Wow, so this is Boulder!
It was my first visit and we were only there because we needed somewhere to lay our heads near the little ski resort of Eldora and there’s no lodging at the slopes.
But this captivating community at the base of the foothills of the Rockies has immediately become one of my favourite little American towns. No wonder it has won all sorts of awards as one of the most sought after and desirable places to live in the country.
It’s a university town – the University of Colorado was founded here in 1876 – and the 17,000 students help bring a delightfully lively atmosphere to a pedestrianised town centre full of great bars and restaurants.
We headed from Winter Park to Boulder, myself and my son Mark (who was taking a break from ski-teaching in the Canadian resort of Whistler to try out some slopes south of the border), on the latest stage of our road trip around some of the destinations in the Ikon Pass multi-resort season pass partnership.
Our route on iconic US Route 40 took us over the spectacularly high Berthoud Pass, reaching 11,318-ft via dramatic hairpin bends on a road very Alpine in character. The day was glorious, giving far-reaching views over the surrounding peaks, but this is not a road to travel lightly at night in bad weather.
After skirting Denver we eventually crested a hill on Highway 36 above Boulder – and found ourselves gazing down at the red rooftops of the university buildings, looking for all the world like a town somewhere in Italy (architectural students among you will be fascinated to hear I’ve discovered the style is known as Tuscan Vernacular Revival, uses sandstone from nearby mountain quarries and means Boulder campus is rated one of the most beautiful in the United States).
We could also see in the distance the dramatic sandstone slabs of the Flatirons – a series of five distinctively-shaped rock formations along the east slope of Green Mountain – and snow-capped peaks beyond. It was easy to see why this intriguing town has been dubbed ‘the city nestled between the mountains and reality’.
We had a room booked at the wonderful Hotel Boulderado – which has immediately become, in one of our favourite towns, one of our favourite hotels. It is historic, characterful, quirky, classy and luxurious. The first luxury hotel built in Boulder, it has been a city landmark for 110 years. The Victorian-inspired rooms, individually furnished with antiques, are gorgeous and most have sweeping views of the city and surrounding mountains – and you can ascend the red-brick hotel’s five floors in an original Otis elevator (ringing the bell first for it to be operated by a member of staff).
The hotel is just one block from colourful Pearl Street Mall and its radiating streets, the city’s hub for dining, arts, entertainment and shopping (and a number of micro-brewery bars) – and there are often musicians and street entertainers adding a festive atmosphere.
The city is surrounded by protected recreational open spaces, and hiking trails and climbing routes are accessible almost directly from the city centre.
Boulder has been called Colorado’s best kept secret ski town. And it was time to ski Eldora, just a 35-minute drive up twisting and scenic Boulder Canyon, through the small township of Nederland and on to the slopes. And what a delight the skiing is. It was founded in 1962 as Boulder’s ‘backyard ski area’.
There are just 680 acres of skiable terrain but with so much range and variety that it seems much more extensive. The groomed trails are 100 per cent covered by snowmaking, the most comprehensive of any Colorado resort. The mountain is neatly organised, with beginners’ areas to the left as you look at the slopes, sweeping tree-lined cruisers in the centre section and interesting and challenging runs, including some double-diamond blacks and exciting glades, off the Corona lift to the right.
We were shown round by the resort’s marketing director Sam Bass, president and general manager Brent Tregaskis and Brit Ian Fowler, from the Lake District, who is a professional mountain guide and member of the Eldora Ski Patrol. They told us about advanced plans to extend the skiing on the south side of the mountain with the addition of a new lift, the Jolly Jug, that would open up an impressive new amount of intermediate and expert terrain.
And skiing was only part of the fun. While it was winter at Eldora, it was springtime down in Boulder and we joined Beyond Boulder Adventures on a guided electric fat bike ride starting from a bike shop a couple of doors down from the Hotel Boulderado and had huge fun on a cycle tour of Boulder Canyon.
What with skiing and the attractions of Boulder, this is a very special destination – and one visit is not enough.
We came to ski enchanting Eldora – and were bowled over by Boulder!
For bike and e-bike discovery rides.
If you are planning an American ski-drive road trip to any of the 38 destinations in the Ikon Pass multi-resort season pass scheme, it will help to save you money.
Rob used the Hertz online America Road Trip Planner. He flew Heathrow to Denver with IcelandAir and
skied on Faction‘s latest range of skis.