This year we decided to take a break from our perpetual quest for 70-degree weather and ring in the new year with some winter fun in Colorado. While it is certainly easier to live in the RV with the mercury well above the freezing point, we weren’t going to let single digits keep us from a little arctic fun in our old stomping grounds. So, after a wonderful holiday season spent with family in Oklahoma, we pointed our View westward and headed off into the sunset.
Our first destination was Glenwood Springs, and we arrived in the Rockies just as Mother Nature decided to blanket the mountains in a fresh coat of snow. While the last few miles over Vail pass were somewhat precarious in our RV/trailer combo, we arrived at the Grizzly rest area parking lot and spent New Year’s Eve nestled in the warmth of our View catching up with an old friend: playing guitars, laughing and swapping stories into the wee hours as the snow steadily accumulated outside.
A Slushy New Year’s Paddle on the Colorado River
The next morning, we awoke to single-digit temperatures and thought that perhaps the new snowfall and extreme cold might limit the number of kayakers making the pilgrimage to our annual New Year’s Day Paddle on the Colorado River. But as the morning passed, the parking lot steadily filled with scores of kayaks and rafts preparing to launch.
While I decided that a balmy 13ºF was well below my temperature threshold to kayak, at high noon over 100 hearty souls joined Peter and Abby and slipped into the slushy water, then disappeared down the canyon leaving only the echo of laughter bouncing off the canyon walls.
They emerged a mile and a half downstream completely encapsulated in a thick glaze of ice. We headed to the Iron Mountain hot springs to help thaw the frozen paddlers and then on to a celebratory New Year’s fiesta at our favorite local Mexican restaurant.
Classic Winter Fun on Monarch Mountain
A trip to Colorado in the winter wouldn’t be complete without a few days on the slopes, so we put away our paddles, pulled out the skis, and headed to Monarch Mountain, just outside of Salida. Monarch is one of the few ski areas in the Rockies that we hadn’t yet experienced, and all I can say is wow, what a hidden gem! It’s small, affordable, and unblemished by commercialism. What it lacked in glitz and glam that frequently plagues the mega-resorts, it more than made up for it with rippin’ terrain, great food and incredible people.
Two days at Monarch was not nearly enough, and we will definitely be back for more of this classic Colorado ski experience.
Ice Climbing in Ouray
Next on the docket was Ouray, or as we like to think of it, the Switzerland of the Rockies. The small town of Ouray is nestled deep in a valley, surrounded by steep and rugged peaks. The Ouray RV Park and Cabins served as our base camp during our stay. Our friends stayed in a cabin adjacent to our RV site giving us a fabulous gathering place in the evenings for movies and games. But it is the box canyon that lies just above town that had our attention for most of our trip. This mountain hamlet has cultivated something pretty extraordinary within walking distance of the quaint Victorian downtown.
We geared up, and carefully stepped onto the trail of the frozen mecca. We continued down the trail, with sounds of climbers reverberating up from the bottom on the void. As we dropped into the canyon, we finally caught a glimpse of the entirety of our objective: a seventy-five-foot rock face draped in slurpee-blue ice.
Peter is the first up the wall, carefully picking his way up ice curtain. The rest of us follow in turn and I am surprised by how quickly I slip back into the familiar rhythm of ice climbing after a five-year hiatus.
The rest of the week flies by in a blur of ice climbing and cross-country skiing, and before we know it, it is time to head south again, back to the wintering grounds of Georgia, where the weather is mild, and the rivers are flowing. Until next time Colorado…