Skiing in Colorado

January 2005

Riding the chairlift to the top of the world

An exhilarating experience

The Great Sand Dunes National Monument

The snow cover only enhances its already unique character


      Our trip to Colorado was a skiing vacation and an opportunity to visit with our friends, Sandy and Pete who live in Buena Vista.   I have known Pete for thirty-seven years when we first met during our time with the U. S. Navy.  Pete and Sandy had in the past joined us at other skiing resorts, where Pete would take to the slopes with me, while Lila and Sandy would visit with each other.   This was the first time, however, that we stayed with them in Colorado, having heard so much about their life in Buena Vista, a small town surrounded by the Collegiate Peaks.

      The Collegiate Peaks are located in a wilderness that covers almost 160,000 acres with four of the peaks named.... Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Oxford (there are also other peaks in the wilderness) all reaching over 14,000 feet and running along a 40 mile stretch of the legendary Continental Divide.  These mountains provide spectacular alpine scenery that is characterized by numerous cirques and lakes, deep valleys along with the lofty peaks.


The view from Buena Vista



These magnificent peaks reach up to the sky and can be seen from almost every direction...


            Pete and I did five days of skiing at Cooper, Monarch and Copper Ski Resorts, all within about an hour�s drive from Buena Vista.  Cooper is a small ski facility, but was the training home of the famed U.S. Army�s Tenth Mountain Division and it is located near the historic mining town of Leadville, Colorado.  Monarch, a somewhat larger ski facility is in the mountains near Salida, Colorado.  The Copper Ski Resort is a very large (2,433 acres) site, with 125 trails and an impressive 2,601 foot vertical. 



The many runs at Monarch ski resort

Pete on the slopes and ready to ski

One day we drove to Leadville, Colorado ...a city which had a population of about 16,000 people way back in the 1880s when mining was the major source of commerce, but today the population has shrunk to approximately 3,500 people and now depends on tourism for its livelihood.  While in Leadville, we did visit the National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum, which is a monument to the memory of the men and women who pioneered the discovery, development and processing of our nation's natural resources. 

Buena Vista is close to Salida, Colorado which we also visited area that was originally settled by the Ute Indians, for whom many of the local mountain peaks are named.  Salida is bordered on all sides by mountains which have a profound effect on its climate. Average snowfall in the valley is 50 inches, while in the surrounding mountains the local ski area (Monarch Ski Resort) boasts an annual snowfall of 400 inches or more. Annual rainfall in the valley is only 10 to 12 inches and residents see 330 days of sunshine with humidity in the 20 to 30 percent range...anybody have a problem with that?

One day we planned to have lunch in Crestone, Colorado, a small village which is nestled in the pines at the base of Kit Carson Mountain, on the east edge of the San Luis Valley.  Crestone and the surrounding area has a population of 900-1000 people who live in this beautiful setting, which has many spiritual centers espousing yoga training, massages and other varying doctrines and disciplines.

 My favorite day trip out of Buena Vista was a visit to the Great Sand Dunes which is a National Park Service monument in the San Luis Valley.  It is the tallest sand dunes in North America ...up to 750 feet and it covers over thirty square miles.   They are simply magnificent and oddly out of place in the high altitude San Luis Valley of the Colorado Rockies.  


The last time Lila and I visited the Great Sand Dunes, it was windy and we could only see the dunes from a distance.   But this time we were all able to hike out onto the snow covered sand formations that seemed to change their patterns as we watched their unique natural beauty.  It was an excellent opportunity to explore and be a part of this piece of natural history as the  snow only added to the magnificence of this park. 

A truly exceptional setting.... mountains, snow and perfect weather


Lila making her mark at the Great Sand Dunes

It was a great vacation and we extend  our thanks to Pete and Sandy for their hospitality, their friendship and sharing this vacation with us