by: Bryon Dorr
The Gems & Brews Tour was a 2-week (2/11-25/2013) ski pilgrimage devoted to sampling some of the best small mountain resorts, fine craft beers, spirits and food across Colorado. Over those 2-weeks I visited 5 Colorado Gem mountain resorts, 13 breweries, 3 distilleries, 1 hot spring, 5 bars, 4 hotels, spent 3 nights with friends, Sportsmobile camped 4 nights, went cat skiing and had my first proper snowmobile adventure. A very packed schedule full of awesome! The tour was a collaboration between CO Ski Country USA and Exploring Elements. The idea is to give you a small taste of what you can expect when you explore these spectacular Colorado locations. Don’t overlook the Gems!
MOUNTAIN: 680 acres of skiable terrain with 1,600’ of vertical (9,200’-10’800) consisting of 20% Green/50% Blue/30% Black trails getting 300” of annual snowfall accessed by 12 lifts (2 fixed quads, 2 fixed triple, 4 fixed doubles, 4 surface) with the longest run being 3 miles long.
Adult Full Day Regular Season Lift Ticket: $79
Eldora has long been known as the locals resort for the Boulder and Greater Denver area. The key is that you don’t have to battle the I-70 traffic to get to this hidden gem located just 21 miles from Boulder and 47 from Denver. Because of this, Eldora is also a great place for the metro area business traveler to sneak in some turns, without having to waste time in traffic or worry about missing their flight home. Started over 50 yrs ago, in 1962, the mountain offers great scenery, quality snow and a friendly local vibe. Since Eldora offers some of the best snow making in the state, with 100% groomed trail coverage, you can expect great early season snow and for the resort to open almost every year the Friday before Thanksgiving.
Eldora is also known for its great kids and women’s programs as well as catering to big groups. The resort even features a separate group rental area that makes the tour bus group outing that much easier and more enjoyable. The local colleges are also welcomed with things like the crazy good value $199 full price college season pass! With group facilities and lots of local colleges Eldora hosts LOTS of ski races and race training programs. You will notice that there are many fast confident riders at Eldora.
What I truly noticed at Eldora are all the little touches that the resort has to make the user experience exceptional. Things like reading glasses for the liability waivers, and a full compost and recycling program. They offer super high quality basic rental ski gear with the ability to upgrade to even nicer equipment. The resort is an official Burton Learn To Ride Center, so you know your going to be getting quality snowboard rentals and instruction as well. You will appreciate the wide food selection that includes many locally sourced ingredients. If you crave that après ski on hill brew the Corona Bowl Bar offers a wide selection of local brews in a great old school ski bar atmosphere.
I really enjoyed the Indian Peaks Lodge at the summit that offered up spectacular views of the surrounding peaks, including Challenge Mountain. I found that the grooming was exceptional at Eldora, making those fast wide-open groomer runs so much fun. In the end, experienced riders will want to explore the Corona Bowl area with its steep moguls and secret wooded pow stashes. My favorite run on the mountain was probably Brian’s Glades, as I found it to be some of the most enjoyable, well spaced, coniferous tree skiing I’ve ever done.
If you’re into Nordic skiing or want to try it for the first time, the Eldora Nordic Center is the place to be. The center offers full lessons, clinics, rentals and is the most visited in CO with about 30,000 annual visitors. With 40 km of beautiful scenic mountain trails you will keep coming back for more. The Nordic Center is also reasonably priced with $239 Adult Annual Passes, $24 Nordic or $16 Snowshoe Day passes or FREE entrance with an Eldora Lift Pass/Season Pass.
Avery Brewing in Boulder offers a broad range of super high quality brews and a full bar menu at their Tap Room. They are known for their IPA, a hophead favorite, and also do quite well with their Out of Bounds Stout, a beer from their original lineup. They also offer super unique, tasty and limited batch creations in their Tap Room like the Chocolate Mint Stout, which is so good! Be sure to check out their barrel-aged beers as well, as they have one of the biggest barrel aging programs in the state. This year the brewery is celebrating its 20th anniversary and working on some massive expansion plans. Avery currently puts out about 40,000 barrels a year and truly invests in its beer by utilizing a super high tech lab as well as the latest brewing methods and tools. Not surprisingly the brewery was started by a climber and you’ll be sure to run into many outdoor sports enthusiasts at the Tap Room. The one thing you’ll notice in this brewery is that everyone is smiling. It must be the beer!
The Pub is Boulder Beer’s taproom and a great hangout with quality food at reasonable prices. I recommend the beer battered fish and chips. The brewery is the oldest microbrewery in CO, starting in 1979, and produces a lot of beer, about 30,000 barrels a year. The easy drinking Planet Porter is a top seller and from the original offerings at the brewery. Boulder Beer is known for is their Hazed & Infused, an unfiltered dry-hopped amber ale. I fully recommend the A Honey of a Saison, as it is strong in flavor and alcohol, at 11.5%! Be sure to check out Boulder Beer for their Happy Hour (3-7) for $3.25 pints of their tasty brews.
UpSlope in Boulder, wasted no time establishing itself as a great place for the outdoor lifestyle crowd to congregate, as it was only opened in 2008. The taproom and brewery is located in North Boulder, but a new MUCH larger taproom and brewery is opening very soon in East Boulder. Bestowing Boulder with TWO great locations to imbibe in their tasty brews. The brewery currently puts out about 5,600 barrels a year and has its own canning operation, which is the only way to get UpSlope at home, unless you buy by the keg. The brewery is known for its UpSlope IPA, and names all its beers simply by their style. What you’ll notice at UpSlope is the amazing hospitality that comes from the love of brewing and all the passionate people that love their work.
Hot Tip: For all you international travelers out there, be sure to check out Eagle Brewing in Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southern most brewery, as it was started by one of UpSlope’s partners, Dany.
This pint-sized brewery and smoke house located in the closest mountain town to Eldora, Nederland, offers some unique quality beers and amazing BBQ. I highly recommend you try the Dubbel, for its quality and easy to drink style, and the Piggys Pride Barley Wine, with its butterscotch start and complex sweet flavors. This place is great for the whole family and has really good pricing for the high quality eats and brews offered. The BBQ menu is large and the meats are mouth wateringly good. Be sure to finish off your meal with the “Worlds Smallest Dessert,” a small brownie and scoop of ice cream for only $1.50!!!
A HUGE thanks goes out to Colorado Ski Country USA (http://www.coloradoski.com/) for putting this tour together and supporting these awesome Gem resorts. Thanks also to the quality staff at Eldora Mountain Resort for sharing their incredible resort and local hospitality. Of course the Gems & Brews tour wouldn’t have been the same without the amazing local Colorado beers, spirits and food to enjoy and refuel with after a long day on the mountain. Colorado is full of fascinating people, places and businesses. Get out there and explore them!