While Aspen gets worldwide winter love with its acclaimed ski slopes, less than an hour’s drive away sits a less opulent but no less marvelous Colorado base camp.
And while Aspen boasts the regal backdrop of the perfectly triangular Maroon Bells, Glenwood Springs has its own mountain frame — rugged, too, but rolling and less defined. And that somewhat describes the town: refusing to be defined, while minds go straight to exclusive luxury and apres when they think Aspen.
When thinking of Glenwood in the winter, think endless opportunity for everyone.
Traffic zooms by on Interstate 70, but this is no flyby town. A fairly recent development saw a pedestrian bridge built across the highway, reaching from one popular side of town to the other, the entry to downtown, lined with shops, galleries and eateries to explore.
It’s no Aspen Snowmass, but locals are just fine sticking to their ski slopes down the road. “No hassles, no hype” is the motto at Sunlight Mountain Resort, affordable and family-friendly, with the majority of terrain rated beginner and intermediate. Conveniently for the resident on a lunch break or for the tourist new to the sport, all trails lead back to base.
That gondola you see rises not to the ski area but to a theme park that keeps the fun rolling in the winter. And that steam you see rising and that sulfur you smell upon arrival to Glenwood? Welcome to hot springs heaven.
Here’s more to consider for your getaway:
Board a polar express
For Front Range dwellers, Amtrak is a great way to go. The California Zephyr runs between Chicago and San Francisco, and the stretch from Denver’s Union Station to Glenwood might just be the most beautiful stretch of all.
Skip the potential stress of driving in a blizzard and enjoy the winter wonderland that is Glenwood Canyon. The train stops right in downtown, at the front doors of the Hotel Denver; from there, the walk is short to the hot springs. You should be able to count on public transit for the rest of your itinerary.
Reservations are required for the train. Fares are often less than $50.
Soak those woes away
There have been changes to the way Colorado’s geothermal waters host visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll want to check for the latest updates before you go in Glenwood, where you have two options.
Most famous is Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, claiming the world’s largest pool of its kind. Pioneers flocked there for the “healing springs,” and tourists do today, staying at the pool-side lodge or across the street at Hotel Colorado, with a similarly rich history.
Iron Mountain Hot Springs offers a more rustic soak, with 16 pools situated along the Colorado River. They range between 98 and 108 degrees.
For your amusement
Reservations are among COVID-19 rules at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. But starting Nov. 13, the scenic hub plans to roll out its winter suite of activities, including an alpine coaster, mine drop and laser tag.
Most memorable might just be the cave tours. It’s a 40-minute trip through the mystical, subterranean realm that stays a brisk 52 degrees year-round. The park’s giant, musical tree offers the background for the family’s next Christmas card.
Power your own adventure
If you’re not one for downhill action, check out the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Sunlight Mountain Resort’s 18-mile trail network of Babbish Gulch.
While Hanging Lake remains closed due to the impacts of this summer’s wildfire, it’s time to experience other popular trails in the area, such as those around Red Mountain. As it has in many mountain towns, fat biking has taken off here; check to see if you can rent a pair of the burly wheels. Outfitters are also known to equip visitors with snowmobiles, guiding thrill rides in powdery meadows overlooking Mount Sopris and the Elk Mountains.
Ice skating has been a tradition at Glenwood’s community center.
Hit the town
Glenwood Vaudeville Revue is the town’s quirky, cultural landmark, serving dinner during a ruckus play. Reservations are recommended, as capacity has been reduced during the pandemic.
Other dinner spots are aplenty. For something romantic, check out Riviera Supper Club and Piano Bar, which keeps the jazz rolling with locally sourced fare. The Ranch House and The Pullman are other staples. And a newish barbecue joint called Smoke Modern has gotten rave reviews since it opened next to Casey Brewing, pouring a wide range of sophisticated suds.
For breakfast, grab a doughnut or hot sandwich at Sweet Coloradough.