This weekend, for the first time in the past few months, I’ll actually be in Denver all weekend long. Denver weekends have been a rarity for me this winter because my priorities get a little confusing during ski season. Well, actually, not that confusing. My priorities are skiing during ski season! Another reason my priorities have been confusing? I absolutely love winter weekends in Grand County and it’s been hard to tear me away.
My boyfriend’s family has a cabin in Grand Lake, and it’s really in my opinion the best winter location in Colorado. Big statement I know, but let me back it up!
Top 5 Reasons Grand County in the Winter is Awesome
Whenever people hear that my boyfriend, Graham, is working in Breckenridge for the year I think the image people get in their mind is not quite as cool as reality. While Breckenridge is picturesque, quaint and has a killer view of the Ten Mile Range, it’s also well known that it can become a madhouse during high season. Fact: one of our favorite past times is watching the tourists, unfamiliar with Colorado liquor laws, unknowingly stock up on 3.2 beers at the City Market in Breck. Grand County on the other hand? Not exactly the huge tourist draw in the winter, especially once you get away from the Winter Park area. Compared to the traffic jams of I-70, Grand Lake is as quiet and serene as it gets. Grand Lake is for sure more of a summer destination, and in the winter it’s incredibly peaceful.
Skiing wise, I think Grand County has the best of both worlds. From Grand Lake it’s about 35-40 minutes to Mary Jane and an hour and a half to Steamboat, which suddenly makes Steamboat a completely reasonable day trip. Steamboat is definitely not a reasonable round trip from Denver, as it’s about 3 1/2 hours away. The other great part about Grand Lake > Steamboat is that Hot Sulphur Springs is conveniently on the way back. It’s not a particularly fancy hot spring pool, but that’s kind of why it’s great.
3) Other things to do
I love skiing as much as the next person but what I am learning is that I also just love being outdoors in the winter. It’s nice to have other options sometimes, and Grand County offers ample snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing opportunities. On a side note, someone please explain what part of ice fishing is fun to me because I absolutely do not get it! Back to the point, after being hazed on a New Year’s Day cross country skiing trip this year with Graham’s family (extremely steep and narrow trail in Rocky Mountain National Park with boots that ended up breaking on the trip), I have since come around to really having fun on a pair of cross country skis. I now even have a pair of cross country ski boots in my size at the cabin! A few weeks ago, Graham and I decided to take the dogs on a walk by cross country skiing up and down a mini-hill behind the cabin. It was an absolute blast, and with the view of Shadow Mountain Reservoir ahead of us I dubbed it our own Lake Tahoe.
Grand Lake is the largest natural lake in Colorado, and along with Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Lake Granby AND the Colorado River there are amazing vistas to be found everywhere. You’re surrounded by striking mountain ranges, like the Never Summers, the Indian Peaks and the Vasquez Wilderness in the middle of huge valleys, bordered by bodies of water. Last weekend as Graham and I were driving through Byers Canyon, the sun was setting and the light was dancing across the Colorado River. It was spectacular.
1) Baby cows
Grand County is a fairly rural mountain county, all things considered. Have you ever been to Granby or Kremmling? They are both pretty no frills towns, populated mostly by locals. I think that rural nature of Grand County is actually a huge part of what makes it feel so homey and comforting. The best part of all? In the springtime, on your way to the Jane from Grand Lake or driving over Ute Pass from Highway 9, there are farms that line the road. And these farms, in the springtime, have baby cows running around everywhere. I will agree that adult cows are not the most attractive creatures, but if you try to tell me that baby cows are not the cutest thing in the world…them’s fighting words! Driving past baby cows on the way to go ski a spring powder day in late March? Heaven. It’s the best of Grand County without a doubt.
When I asked Graham, a true Grand County kid at heart, for any input about this entry, he said, jokingly, that he was a bit worried about this because he doesn’t want GC spoiled. I mean I was just flattered that he thinks that many people actually read my blog! So if you are reading this, I would caution you to use the information from this post for good purposes only. Graham has a ferocious dog named Cooper that will find you in Grand County if you are misbehaving!
Cooper at Shadow Mountain Resevoir. Ferocious looking, right?!