This story is the second in a two-part series about Colorado. You can find the first part here.
I’ve always imagined cowboys came from Colorado, so I was delighted to meet Ray from Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch near the tiny town of Clark.
Ray has resided in the Yampa Valley for six generations, and is as real a cowboy you could ever hope to meet.
He wore a full-length tan-coloured leather coat, weathered cowboy hat, and a great big smile. He had a warm personality, cheeky spirit, and a lifetime of stories spanning his 76 years. An ardent skier, Ray was on the US ski jumping team at the 1960 Olympics, and ski racing coach for 40 years. These days you’ll find him on backcountry hills every Sunday, indulging in his two passions — hilltops and horses.
Our guided horseback ride ventured into the forested hillside framed by snow-covered aspen trees, through a dazzling wintry landscape with views of distant mountain vistas. My horse Razzie was a great sport, allowing me to take pictures with both hands on the camera and off the saddle. She could have thrown me off easily, so I’m glad we got along.
Cross-country skiing is also popular in Colorado, and the brand new Haymaker Nordic Centre just opened outside of Steamboat Springs. They have equipment rentals, a cozy lodge with bar and grill, and eight kilometres of impeccably groomed classic and skate skiing trail over gently rolling terrain ideal for beginners and intermediates.
The best way to warm up after a cold day outside is with a hot dip. The Yampa Valley contains several geothermal sites, including Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Surrounded by natural rock and dense forest, it has two mineral water pools to soak in, and at night, amazing stargazing to soak up.
Then it was on to Copper Mountain, 120 kilometres west of Denver, and one of the region’s largest ski resorts. The elevation is 2,926 metres at base and 3,767 metres at summit, making it the highest mountain I’ve ever visited. However, this mattered not, because I wasn’t going anywhere near the top. My Everest to conquer was the lowest run possible.
Copper Mountain’s progressive terrain naturally increases in difficulty from east to west. So I naturally headed to the easternmost chair lift, and the run called Roundabout. This was perfect training ground, as the slope varied between almost flat to gentle grade. It allowed me to start toying with speed, yet still level out easy enough if the world started moving too fast. I made it down seven times, each run a little faster and more confident than the previous, before safely declaring my skiing adventure a success. Whew!
Copper Village has many things to try, like mini donuts covered in peanut butter and chocolate, outdoor ice skating, zip lining, snowshoeing, four tubing runs — which are way more fun that you’d think — and quite possibly the coolest indoor playground on the planet.
Woodward at Copper is a training facility with jumps into foam pits, skate bowls, riding ramps, spring floor, and trampolines. It’s paradise for every 15-year-old with a BMX bike or skateboard, or every 20-year-old with an athletic goal.
It was here this 40-something-year-old quite possibly discovered a new talent, after finding it absolutely exhilarating bouncing higher and higher on the trampolines, doing seat drops, and channeling her inner Olympian.
And even though at this age, Olympic hopes have long since faded away, still, an old girl can dream.
RoseAnna Schick is an avid traveller who seeks inspiration wherever she goes. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.