To Ski or Not to Ski

In Leadville, you get the best of both worlds

downtown-leadville

HIDDEN GEM Whether you’re out to shop or snowmobile, there’s something for everyone in Leadville. Photo by Diana Lange

Ask my family about a perfect mountain trip, and you’ll find a house divided. My mom, two sisters and I don’t like to ski, my husband is neutral—and Dad? He spent (read: lost) years trying to persuade us all to do a ski resort vacay. So when we found Leadville, the nation’s highest city (elevation: 10,152 feet), which has good skiing and lots of non-ski activities, we knew we’d struck gold. Keep everyone happy with a trip to this quaint, uncrowded town (population: 2,602).

GO BACK IN TIME
Take a self-led tour of Leadville’s 70-square-block National Historic Landmark District of Victorian architecture. Built between 1880 and 1905, the structures include the Tabor Opera House (open for indoor tours during the summer), a saloon visited by Oscar Wilde and the only federally-chartered nonprofit national mining museum. Go to leadville.com/walktour to find a map of 20 historic stops. Along the way, shop at boutiques, bike and ski shops, art galleries, coffee shops and bookstores.

RIDE THE TRAILS
There are more than 20 miles of groomed trails around Leadville, easy to see via snowmobile. Rent from Leadville Ski Country to ride around the east-side mining district and Turquoise Lake or go on a supervised expedition with White Mountain Snowmobile Tours, which promises spectacular views of nearby 14ers. (Our ride even had hand and feet warmers!)

SIP A BREW OR TWO
Leadville was left out of the Colorado craft-beer craze until the Labbes and Kostelniks decided in 2015 to create the “world’s highest craft brewery.” Head over to Periodic Brewing, 115 E. 17th St., and taste what “minimum oxygen, maximum ale-titude” tastes like, from a Bluebird Day Blonde to Sawatch Sasquatch Barleywine. Snacks and friendly service included.

GET FISHY
Ever wonder how Colorado lakes and rivers stay so full of fish? Enter the 3,072-acre Leadville National Fish Hatchery, the second-oldest federally operated hatchery, which breeds and releases trout and is open to visitors year-round. Take a self-guided tour, feed the fish and see how the system works. Or look for wildlife on the hiking, snowshoe and cross-country trails that start outside the hatchery. Bring binoculars!

GO ANTIQUING
If you love all things vintage, then Leadville’s “antique mall” (more than 10,000 square feet) could occupy your entire trip. Housed in an 1881 hardware store, Western Hardware Antiques and Varieties showcases more than 70 antiques dealers and consignors and stocks such unique items as a 1908 “Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz” book.

dogsledding

Photo by Brittney K. Morgan

DO SOME MUSHING
The dogs at Alpine Adventures Dogsledding are fluffy, friendly and can pull a heck of a lot of weight. The company’s hands-on tour includes an introduction to the pooches, safety instructions (you must bring eye protection, and kids must be at least 3 years old to participate) and then a really fun ride over small snow banks and groomed trails, with adults helping to drive the sleds. If you’re in the market, there’s even a chance to adopt: The company tries to place older dogs in loving homes.

ZIP THROUGH TOWN
See what the town of Leadville looks like from on high with a Top of the Rockies Zip Line tour. Tours last two hours and the guide will include area history, such as pointing out old gold mines hidden beneath the snow. topoftherockieszipline.com

snowboarding-ski-cooper

Courtesy Ski Cooper

HEAD FOR THE HILLS
SKI COOPER: Just a few minutes outside of Leadville city limits, this ski resort sticks to the basics with all-natural snow, no lift lines and affordable prices.
WINTER HOURS: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
TRAILS: 39
LIFTS: 4
AVERAGE ANNUAL SNOWFALL: 260 inches
INFO: skicooper.com

FYI … Leadville was once a contender to be Colorado’s capital. According to the 1880 census, it was the state’s second-most populated town with 14,820 residents—but Leadville wasn’t interested.

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