Six Colorado Places That Could Become Outside Mag's Best Town in America

The folks at Outside magazine love Colorado.

One example: Of the 100 best places in America to work list for 2014, 28 of them were here.

It's no surprise, then, that six Colorado places are in the running to be named Outside's Best Town in America.

In this case, however, Outside readers will be making the final selection via online voting. The staff has come up with 64 finalists that have been placed in a bracket, March Madness-style, with head-to-head competitions in four categories: Mountain, Culture, River and Beach.

We feel pretty good about Colorado's chances in the first three categories, at least.

The voting is already underway and will continue until May 20, with the winner set to be announced on May 27.

Below, we've highlighted the six Colorado picks, complete with Outside text and their head-to-head match-ups where applicable. Check them out below — and to cast your vote, click here.

Aspen, CO

Population: 6,805
House Price: $443,500

Aspen is much more than a ski town: Institutions like the Aspen Art Museum (in its stunning new Shigeru Ban–designed building) and annual events like the Ideas Fest and the Food and Wine Classic make it a year-round cultural destination. And while living here is far from cheap, the Aspen Housing Authority is making a good-faith effort to keep the town accessible to non-oligarchs.

Head-to-head competition: Culture versus Taos, NM

Denver, CO

Population: 663,862
House Price: $257,500

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to this urban mecca that’s framed by the Rockies. Denver is home to a spectrum of breweries, yoga studios, and health food stores, but its proximity to some of the best climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and skiing spots in the country make for easy outdoor escapes.

Durango, CO

Population: 17,834
House Price: $357,600

Favorably positioned on the Animas River just south of the San Juan subrange of the Rockies, Durango is the rare Colorado mountain town still largely populated by locals, who get their rocks off on powder days at Purgatory, plunging down the Class V sections of the upper Animas, and casting on the supertechnical Florida River.

Head-to-head competition: Mountains versus Waterbury, VT

Continue to see three more Colorado competitors in Outside's Best Town in America contest.

Gunnison, CO

Population: 5,973
House Price: $216,600

It’s all about proximity in Gunnison, a classic western town. The namesake river offers paddling, rafting, and fishing right in town. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is just an hour west. Crested Butte and Monarch are an hour north and east, respectively. And Five B’s Bar-B-Q is the perfect fuel, no matter where you’re headed.

Head-to-head competition: River versus Portland, OR

Salida, CO

Population: 5,406
House Price: $240,700

This former railroad outpost on the Arkansas River is host to the oldest whitewater festival in the country and has become a stopover for music festivals during the summer, hosting bands like Mumford and Sons and the Flaming Lips. Locals ride the Monarch Crest, an IMBA Epic, and ski offerings during winter are almost unlimited. There’s a reason they call Salida the Heart of the Rockies.

Head-to-head competition: River versus Bend, OR

Steamboat Springs, CO

Population: 12,260
House Price: $450,400

Playing outside is the foundation of Steamboat Springs, home to one of the best ski hills anywhere in winter and, once it warms up, endless trout fishing and mountain bike trails. That’s why outdoor industry heavy hitters like Big Agnes and Moots have made this town home.

Head-to-head competition: Mountains versus Bishop, CA

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts