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6 Tips for Winter Hiking in Boulder

For lack of a better pun, it’s safe to say that Boulder’s winters tend to be bi-polar affairs. Because Boulder sits at a relatively low elevation at 5,400 ft., it’s not unusual to get 50 degree days in January — though there are a few weeks every year where the temps drop below zero for days on end. The few snowstorms that come through the city each year are a treat, but normal winter weather offers clear, cool days that are amenable to hiking. Here are a few things worth knowing before hitting the trails.

1 – Microspikes and Hiking Poles Are Great Ideas
Boulder’s daily highs in January in February average around 40 degrees while daily lows settle in around 20 degrees — ideal for melt and freeze cycles. Add to that an active community that creates enough traffic to compact snow on the trails and you have the perfect formula for hard, icy terrain, especially in shady sections on the mountain. Microspikes fit over most shoes and provide enough bite to maintain traction (crampons would be overkill). Likewise, hiking poles are especially good for slick descents, even on modest mountain hikes like Mount Sanitas (which has a notoriously slippery northeast facing trail).

2 – Layering is Everything
Boulder’s trails start at around 5,500 ft. and climb as high as 8,500 ft. — and that 3,000 foot vertical difference often brings quite a change in the weather. Temps can be 20 degrees cooler over 8,000 ft. and persistent winter winds add to the chill. It’s important not to overdress on lower trails and get too hot — the higher you go, the colder that sweat is going to make you. Baselayers and light jackets are good for lower elevations, but it’s a good idea to bring along a few warmer layers if you’re headed up (the one layer people seem to forget are warm gloves).

Anemone Trail Boulder
The Anemone Trail on a bright winter's day.

James Dziezynski

3 – Wild Animals Are Still Active
Boulder’s big boys — mountain lions, black bears and coyotes — remain active throughout the winter. With less human traffic in their territories, encounters tend to be a little more common in the cold months. The bear population never goes into true hibernation, rather they experience a state of torpor, which is like light hibernation. The upshot being bears tend to stay in their dens in cold weather but may wake up on warmer days. Bear bells are a good idea (for you and your dogs) to alert wildlife you are coming.

4 – Snowshoeing is a Rare Treat
As great as Boulder would be for snowshoeing, there is rarely enough snow to be worth gearing up. However, in the case of heavy snow, many of Boulder’s local trails are a blast to snowshoe. Boulder Valley Ranch, Marshall Mesa, the Mesa Trail and Dowdy Draw are all fun to explore when there’s enough powder to warrant snowshoes. Walker Ranch, which sits above the city of Boulder at roughly 7,500 ft. is especially fun on a snowy day.

5 – Gear Up Your Dogs, Too
The major problem for dogs will be keeping their paws free of ice and snow. Dog booties are a nice option — if your pup will tolerate them. Consider using paw wax to help prevent ice balls from building up. Most dogs will be ok with the colder air but if you have a short-haired dog (or an older trail veteran), a light jacket will help keep them cozy. Make sure to bring water and snacks for them, since many of the go-to water sources may be frozen. Collar bells are a good idea to alert wildlife and keep your dogs from chasing the locals.

Mount Sanitas Boulder Snowman
Snowman on the stormy summit of Mount Sanitas.

James Dziezynski

6 – You Can Still Get Sunburn
It’s easy to forget to use sunblock on cold days (especially when you leave your bottle of sunblock in the freezing car, brrr!). But even on overcast days, the sun is still contributing plenty of UV rays to planet Earth. When there’s snow on the ground, that UV power is radiated upwards. Sunblock and sunglasses are important year-round accessories in Colorado and winter is no different. The higher you go, the more intense the sun will be, so be prepared.

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by James Dziezynski

Quandary Peak – Your First Winter 14er

Standing at 14,265 feet, Quandary Peak is Colorado’s 13th highest mountain and the highest summit in the Tenmile Range. Many hikers choose Quandary Peak as their inaugural 14er thanks to the accommodating east ridge. This broad, natural ramp provides a gradual hiking route that is 3.3 miles to the summit (6.7 miles round trip). The modest terrain coupled with easy trailhead access make this one of the most crowded summer mountain destinations in Colorado.

Come winter, there’s a very good chance the only ones on the peak will be you and the local mountain goats. Quandary Peak reverts to a place of pristine beauty, a state rarely experienced in the busy summer months. As far as the 14ers go, it is the easiest and safest winter summit – which isn’t to say it’s going to be easy or entirely safe. But the minimized risk, good winter access and the fact it is hiked enough on a regular basis to establish a winter trail makes it a good peak to aim for as your first winter 14er.

Training For Quandary

Winter mountain hiking requires more vigilance than summer outings. All the same warm weather best practices apply: adequate hydration, altitude acclimatization, weather awareness, physical fitness, knowledge of the route, and proper clothing. Winter tacks on increased severity in weather conditions, avalanche potential, reflected sunlight exposure from snow, and the challenge of keeping your hydration methods from freezing. To put it bluntly, it’s going to be more work — but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun. The reward of a blazing blue horizon atop the highest snow-capped mountain in the area is worth the extra effort.

Chances are that most people will have already hiked some of Colorado’s mountains in the warm weather months — this is a great start. The physical effort for a winter hike of Quandary is going to be slightly more taxing than a summer ascent but the real work comes in preparation for winter conditions.

To get a taste for winter conditions, especially those above treeline, several ski areas offer uphill access outside of normal operating hours. The best of these near the Front Range is Arapahoe Basin, which offers uphill access most days, barring severe avalanche conditions. Not only do you get a feel for your layers and exertion levels, there’s a “bonus” of getting an alpine start (A-basin opens to uphill traffic at 5:45 a.m. and access is allowed again after the slopes close, around 4:30 p.m.). Off resort, hiking the ridgelines to the east from the summit of Loveland Pass climb up over 13,000 ft. and mostly avoids avalanche terrain.

Which leads us to the other big difference in winter versus summer: avalanche potential. Proper avalanche gear (beacon, probe, shovel) and the knowledge to use them are vital for winter safety. While Quandary Peak’s east ridge has low avalanche potential, it’s important to realize that this does not mean “no avalanche potential”. Take a class before on avalanche safety before you. Friends of Berthoud Pass has excellent intro classes for free and highly recommended classes beyond. The Colorado Avalanche Forecast is essential information before heading out — and it changes daily, so check in regularly.

And for a final recommendation, it’s great to get in your first winter 14er with more experienced hikers. forums are a great place to meet up with others interested in winter ascents. Additionally, the Quandary Peak information page has excellent trip reports, current conditions and details on the east ridge route.

Your goal: the summit of 14,265 ft. Quandary Peak.

Wendy Cranford

The Day of the Hike

Get an early start – sunrise or earlier is best, given how briefly winter sunlight can shine. Be sure to check the weather and avalanche forecasts before you head out. Experienced backcountry skiers can make great time by skinning up and skiing down, though be aware that Quandary is often wind-scoured above treeline, making a continuous ski descent difficult.

The critical thing to be aware of is that mistakes in winter conditions are amplified. A forgotten water bottle, poor layering or improper eye protection can all speed the onset of debilitating conditions such as hypothermia, dehydration and snow blindness. Here’s a quick rundown of the typical gear used for a winter ascent on Quandary:

  • Warm, wicking (non-cotton) layers

  • Windproof, waterproof jacket and pants

  • Warm boots

  • Extra gloves, extra hat, balaclava, ski goggles, neck gaiter

  • Hand and foot warmers

  • Avalanche gear (beacon, probe, shovel)

  • Insulated water bottles (smaller 16 oz water bottles can be stored in jacket pockets)

  • Maps / GPS (note that cold weather causes GPS units to wear out quickly)

  • Headlamp with extra batteries (lithium batteries are suggested for cold weather conditions)

  • Ski poles

  • Adequate food and snacks

  • First Aid kit

  • Snowshoes

Best Time to Go

Typically, December – February are cold, dry months in Colorado. It’s often chilly and clear. During periods of snow stabilization (low winds, no storms) these months can be a great time to hike Quandary, though the sun goes down earlier in the day (usually around 4:30 p.m.). Start early and make sure your headlamps can handle a few hours of lighting the way.

February – March (the official end of winter) offer more sunlight and warmer temps than early winter, but often have more snow and elevated avalanche danger. Look for a series of stable days. Don’t be surprised if the sun gets warm enough to hike in a t-shirt but be prepared for the temps to drop like a rock come nightfall (or even cloud cover).

A typical winter hike of Quandary Peak takes between 5 – 7 hours for a fit climber. The round trip mileage is 6.7 miles – though the descents can be made quicker by plunge stepping snowy slopes or skiing down.

Avoid hiking or skiing Quandary Peak when avalanche conditions are high any time of year (which can be autumn, winter or spring).

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Andrew Davidoff

10 Things to Know Before Planning a Trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is home to the tallest dunes in North America, topping out at around 755 feet. These ever-shifting hills and mounds sit west of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, creating a mind-boggling, desert-like landscape surrounded by 14,000-foot snow-capped peaks. Compared to most of Colorado’s mountains, the Sangres are extremely rugged, due to the earth’s sudden upheaval that created their relief. The landscape here is one of the most stunning scenes in the entire country.

The dunes are also surrounded by a variety of environments, including grasslands, wetlands, aspen forests, and alpine lakes. Nearby, a grove of 200 ponderosa pine trees, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was historically peeled by indigenous tribes for food and medicine.

From the best ways to explore the dunes to where to stay when visiting the area, here are 10 things you should keep in mind to make the most of your trip.

1. There Are Many Ways to Play

There are more things to do at the dunes than you might expect. Medano Creek, a popular stream for tubing and beachside activities, curves through the edge of the dunes in the late spring and early summer. Minimal light pollution allows for a clear dark sky, which is ideal for stargazing and nighttime photography. These sand slopes are the perfect spot for sandboarding and sand sledding, as well as hiking or even backpacking. East of Great Sand Dunes National Park is more public land—Great Sand Dunes National Preserve, Rio Grande National Forest, and BLM land—where there are more trails for hiking and backpacking.

Grab a sandboard and hit the slopes.

Great Sand Dunes National Park/Joseph Tumidalsky

2. Come Prepared for All Kinds of Weather

The summer season delivers temperatures in the range of 45 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit from day to night. If you’re thinking of hitting the dunes during the warmer months, keep in mind that while the air temp. might not be that bad, the sand can skyrocket to 150 degrees and afternoon thunderstorms can roll in, so plan to spend time on the sand in the early morning. (If you see lightning, get off the dunes as quickly as possible!)

Winter temperatures can drop below 10 degrees and reach highs near 45 degrees. If you visit during spring, be prepared for possible high winds in the afternoon. The months of March and April deliver the most snow of the year, so pack for any type of weather conditions during the spring.

3. A Few Essentials Will Make You More Comfortable

To ensure that you’re safe and comfortable during your trip, be sure to pack the proper gear and clothes. Grab your bathing suit for those warm summer days and splashing around in the Medano Creek. Bring a hat, gloves, wool socks, and a warm jacket for the night year round, because temperatures can drop. For sun and sand protection, pack a sun hat, sun gloves, sunglasses, long-sleeve shirt with UPF sun protection, and a bandana or lightweight face and neck cover like a Buff or Discrete neck buff. Consider packing earplugs to keep sand out of your ears when it gets windy. And don’t forget your camera and tripod!

4. There are Plenty of Nearby Lodging Options

If the kids are exhausted or the weather hits the fan, a hotel is a great alternative. Options in Alamosa range from the Sunset Inn to Fairfield Inn & Suites Alamosa. Monte Vista also offers overnight options, including the Movie Manor Motel—a Best Western attached to a historic drive-in movie theatre—and the Mansion Bed & Breakfast. A tad further west in Del Norte, you can choose a higher-end experience at The Windsor Hotel, or enjoy a more laid-back, budget-friendly choice, the Divide Riders Hostel.

Spend a night under the stars at the Piñon Flats campground.

Great Sand Dunes National Park/Patrick Myers

5. There is Also Great Car Camping and Backpacking

It’s not often that you get the chance to camp among sand dunes. If you enjoy backpacking, pick up a free backcountry permit from the Visitor Center Backcountry Office and travel 1.5 miles from the park entrance to reach a 30-square-mile dune field. (This is one of the most popular places in the park for overnight camping.)

For car camping, travel one mile north of the visitor center to Piñon Flats, a National Park Service campground that has restrooms and a campground store. From the park, you can also travel west to Hooper where Sand Dunes Recreation offers sites for RVs and tent camping. On the northwestern edge of Alamosa, the Alamosa Economy Campground is open year-round and has showers. No matter where you choose to camp or backpack, make sure you pack enough water for hydration, cooking, and cleaning.

6. There Are Plenty of Food Options in Town

Definitely plan ahead and carry prepared food for the sand dunes, or bring a cooler with fresh ingredients to make your meals on site. After your adventures on the dunes, head to Alamosa for a bite. Woody’s Q Shack in serves barbecue, while San Luis Valley Brewing Company offers vegan and pub fare. For coffee, breakfast, and pastries, try Blessed Brews Coffeeshop and Roastery and Milagros Coffee House.

7. Definitely Rent a Sandboard or Sand Sled

There’s a pretty good chance you don’t own your own sandboard or sand sled (snowboards and trash can lids won’t work well here). No problem! Rentals are available at Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa, Great Sand Dunes Oasis in Mosca, and Sand Dunes Recreation in Hooper.

Rent a sandboard or sand sled from a local store or outfitter.

Great Sand Dunes National Park/Patrick Myers

8. Book a Local Guide for a Fishing or Paddling Trip

Why worry yourself with all the logistics? If you want to enjoy some of the best fishing or paddling in the area around the park, hire a guide. The Upper Rio Grande Guide highlights top-notch local outfitters and guide services like South Fork Anglers.

9. You Can Shower at Certain Campgrounds

After a long day outdoors—especially a day spent in the sand—a good shower can be a great relief. The showers at Alamosa Economy Campground are open year-round, and the showers at Sand Dunes Recreation are open 24 hours.

10. The Park is at Altitude

The park is in the mountains where elevation ranges from around 7,500 feet to over 13,000 feet. Even if you are coming from the Front Range, take it easy at first if you haven’t spent much time at higher elevations. If you are coming from sea level, take it even easier, and plan more strenuous activities for later in your trip after you’ve acclimated a bit.

If you get a headache, nausea, or feel more fatigued than normal, you may be experiencing mild altitude sickness. This can usually be prevented by drinking lots of water, but you may also need to take ibuprofen and rest. If you start vomiting, feel confused, have difficulty walking, or your headache doesn’t go away, see a doctor immediately.

A Few More Resources for Trip Planning

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve offers free ranger programs, and the majority of the workshops are offered from late May through October. Some summer evening programs feature documentary films or slideshows, presented on a large screen in the open-air amphitheater.

Check out the BLM Colorado Interactive Map for more information about the public lands in the San Luis Valley, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Visitor Guide for a detailed map of the park’s central use area and helpful tips.

Written by Morgan Tilton for Matcha in partnership with Alamosa CVB and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Great Sand Dunes National Park/Patrick Myers

Green Mountain Boulder – Snowshoeing


Boulder tends to get a few weeks each year where the city has enough powder to use snowshoes right in our own backyards. Luckily, the lofty reaches of 8,144 ft. Green Mountain provide a playground that is suitable for snowy fun throughout the winter — though sometimes a combination of micro-spikes at the bottom of the trail and snowshoes at the top are best. But if there is a big storm, the snowshoeing potential — from bottom to top — is excellent.

What Makes It Great

The standard starting point for winter adventures is the Gregory Canyon Trailhead. As of 2014, the short access road to this trailhead was still damaged from the floods of 2013. Park along the road or at Chautauqua Park for access until it is repaired. It is legal to walk/hike along the closed access road. The best part about hiking Green Mountain is the variety of ways to get to the top. The trails are about 3.2 – 3.5 miles long one way and there are plenty of choices: the steep stairs of the Amphitheater, the gradual grind up Gregory Canyon or the twisty rocks of Saddle Rock. Where these trails merge, the dog friendly Ranger Trail or the hiker-only E.M. Greenman trails will lead to the summit. No matter how you get there, there’s over 2,200 vertical feet to be gained and weather at the top can be quite a bit colder than at the bottom. 

Green Mountain is a treat in the winter. Many aspects of the lower trail still have gashes and damage from the floods; covered in a coat of white snow, they take on new shapes and forms. Spectacular views of the Indian Peaks to the west and Rocky Mountain National Park to the north poke through the trees until coming into full focus near the summit. All the trails alternately climb and flatten out, meaning there are plenty of good spots to catch your breath. And because everything but the summit block is in the trees, you’ll be protected from the icy chill of winter winds. 

Because it is a mountain hike, bring along plenty of warm layers, a headlamp and a warm thermos of tea. Some sections of the trail can get slick when trodden sections ice over and freeze; put those cleats on your snowshoes to good use in these areas!

Who is Going to Love It

Green Mountain is a true winter adventure — without the danger of avalanches, tough access roads or tricky navigation. It’s a great workout with fantastic winter views, so those who want to get a winter mountain fix without leaving town will love Green Mountain.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From the intersection of Highway 36 and West Baseline Road, turn west onto West Baseline Road and follow it a little over a mile to Chautauqua Park. As of 2014, parking is available along the road or at the park. The Gregory Canyon Trailhead was closed but will reopen in the future. To reach the trailhead, walk along the road west to a bend. Gregory Canyon Trailhead is blocked to vehicles but is signed and can be accessed by foot.

Dog regulations vary from trail to trail but they are allowed. Dogs with city of Boulder off-leash program tags are allowed off leash in certain areas. Please consult this map to see what areas are on-leash and off leash.

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Zach Dischner

Loveland Ski Area – Skiing & Snowboarding


Loveland Ski Area is one of Colorado locals' favorite mountains. Only 53 miles away from Denver, Loveland offers a wide range of terrain from beginner to expert, without the headache of a crowded resort. Loveland is one of the first resorts to open every winter and typically one of the last to close, giving it a season from around October thru May.

What Makes It Great

Want more time on the mountain and less time in lift lines? Loveland is for you. Loveland sticks to its roots by providing excellent terrain without theexcesses (and the high prices) of other ski areas. It is the perfect place for those that just simply want to ski and ride. The quaint town of Georgetown is 13 miles away and offers a wide range of lodging and restaurants, so if you want to make a weekend of it, you are certainly able.

There are great shops to rent gear from and reasonable rates on lessons. Loveland even offers childcare for kids 12 months to 12 years old.

Much of Loveland Basin is above tree line and it is easy to get into the backcountry if solitude is your venture. The area is one of Colorado’s highest ski areas with a summit of 13,010' and is the second highest lift served area in North America at 12,697'. Free cat skiing is available off of chair 9—make sure to stop by the season pass office to sign a waiver and get a free ridgecat card in order to ride. The ridgecat typically runs Wednesday thru Sunday (weather permitting) from 10am- 2:30 pm. This terrain is only accessible by foot or cat.

Finally, a great addition to Loveland in the past few years is free access to uphill skinning and snowshoe traffic. You'll need to pick up a free uphill pass from the ski patrol office before heading up and you must stay on the assigned routes, but it's an excellent option for those who want to earn their turns.

Who is Going to Love It

Loveland Valley offers beginner terrain and lessons for those just learning to ski, while Loveland Basin offers everything from easy green runs to tons of accessible expert terrain. High above treeline, the gutsy bowls at 13,000' are perfect for experts who want to go big. There's an excellent mix of intermediate and beginner runs as well—laps off Chair 8 are perfect for those dialing in their skills. One more plus: Loveland is one of the very few ski areas in Colorado with reasonable food and drink prices at their cozy lodge.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Getting to Loveland is easy! From Denver, take I-70 west to Exit 216, just before the Eisenhower tunnel. Turn right off the exit to park at the main ski area (there is also a smaller lot for parking to the left for beginner terrain).

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Dustin Schaefer

Doudy Draw – Fat Biking


Doudy Draw’s network of trails in south Boulder are fun to ride anytime of year but they will do your fat bike proud when there’s snow on the ground. There’s likely to be a mix of snow, ice, dirt and mud — all ingredients that fat, knobby tires will gobble up with delight. With the completion of the Highway 93 underpass in November 2014, it’s now possible to link up Doudy Draw to Marshall Mesa. That means an expansive amount of trails are available — well over 20 miles, not to mention fun loops at Flatirons Vista and Springbrook Trails.

What Makes It Great

The sheer number of trails to connect means your ride can be less than an hour or all day. Connecting Marshall Mesa’s network of eastern trails means you can ride from Boulder all the way to the town of Superior. Taking the Greenbelt Plateau Trail to High Plains also bypasses Boulder’s enormous windfarm — the towering wind turbines are impressive close up. For a quicker loop, zipping around the Springbrook Trail is a fun way to burn some winter calories in a short time.

The vast majority of the trails are a combination of dirt roads and technically simple paths, though there are a few sections that will get you on your toes, specifically on the connecting hill between Doudy Draw and Flatirons Vista and a few shady sections of the Springbrook Trail. Icy patches are par for the course during melt/freeze cycles, so be ready for them during spells of alternating warm and cold weather. No matter what trails you decide to explore, the views are some of the very best in Boulder. From the upper Mesa, views extend from Longs Peak to the north to the city skyline of Denver to the east. Unlike the mountainous trails to the west of town, the terrain is mostly open prairie interspersed with patches of pine forest. On a bluebird clear winter’s day when there’s a fine chill in the air, the white snow and the low-wattage seasonal sun is a true fat biking treat.

Who is Going to Love It

Fat Bikers who are into long, tour-worthy days will love the accessibility and sheer beauty of Boulder’s less rugged trails. There’s a lot of ground to be covered and plenty of looping options. Though it’s a popular trailhead, crowds quickly disperse. And when your ride is done, there’s lots of good food options five minutes down the road in town (Abo’s Pizza is a great post-ride meal).

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From the intersection of Highway 93 and Eldorado Springs Drive (Highway 170), turn west onto Eldorado Springs Drive and follow the road 1.8 miles to the Doudy Draw trailhead on the left (south) side of the road.

Note this is a multiuse trail network, so please yield to hikers, runners and horses.

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by James Dziezynski

Geneva Basin – Backcountry Skiing


Thanks to its proximity to a popular fourteener, the Guanella Pass road is lined with cars all summer, but the fun doesn’t have to end when the winter road closure takes effect each November. The long-closed Geneva Basin Ski Area, situated a few miles south of the Guanella Pass summit, boasts an annual snowfall of 300”—on par with Aspen Highlands and Crested Butte, sans the long commute—and enough high-quality runs to keep skiers entertained all day. Backcountry travelers willing to skin the three-and-a-half miles to the base of the ski area are rewarded with a quiet, off-the-beaten-path experience—even on a sunny Saturday.

What Makes It Great

Like much of Clear Creek County, Geneva Basin Ski Area has a colorful history: it was owned for nearly a decade by former Colorado governor Roy Romer, who once joked that buying a resort was cheaper than lift tickets for his seven children. 

Rumors of a ghost—the spirit of Edward Guanella, son of the pass’ namesake—circulated in the 1970s. When a ski lift collapsed in 1984, the resort closed for good, and nature has taken its course in the intervening decades: an old patrol hut (backcountry skiers often spend the night here) and a couple of tiny storage shacks are the only hints that Geneva Basin saw nearly 25,000 skiers in its last season. The beauty of backcountry skiing at an abandoned ski area—aside from the adrenaline rush of skiing through a Michael Crichton thriller set in wintertime—is the number and variety of runs, each just a few minutes’ skin apart. Newcomers to the backcountry will delight in the wide, gentle slopes near the top of the mountain, opting to ski the old cat track back to the meadow when the trails funnel into steeper tree runs—an expert skier’s dream, especially when there’s no shortage of fresh tracks to be had.

Who is Going to Love It

Thanks to the variety of runs, this tour has something to offer everyone from first-timers to seasoned backcountry veterans. Skiers comfortable on blue or more difficult runs at the resort will enjoy this outing the most; narrow runs, unmarked obstacles, and deep, ungroomed snow could present challenges for more novice skiers. The trade-off for a resort without the crowds is that there’s no one to mitigate avalanche danger for you—it’s up to you to know and avoid the dangers. Always carry rescue gear (and know how to use it) when venturing into avalanche terrain.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Geneva Basin can be accessed from the Georgetown side, but to maximize your backcountry experience (and shorten your skin), avoid I-70 traffic and take US 285. The Guanella Pass turnoff is in the little hamlet of Grant, about 60 miles from Denver—look for signs on the right-hand side of the road. From here you’ll drive just under seven miles to the winter closure gate and park on the east side of the road. It’s paved and fairly well maintained, but AWD and good snow tires are recommended. No permits or fees are required, and if you’re lucky, you might see the resident posse of majestic bull moose in the meadows southwest of the parking area.

Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Jeremiah LaRocco

Why Are So Many of Outside Magazine’s Best Companies to Work For from Colorado?

Once again, Outside magazine has confirmed what more than five million Coloradans already knew: the Centennial State is an awesome place to live and work. The magazine’s annual list of the 100 Best Places to Work featured 30 Colorado companies in 2015 and 36 in 2016—more than a third of the list, and that number just keeps growing.

"All the outdoor access in the world doesn’t mean much if your job keeps you chained to a desk with no time to enjoy it," Outside writes in the introduction to its yearly list of excellent employers, "The Best Places to Work list represents the cream of the crop—companies that empower their employees to live bigger, better lives.”

Trail running on Green Mountain near Denver. 
    Sean Wetstine
Trail running on Green Mountain near Denver.
Sean Wetstine

The process for selecting that cream of the crop is rigorous. The list is broken into five company categories: Gear, Adventure & Travel, Wellness, Culture, and Advertising. Outside partners with the Outdoor Industry Association and the Best Companies Group, an independent research firm, to survey potential Best Places to Work all over the country. Companies disclose information about workplace policies and the benefits they offer their employees—who, in turn, are asked to evaluate their workplaces on criteria like "corporate culture, policies and perks, role satisfaction, work environment, and overall employee engagement".

Colorado is no newcomer to Outside’s Best Places to Work list: Colorado companies have been showing up in force since its inception in 2011. It’s no wonder the Centennial State is so well represented in categories like Adventure & Travel and Gear—after all, Coloradans are surrounded by infinite opportunities to explore and test new gear. But plenty of Colorado-based companies made the list in non-outdoorsy sectors, too.

When not in use for concerts, Red Rocks Amphitheater is open for free, public workouts.
When not in use for concerts, Red Rocks Amphitheater is open for free, public workouts.

Sam Howzit

Based on the criteria Outside and the Best Companies Group use, Colorado companies snagged four of the top 10 spots in 2016, including the #1 and #2 seats—those went to Aspen-based interior and architectural design firm Forum Phi and Denver’s GroundFloor Media, respectively. Another 11 Colorado-based companies rounded out the top 30.

The Centennial State’s heavy-hitting presence on the list is in large part because Coloradans really value work/life balance, along with integration of innovation and thought leadership, says Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. He’s got science on his side. A 2012 study published by the Public Library of Science found that creative reasoning and problem solving were improved after participants spent time immersed in natural settings.

Skiing in Colorado—one of the reasons people move to the state.
Skiing in Colorado—one of the reasons people move to the state.

Zach Dischner

For the sake of work/life balance—and the benefits it brings—Colorado companies on the list offer perks like a weekly beer club, in-office yoga and meditation, quarterly office-wide outside time, paid time for volunteer work, free season-long ski passes, and, in the case of Steamboat-based Smartwool, a policy of mandatory "Powder Days" whenever it snows more than six inches. Several companies also offer unlimited paid time off, allowing their employees to experience what makes Colorado such an incredible place to live—and work.

Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated in partnership with Choose Colorado and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by James Dziezynski

Eldora Ski Resort – Skiing and Snowboarding


Eldora’s location near the mountain town of Nederland means that Denver and Boulder skiers can access it without battling the traffic on I-70—a huge plus on powder days! As a smaller operation, Eldora is very family-friendly, with plenty of programs for kids and beginners but there’s also a nice mix of blue and black terrain for advanced skiers. Lift lines tend to be short as the mountain spreads out nicely from the base area. There are also excellent Nordic skiing and snowshoeing options on groomed trails.

What Makes It Great

Eldora is every bit a locals’ mountain, thankfully minus elitist snobbery. What Eldora lacks in size (680 acres) it makes up for in diversity. The base area lifts (Sundance, Challenge, and Cannonball) services easier terrain along with a modest terrain park and the surprisingly tight black diamond trees of Jolly Jug Glades. Indian Peaks lift is perfect for blue / easy black cruiser laps. And the Corona Lift access the Corona Bowl, where some brief but legit double black lines run down steep, forested terrain. Catch the Corona lift on a powder day and you may be surprised to see the hours pass in the blink of an eye.

The family friendly element is quickly apparent, especially on weekends. There are a host of programs for kids of all ages to get them dialed in to a lifelong love of skiing and snowboarding. Not to be overlooked are Eldora’s wonderful Nordic trails, groomed for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. These trails follow Jenny Creek through pine glades and open meadows. Exploring this network as afternoon winter shadows fall is a photographer’s dream, with deep orange sunbeams casting elegant shadows onto blankets of powdery snow.

Food is available at the base and at the lofty Lookout dining area at the top of Corona lift. Views west to the Indian Peaks are spectacular from the here.

Who is Going to Love It

Families love the easy access to kid-friendly terrain and skiers of all levels enjoy avoiding I-70 on busy winter weekends. Eldora actually has some challenging black diamond runs on the north side of the mountain, including steep trees and tough natural bumps. Runs aren't terribly long but the lack of lift lines mean you can get in many laps if you have the legs for it.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Boulder, take Canyon Blvd. West (Canyon Blvd. is Hwy 119). Follow 119 to Nederland. Turn left at the Roundabout. Continue South on 119 for one mile. Turn right on 130 and follow the signs to Eldora.

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Courtney Johnson

5 Dawn Patrol Skis in Boulder’s Backcountry

Jackson Hole has Teton Pass. Salt Lake City has Little Cottonwood Canyon. Bozeman has Bridger Bowl, and Bend has Tumalo Mountain. Boulder, Colorado, has, well, nothing analogous that caters to ravenous dawn patrollers, those of us who like to fit in a backcountry ski before work.

Nevertheless it's not impossible for Boulderites to squeeze in a_ _ski at first light—and still be at the office by 10 am. It just takes a little extra work and planning, but the rewards (an invigorating workout, bragging rights at the water cooler) are well worth it.

1. Caribou Trailhead, Nederland

There are still ruins from this former town’s mining days, but mostly you’ll find undulating hills, a well-established track, and a mellow 25-degree slope good for a few laps.

Getting there: Drive west up Boulder Canyon to Nederland, and at the first roundabout take Highway 72 north. Just past the fire station, turn left onto Caribou Road. Follow the road until it dead ends. The total drive is about 40 minutes from Boulder.

2. East Portal of Moffatt Tunnel, Rollinsville

The early bird gets the smiley face near Moffatt Tunnel and the East Portal Trailhead.
The early bird gets the smiley face near Moffatt Tunnel and the East Portal Trailhead.

Creative Commons

Plan to drive about 45 minutes from Boulder to the trailhead at Moffatt Tunnel , and then to skin for another 45 minutes to the low angle, forested slopes. If you’ve got more time—and conditions are safe—you can make more of an expedition by skiing to the top of Radio Beacon Peak.

Getting there: Head south out of Nederland about five miles to Rollinsville, and then turn west onto East Portal Road. The trailhead is about eight miles down the road.

3. Hidden Valley, Rocky Mountain National Park

Make sure to leave well before first light to make the hour-long drive up to this now-defunct ski area in Rocky Mountain National Park . The skiing is mellow and lower angle, but the views are absolutely epic. Who doesn’t want to start the day waving to 14,259-foot Longs Peak and the surrounding mountains?

Getting there: From RMNP's Beaver Meadow Visitor Center, follow Trail Ridge Road into the park to signs for Hidden Valley Picnic Area at 6.8 miles.

4. Berthoud Pass

First light at Berthoud Pass
First light at Berthoud Pass

Ed Ogle

Find high alpine bowls, chutes and glades at this former ski area on the 11,307-foot pass that straddles the Continental Divide on Highway 40. A former ski area, this is now a popular backcountry spot with big crowds on any given weekend. Come the crack of dawn at midweek, however, you might enjoy a solo pre-descent sunrise.

Getting there: Plan on at least an hour and 15 minutes to drive 66 miles from Boulder to Berthoud Pass. Drive south on Highway 93 to Interstate 70. Take I-70 west for about 25 miles to exit 232, US-40W toward Granby, climb up the east side of the pass, and park at the summit.

5. Bear Peak, Boulder

When the stars collide and Boulder gets the occasional blizzard dump (generally in late March and early April), the town’s extensive trail network is transformed into ski trails. While you can’t actually ski from the summit of this 8,459-foot peak (too many cliffs), you can ski up Bear Canyon Trail to the Mesa Trail and get a solid workout—with some turns thrown in for fun on the descent.

Getting there: Head west onto Table Mesa Drive at the Broadway and Table Mesa intersection. After 0.7 miles, turn left onto Lehigh and take the immediate right onto Bear Mountain Drive. The trailhead is a half-mile ahead on your right.


Written by Rachel Walker for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Ed Ogle