Colorado’s historic hotels are great base camps for winter fun
Winter lodgings in Colorado come at just about every price point and design style, so why not make a hotel with history part of your winter skiing or sledding or soaking experience?
No matter where you travel this winter, there’s fun to be had and a hotel created by a visionary Old West pioneer that’s ready to welcome you.
The Hotel Jerome was built in 1889. What is today part of the Auberge Resorts Collection started out as one of many local investments by Jerome B. Wheeler, a mine owner who had done well when silver was booming. The hotel was known for its state-of-the-art luxuries: electric lighting, indoor plumbing (both hot and cold running water), and an elevator.
About the time that Aspen Skiing Co. was getting established in the early 1940s, there were 10th Mountain Division soldiers training on the ski slopes — and heading to the bar at the Hotel Jerome for a drink. The hotel has a reputation for providing comfort in style. This luxury comes at a price: You’ll need to budget at least $800 per night. The hotel features an outdoor heated pool, room service, and your pick of on-site restaurants.
The Hotel Jerome can be your base camp for hitting the nearby slopes, snowshoeing through the forest, and even winter fishing. Guests have access to a ski concierge and a shuttle to all four local ski areas — Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. Be sure to ask the concierge about the hotel’s partnerships with snowmobile guides, snowshoe tours and horse-drawn carriage rides.
330 E. Main St., Aspen
Welcome to Smelter City! That was one of Durango’s original names when it was founded in the early 1880s as a hub for miners hoping to get rich off the gold and silver in the surrounding mountains. As the city grew, so too did interest in making it a little nicer than just a railroad stop. Cleveland pharmacist Henry Strater headed West with his family and a vision and built the Strater Hotel. Unfortunately, when silver went bust so did Strater’s fortunes, and the 88-room hotel changed hands the first of a few times.
The Strater Hotel maintains some of its original character with Victorian bedroom sets, ornate wallpapers and classic high ceilings. Choose among three on-site restaurants and bars for your après-ski time. Rent cross-country skis in town and head to Mesa Verde National Park, about an hour’s drive away, to glide through the snow and view the cliff dwellings from the trail.
Plan a visit around the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s annual Polar Express Train Ride where you and the kids will meet Santa Claus, or book a Cascade Canyon Winter Train trip. Purgatory Ski Resort is just 30 minutes away, with slopes for skiing and snowboarding, a winter mountain coaster and snowcat tours.
699 Main Ave., Durango
Ouray has a few vintage hotels to choose from for your base camp, but the Western Hotel will be freshly renovated and reopened this winter. The Western was built in 1891 as a boarding house for miners. Denver-based Zeppelin Hospitality bought it in 2020. The 16-suite wood-frame hotel maintains many original touches, including a mural on the floor of the saloon which also has a hand-carved bar, tin ceilings and stained-glass panels. The hotel was built by John Johnstone, a local businessman who specialized in buggies and owned a blacksmith shop, and Fred Mayol, who had some hotel experience. The grand re-opening is scheduled for December (check online for new rates).
Ouray is perhaps best known for its Ice Park and annual ice climbing festival (Jan. 20-23, 2023), which includes events off the ice and climbing clinics for all skill levels. Alpine skiers looking for steeps need to be experienced in the backcountry and can arrange heli-skiing and snowcat trips. There are local snowmobile tours and, of course, soaks in the natural hot springs of the town pool, Ouray Hot Springs, after you’ve spent the day working out on the snow and ice.
Locals know that even though Ouray doesn’t have a ski resort, it does have Lee’s Ski Hill. It’s free, totally dependent on snowfall, and features a tow rope for your uphill trips. When making a reservation at the Western Hotel, ask about special partnerships or activity packages for guests.
210 7th Ave., Ouray
If you’re wondering why something with “new” in the name is considered a vintage hotel, it’s because the first Sheridan Hotel in Telluride burned in 1894, but was rebuilt — using bricks — in 1895. The New Sheridan‘s 26 rooms were remodeled in 2008 and boast modern comforts with classic charm. Winter rates hover around $350 per night, but spike near holidays.
When you aren’t hunting fresh powder on the slopes, start your day in the hotel’s Parlor (the lobby) where you can get coffee and watch the town go by from the front windows. The main restaurant here is The Chop House. Even if you don’t ski, take the 13-minute ride on the free gondola to Mountain Village — the views! In addition to hitting the slopes, there are three rinks for ice skating (two outdoor, one indoor), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat-tire biking and ice climbing.
231 W. Colorado Ave., Telluride
Salida’s historic Palace Hotel isn’t exactly a hotel anymore: the building is now a collection of independently owned condominiums that are rented out via a vacation rental company. However, you’d hardly notice the difference, as the building and many of the suites maintain their original charm.
The Palace Hotel was built by Ambrose Ramsey in 1906 and went through a few owners over the years, but each seemed to value the attention to detail of the original and it has maintained the ambience of the past. There is no elevator here so you can enjoy those beautiful wooden bannisters as you walk up and down the staircase. Rates vary, but expect to pay $150-$300 a night, depending on the season.
There are plenty of great local bars and restaurants within easy walking distance. There is an indoor hot springs pool in town, and Mount Princeton Hot Springs, with its larger and hotter natural springs and pools, offers outdoor soaking next to a river just 30 minutes away. Monarch Mountain is a 30-minute drive from downtown Salida where you can enjoy a day of affordable skiing, riding or snowtubing.
204 N. F St., Salida
Winter rates vary and peak everywhere around the holidays, even at the more budget-friendly hotels, so be sure to plan ahead.
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