Leadville, Colorado — Skiers and riders, rejoice! You’re are always thankful for the low prices here, but you have even more to be grateful for this year: Ski Cooper is opening for the season on Fri., Nov. 28, more than two weeks ahead of schedule. You can stay longer and do more this winter in budget-friendly Leadville, where the plentiful snow and the Rocky Mountains’ highest peaks beckon you to get out and play.
In Leadville and nearby Twin Lakes, you’ll find downhill skiing and riding at Ski Cooper, Snowcat tours at Chicago Ridge, 50 miles of free groomed winter trails, a sledding and tubing hill and an ice skating rink. Leadville is also home to a beautiful and historic downtown district filled with antique and specialty shops and lots of places to eat and to stay. New offerings at Ski Cooper and holiday festivities add to your choices in this authentic Colorado mountain town.
The holiday season kicks off on Sat., Dec. 6, in downtown Leadville with the annual Parade of Lights down Harrison Avenue at 5:30 p.m. The theme of this year’s parade is A Caroling We Will Go, and floats will depict a variety of popular holiday tunes. Santa and Mrs. Claus will ride in the parade to the Lake County Courthouse, where they will visit with kids, listen to Christmas wish lists and pose for photos. Area businesses are competing in a holiday decorating contest, so the whole city will be sparkling for the occasion. You can enjoy cookies and hot chocolate to cap off the evening’s festivities.
The Leadville Lake County Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a local version of Small Business Saturday on Dec. 6 as well. Shop at one-of-a-kind, locally owned specialty stores, dine at delicious mom-and-pop restaurants where the owners are often there to greet you, and stay for the weekend at friendly and economical lodging properties. Your Leadville hotel choices range from an 1880s Victorian inn, cozy B&Bs and modern motels to lodges, cabins and vacation rentals.
As a further incentive to those looking to shop, many Leadville/Lake County Chamber of Commerce member businesses will participate in a scavenger hunt that will lead folks into each participating business. Toward the end of the day, shoppers who have been a part of the scavenger hunt will be eligible for prize drawings at the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center at 809 Harrison Ave. Chamber of Commerce member businesses are donating goods and valuable coupons for these prize baskets, and scavenger hunt forms will be available on Saturday at participating businesses and the Visitor Center.
Heavy snow in November has provided Ski Cooper with a 20-inch mid-mountain base to start its season this year, with 100 percent of the runs and lifts opening Nov. 28, now dubbed “White Friday” in Leadville. Ski Cooper’s reputation as one of the friendliest and most-affordable Colorado ski resorts is well-deserved. Whatever your age and ability, you can ride the lifts up, make tracks coming down and then ride back up again without waiting in line. The runs are long and well-groomed, the snow is all-natural and the prices are tough to beat. Full-day lift tickets are $48 for adults and $30 for kids ages 6-14, with discounts available for seniors and members of the military. The resort will be open Nov. 28 – 30, Dec. 6 – 7, and then daily Dec. 13 to April 5.
New this year, Ski Cooper has entered into a partnership with the United States of America Snowboard Association and the United States Ski Association to bring a Boardercross/Skiercross (SBX/SX) training and a competitive venue to the mountain. Additional enhancements include new rental equipment and the renovation of the lounge into Katie O’Rourke’s Irish Pub.
Chicago Ridge Snowcat Tours, now in its 25th year, provides access to more than 2,400 acres of epic back-country terrain in the San Isabel and White River national forests. You’ll be transported in plush, heated Snowcats and treated to a gourmet lunch in a heated yurt. Tours average 10 to 12 runs per day, exploring deep powder, open bowls, steep runs and treed glades, and experienced guides are almost always able to find fresh tracks. This year, Chicago Ridge is also offering Snowcat sightseeing tours on weekends and holidays, departing from the Lodge at Ski Cooper and venturing up to the ridge for magnificent back-country views.
In addition to downhill skiing and riding, Leadville and Twin Lakes are also prime destinations for Nordic and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, ski joring and snow biking. White Mountain Tours offers guided snowmobile tours and zip line adventures. Winter trail networks at Mt. Massive Golf Course, Turquoise Lake, Colorado Mountain College and Leadville’s mining district, along with the Mineral Belt Trail, include more than 50 miles of free, groomed trails. If you’re a classic cross-country skier or snowshoer, you can find additional trails in Twin Lakes and at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, and if you’re a mountain biker, you can test your mettle with the Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Race Series.
Beginner to winter sport? You’ll feel welcome in Leadville. Mt. Massive Golf Course and the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center offer Nordic and cross-country ski instruction. Ski Cooper’s Ski School options include a Never Ever package for first-time skiers and boarders with a two-hour lesson, equipment rental and a Magic Carpet lift ticket for $63; private and group lessons for children; weekly Ladies Only clinics and more. There’s also a Three-Lesson Pass Program for first-timers that includes three two-hour lessons with equipment rental for $285; upon completion, you’ll receive a free 2014-2015 season pass.
Affordable winter fun also includes sledding and tubing at the Dutch Henri Sledding Hill; it’s free if you bring your own plastic or wooden sleds or tubes. Tube rentals are available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays for just $5 per hour for residents and $7 per hour for non-residents; the hill is open dawn to dusk daily. Call 719-427-0099 to find out when the hill will open.
Like to skate? The Leiter Ice Rink is one of the best deals around. Admission is $2.25 and skate rentals are $1 for kids 14 and younger and $2 for ages 15 and older. A grand opening celebration with free hotdogs and admission is scheduled for Dec. 19, 5:30 to 9 p.m., conditions permitting. The rink, which includes a snack bar, a warming hut and an excellent sound system, will be open 3:30 to 9 p.m. daily through March.
Ready to take a break from the outdoor activities? Head to the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, which is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday throughout the winter. It’s three stories tall and packed with colorful exhibits and displays, plus an art gallery and a gift shop. There are more galleries and shops to be found on Harrison Avenue and the side streets in downtown Leadville, specializing in books, antiques and collectibles, clothing and accessories, sporting goods, accents for the home, souvenirs and much more.
Centrally located in the geographic center of Colorado, Leadville is just 103 miles west of Denver and 129 miles northwest of Colorado Springs. It’s located near Vail and Copper Mountain as well, with economical lodging options that make it a good hub to explore and enjoy the region. Question? Getting winter vacation planning ideas by visiting VisitLeadvilleColorado.com or by calling 855-488-1222.