looking to step it up, I'd do a little bit of legwork to get into a nice condo or a vacation rental, because there are a lot of great properties around town," Zehner says. "I also really like Devil's Thumb Ranch, which is a bit outside of town but has great private cabins and some excellent fine-dining options."
Ski bum tips: "Couchsurfer.com is your new best friend," Zehner says. "We also have a Best Western that's competitively priced and some really small ten-room motels, chalets and bed-and-breakfast type places that are always running specials. The Rocky Mountain Chalet in Fraser is another great option. For food, we have great pub fare here at the Library, with almost everything on the menu hovering around that $10 mark, and you'll find happy-hour deals at every restaurant in town. I should also mention the Da Vinci Italian Restaurant, because they have a reverse happy hour from 10 p.m. 'til midnight. A lot of visitors are surprised to find that it's the only place in town to get food after 10."
Drink locally: The Library is an outpost of the brewery by the same name in Laramie, Wyoming, and brews all of its beers in-house. "We're currently the only brewery in the area," Zehner says. "We have happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m., with $1.50 well drinks, $1 off our craft beers, 10 percent off appetizers, and daily specials. And we sell growlers for $12 or $18 depending on the beer, so you can take them back to the condo and keep the party going after last call or take a souvenir with you."
WOLF CREEK SKI AREA
"Let's just say I had to buy some wider sticks when I got here," jokes Jason Cox, co-owner of Riff Raff Brewing, which opened in Pagosa Springs in May. "Wolf Creek is a powder mountain and legitimately gets over 400 inches of snow a year. I used to live on the Front Range, and I'd see the snow reports and think 'No way,' but it's the real deal. Powder's definitely the number-one draw here."
Wolf Creek, which opens on November 9, replaced its Treasure Lift over the summer with a new high-speed quad, now known as Treasure Stoke. "That's one of the main lifts there, and I think it's going to make a big difference in getting people up the mountain faster to get to that powder," Cox says.
Splurge: The Springs Resort "is famous, and if you've never been, that's definitely where you should stay, because you'll get 24-hour access to the hot springs to soak your bones after playing in the snow all day," Cox says. "Dining-wise, I'd recommend the Alley House Grille, and for some other great splurge activities, visit the Wyndham Activity Center. You can book snowmobile tours there or even a hot-air balloon trip. Those are popular around here, and you'll be surprised to find they run them year-round, weather permitting. It's a great way to really appreciate the scenery here in the San Juan mountain range."
Ski bum tips: "I'd recommend trying the Hippie Dip, which is right below the downtown bridge on Hot Springs Boulevard," Cox says. "The same hot springs water from the Springs Resort comes down the river, and it's free to jump in. If you get too hot, you can always jump in the 35-degree water in the river!" For budget lodging, Cox recommends First Inn, the San Juan Motel or the Pinewood Inn. "For cheap eats, I like Kip's Grill, Boss Hogg's, and the River Sports Bar & Grill."
Drink locally: Riff Raff opened on Memorial Day in a historic Victorian building downtown. "We usually have seven to ten of our own handcrafted beers, plus a couple others on our twelve taps, as well as wine and a full food menu." Try seasonal brews like the Weapon of Self Destruction (a Russian imperial stout) or the Scotch Ale. "Those are a couple of big, burly beers to warm you back up at the end of the day," Cox says. "And check out Pagosa Brewing & Grill, too, because those guys do really nice work, have a large menu, and have won a bunch of awards for their beers."