The Pines Lodge is tucked comfortably into the snow bed that is Colorado ski country. Guests can enjoy nearby access to superior slopes, as well as eclectic dining, shopping, entertainment, and recreation options. Each room offers rustic charm and modern conveniences, putting guests squarely into the middle of a Venn diagram of comfort. Skiers can suit up for a full day in the cold outdoors by using the in-room boot warmer and iPod charging dock. Those preferring to stay indoors can snuggle into a fuzzy robe and strap on cyber skis to slalom through a high-speed Internet connection. For a happy medium, guests can enjoy the great outdoors without risking frost-nipped fingers in the resort's heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi.
The Ice Castles’ creator, Brent Christensen, and a team of ice artists are currently transforming more than 15,000 tons of ice into full-fledged castles in three locations. Once completed, the towering structures of ice and shimmering light are open for exploration. Guests are free to view the organically grown ice towers, tunnels, caves and caverns at their own pace. In daytime, the castles glimmer in the sun; come nightfall, thousands of LED lights create an ethereal glow from within.
Today, the castles delights visitors of all ages, but the idea came from Brent Christensen’s winter playtimes with his kids. They had already made ice rinks, ice caves, and other chilly creations when Brent decided to build a fort entirely out of ice, using icicles as the base structure. The kids dubbed the structure an “ice castle”—and it started to look more and more like one as Brent added a cave, tunnels, and a slide that spilled onto an ice-skating rink. Eventually, cars started detouring to their block to drive past the creation, and local snowmen inquired about home prices. But the idea truly took off when a local resort asked him to build a larger ice castle for them. He’s built ice castles every winter since, including one in the winter of 2010–2011 that was featured in the Denver Post and called “a frosty, fairy-tale-like landscape” by the Los Angeles Times.
Breckenridge Bikebus's eponymous vehicle is, according to owner Curt Cavnar, the "Porsche" of its unique kind of transportation. Consisting of two rows of bar stools equipped with bike pedals, the custom-built craft combines the fun of a party bus with the easygoing workout of a tandem bicycle. Some partiers can sit back and enjoy the ride as 10 others sit at the bar and provide pedal power, with a staff driver manning the wheel to steer clear of oncoming paper boys. A canopy keeps passengers shaded while they sip beverages and listen to tunes on an iPod-ready Alpine sound system. Should the sun go down during trips, the bikebus's lighting system kicks on, making it easy to continue through black holes unencumbered.
The engine traces a path along evergreen-studded slopes and the walls of Clear Creek Canyon. It trundles over iron bridges slung across deep ravines and past the remains of gold and silver mines that pepper the Georgetown Loop Railroad. This mainstay winds along roughly the same 3.5-mile corkscrew route between Georgetown and Silver Plume that it has since 1884, spanning rocky terrain and reaching elevations of up to 9,128 feet. Today, the railroad's historic 1920s steam engine and two 1940s-era diesel locomotives fulfill the same role they've always performed: ferrying passengers through the mountains.
In antique rail cars, passengers embark on seasonal rides through the great outdoors, glimpsing wildlife such as bighorn sheep and mule deer. They cross four bridges, including the Devil’s Gate High Bridge, and pull into historic train stations to ensure the conductor hasn’t been carried off by a gang of bald eagles. In winter, the staff sets the train aglow with festive lights and decorations, and during the summer, passengers can disembark for guided walking tours of the Lebanon silver mine, originally bored in the 1870s.
Paddles slice through churning waters, keeping rafts on their course down Clear Creek as it cuts through the Denver Mountain Parks . At the base of the red crags of Gore Canyon, the white-capped water of the Colorado River foretells rafters’ trips through daunting class IV and V rapids. Elsewhere, guests make like protoplasmic coat hangers as they zipline over the scenery of Idaho Springs.
But rafting trips and zipline tours are just the beginning. Arkansas Valley Adventures leads all kinds of expeditions through Colorado’s mountains and valleys, tossing in ATVs, hot air balloons, helicopters, horses, and fishing rods with the paddles and ziplines. While flying down the Eagle River explorers will have plenty of chances to get in touch with their rugged side and ask ancient rock faces whether the paleo diet is an apt reflection of the habits of early humans.
Nostalgia Ballooning puts heads in the clouds, accompanied by licensed pilots soaring giant, kaleidoscopically colored hot air balloons. Packages include private and group voyages over mountainous landscapes and include memorable touches such as champagne toasts. For those left enthralled with the skies, Nostalgia Ballooning also offers introductory piloting lessons, prepping the airborne for a life amid the birds.