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Beaches have their appeal in the summer, but when the cold weather rolls around there’s no place in America like Colorado.
Dominated by the majestic Rocky Mountains, the Centennial State is dotted with towns and villages plucked straight from a romance novel—rich with history and natural beauty, but with all the modern amenities that upscale tourists expect.
If you love to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, snowmobile, ice-camp, or just enjoy a hot beverage by a crackling fire and admire snow-capped peaks out your lodge window, Colorado should be at the top of your travel bucket list as the holidays roll around. Here are the nine mountain towns in Colorado to visit this winter.
A ride up the historic narrow-gauge railroad from Durango to Silverton is like a locomotive back in time—to a preserved Old West mining town, a registered National Historic Landmark, where the past blends effortlessly with the present.
The train station alone takes your breath away, but Silverton is just getting started. A hop, skip and a jump away is the Weminuche Wilderness, which gets blanketed with snow in the brisk season and explodes with opportunities for winter activities like sledding, cross-country skiing, and ice climbing.
On the other end of the Million Dollar Highway from Silverton, there’s a reason Ouray has earned the moniker “the Switzerland of America.” Ouray would lead the pack if Colorado were to hold a beauty contest. The San Juan Mountains soar above a picturesque village of Victorian houses and church steeples, the streets lined with deep green conifers.
In addition to hiking, ice climbing, and cross-country skiing, Ouray also boasts geothermal hot springs that have been channeled into ritzy mineral pools, perfect for those winter days when you want to throw on a bathing suit and take a hot plunge into a steamy pool with a view of snow-capped peaks.
Aspen is world-famous for a reason. Tucked into White River National Forest, this resort town is a playground for the rich and famous, a wonderland of ritzy ski lodges and five-star restaurants in the shadow of the Elk Mountains.
It’s not just the ski slopes that make Aspen famous—it’s the patrician ski culture that makes Aspen one of the centers of the winter-sports world.
You don’t have to be rich and famous to fall in love with Aspen in the winter, though. Anyone can enjoy the plush, manicured surroundings and excursions into the historic downtown. For those who love the finer things in life, Aspen delivers the goods.
Another world-famous ski resort town, Breckenridge also features one of the most extensive and spectacular historic Main Streets in Colorado, exquisitely preserved from its founding as a Nineteenth-Century mining town.
Now that epic powder, runs, and bowls have taken over as Breckenridge’s claim to fame, that Main Street has been repurposed into boutique shops and fine dining. At Christmastime, Main Street comes to life with one of the most sumptuous displays of colored lights and icicles in the country.
If you want to go higher, it’s hard to get higher than Leadville—the highest-altitude incorporated city in the United States, perched over 10,000 feet above sea level. A more down-to-earth winter town than Breckenridge or Aspen, Leadville offers easy access to acres of national forests to enjoy snow hiking or cross-country skiing.
In town, Leadville boasts a richly-preserved mining heritage, with eight museums. You can also discover art galleries and hearty restaurants to fuel up for a refreshing day in the clear, high-altitude mountain air.
For quaint preserved history with mountains looming close at hand, it’s hard to beat Creede, perched in the basin of a volcanic caldera. The craggy igneous cliffs rising above this historic silver-mining town makes the terrain seem other-worldly—a fantastical setting for down-home mountain living, with boutique restaurants and galleries built into Nineteenth-Century buildings.
Creede is home to the Underground Mining Museum, as well as the nationally-famous Creede Repertory Theater. It’s also the starting point of the Bachelor Loop, a road that takes you past several Colorado Mountain ghost towns, relics of the region’s rich mining past.
Surrounded on three sides by soaring 14,000-foot cliffs, Telluride may be the perfect mountain ski resort town, the ideal mix of upscale and down-to-earth, bursting with activity year-round including numerous world-class music and film festivals.
The preserved historic Old West districts provide numerous opportunities to get blissfully lost, discovering cafes and galleries perfect for warming your bones in the brisk chill.
Couched in a box canyon within the San Juan Mountains, Telluride boasts an embarrassment of riches for winter sports enthusiasts—some of the best skiing and snowboarding slopes in the world. A ride up the ski slopes will make it clear why Telluride has earned a reputation as one of the most beautiful towns in America.
Most famous for its fall colors, Crested Butte is a go-to place of pilgrimage for skiers and snowboarders seeking to avoid the glitz and distractions of Aspen.
Blanketed by pristine white, Crested Butte is a winter wonderland and home to some of the most epic runs in the Elk Mountains.
After a day on the slopes, you can relax into surroundings bursting with historic and small-town charm, leisurely sipping a hot beverage at a restaurant or BnB built into an Old West building while the wind howls outside with the promise of fresh powder in the morning.
Like Disneyland in the Mountains, Vail feels like it has been manufactured for your pleasure. Instead of historic Victorian mining-town architecture, a trip to Vail is a trip to the present, with rich, contemporary infrastructure constructed to resemble a modern version of an Austrian chalet.
This elite resort town is packed to the brim with bougie dining and shopping, including some of the best restaurants in Colorado. The people who make Vail their destination of choice definitely appreciate the finer things in life—including the adrenaline rush to be found on some of the most hair-raising ski slopes in the Rockies.