Posted by: bree1972 | January 26, 2012

Rocky Mountain High – Part II – Cathedral Mountains and Silver Clouds

He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below . . .
From “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver

The Rocky Mountains.  So different from our Smoky Mountains – taller, more majestic – although our eastern mountains have a true majesty of their very own.  My memories of family trips to the Smokies – the only mountains I knew existed in my childhood – are etched into my being as deeply as my Southern drawl.  Used to seeing the Smokies during the summer,  when they are forest-green, or in the fall, when that green turns into a blaze of red and orange, the sight of the snow-capped Rockies in the dead of winter kept me in almost-permanent gasp mode for three days.

I thought I could tell this story in two parts, but it will take three.  Tonight will be about our trip to Beaver Creek and our first day and night there.  On Monday I’ll finish it up with pics from Tuesday and Wednesday – including our amazing ski lift ride almost to the top of the mountain.  Jaw-dropping scenery!

Heading out of Ft. Collins early Monday morning – trying to get to our destination before the snow storm blows in.

First it was back to Denver, with the mountains to the west. Then a right turn out of Denver . . .

. . . . and our trip “up” began.

Something you don’t see everyday – a buffalo ambling down a hill. Ted also spotted a group of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep later that morning, but we were past them before I could get the camera out.

As we approached the high country, the lack of heavy snow so far this winter was evident, but these mountains were beautiful anyway. I bet whoever lives on that hill has four-wheel drive!

We were traveling on I-70, and as the drive became steeper, we began to see what looked like fog up ahead.

. . . but as we approached the Continental Divide and Eisenhower Tunnel, that "fog" became the snow we were hoping to outrun.

A few more miles, and the “fog” became snow.

Ok – I’ll stop here for a little geography lesson (Ted will love this).  The Continental Divide is the line that divides flow of water between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.  Rain or snow that drains on the east side of the Continental Divide flows toward the Atlantic.  Precipitation on the west side drains and flows toward the Pacific.

The Continental Divide runs from northwestern Canada along the crest of the Rocky Mountains to New Mexico, then it follows the crest of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental. In South America, the Continental Divide lies along the Andes. Every continent has a Continental Divide except for Antarctica.

The Eisenhower Tunnel was completed in 1979 and carries I-70 under the Continental Divide. The tunnel is approximately 1.6 miles long, with a maximum elevation of 11,158 feet above sea level. That makes it the longest mountain tunnel and the highest point on the Interstate highway system.

From the tunnel until we reached Avon, CO, where Beaver Creek Ski Resort is located, the weather went downhill fast.

Over-the-highway gondolas and Blake’s GPS announced we had arrived at our destination. We were so glad we started out early.  We reached Beaver Creek around 10:30 Monday morning, the time we had originally planned to start out.  I know my northern readers are used to this stuff, but we had three southerners in that car – this is a little outside our comfort zone!

One of the Board members of the organization Blake works for owns three condos at Beaver Creek, and when they aren’t rented, he offers them to their employees – at no charge, not even a cleaning fee.  That is an unbelievably nice thing to do, and even more unbelievable is the one rule that goes with the offer.  No one using the condo can WORK while there – no business at all.  It is for rest and relaxation only.  A real vacation – Wow!

Living/dining area, with wood-burning fireplace.

The condo was on the top floor and it had two levels. There were two identical master suites – this one on the second level, and another on the main level. There was also a third bedroom . . .

. . . . and a great kitchen. I confess – the only appliance we used was the coffeemaker.

I think it took us about 20 minutes to ditch the luggage, pull out and put on a few more layers and get outside. The snow was scheduled to last all night, and we wanted to be out in it as much as possible!

Exploring was at the top of the agenda.

Beaver Creek Resort is a village made up of several hotels and condo complexes. It didn’t take us long to find this little covered bridge. Once crossed . . .

. . . the ski slopes were straight ahead . . .

. . . and the heavy snow wasn’t keeping anyone off the mountain!

Being out in the snow and cold was made a little more tolerable by the dozens of gas log open-pit fireplaces that lined all the brick walkways.

Ski and snowboard lessons were in full swing – for all ages . . .

This three-year-old had just come down a “bunny slope” with her mom. Amazing!

In the center of the village was a large ice-skating rink.  The snow fell so heavily and so fast that the Zamboni machine was out on the rink removing snow every hour so people could skate.

Sculptures like this were everywhere in the village, and there were as many galleries to browse through as there were restaurants to eat in. This was my favorite – a young Indian boy nose-to-nose with a grizzly.

Dinner Monday evening at the Dusty Book Steakhouse and Saloon.

From the window of the condo, looking down on the street below. Snow was still falling.    Yes, that is a dinosaur skeleton in the window across the street on the left.  That was a natural history museum.

As Ted and I prepared for bed, Blake’s phone rang.  Earlier in the week he had invited a young couple to join us, and they didn’t think they were going to be able to come.  At the last minute things worked out, and they were on the road.  The couple was used to Colorado driving, but we were sure glad we didn’t have to go through those mountains in this weather.  They arrived safely several hours later.

On Monday – we hit the ski slopes . . . . . well, sort of.



  1. The pictures are amazing Brenda. I know you were in seventh heaven with the snow, but how was Ted taking it? I’ve never been to Co. even though Bud has, so the mountains are just beautiful to me since I’ve never seen them. (OH! by the way, that condo isn’t bad either!! ) I can’t wait to see more pictures , although your talking about ski slopes… ski lifts?..heights… .

    • Ted did well, Hilde! He wasn’t crazy about the ski lift (heights are not his “thing”), but other than that he was a trooper.

  2. Brenda,

    Yes, as Hilde said, “The pictures are amazing…”, but It would be a real treat for me to just stay in that condo. We’ve been in various parts of Colorado, but always in the summer, except for two times in January. However, that was in the southwest desert area of the state where there was very little snow. Beautiful in its own way. I’ve ice skated in years past, and really enjoyed it, but I’ve never skied. Maybe I’ll just do that in your next blog. Looking forward to it.

  3. The snow is beautiful. I can’t believe that Blake is able to stay at such a beautiful condo free of charge and he doesn’t even have to work. What a great place to work.

    Now if only you can send the snow to Michigan, I would really appreciate it very much.

  4. Well, the pictures say that Ted is actually enjoying himself! Hmmm… baby steps! What a wonderful vacation! And what a treat for Blake to entertain you in that fashion, after being out of the country for so long!

  5. Wow! I just got caught up on your last several posts and it is so beautiful out there – and i love the snow. You can also send some to northern Indiana for me please 🙂
    I’m so glad you are having such a wonderful time with Blake. Happy Friday and a very happy weekend to all of you!!

  6. I LOVE that banner picture of you and Ted! What a great shot! You should frame it.

    Eagerly awaiting the third and last installment of your trip report!

  7. Makes me want to go skiing…maybe next winter! Love the state of Colorado!

  8. The only thing I can say is- BRRRRR! Love the mountains, but that snow is too much like my backyard right now. I’d like to see the mountains green, or red/gold. But I understand–you don’t see snow very much and it is very beautiful out there. Love the idea of a non-working chalet! That would be a blessing. Especially if someone else is cooking. 🙂

  9. Glad you are having fun. Loved the photos, lovely scenery. Love your hat, it is very becoming! What a charming sculpture.

  10. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures Bree….I have never been there, but it looks beautiful. Have a safe trip home!

    • Already home, Sue!

  11. This is WONDERFUL for you to get to experience a whole different part of the country. And so beautiful! Can’t wait to see the next installment!!

  12. I’m with Lowell-I want to stay in that condo! I also want that hat you’re wearing in the banner photo! I love the snow photos-we had a squall with flakes like that yesterday afternoon. So pretty! Off to read part 3…Can’t wait to see the ski lift shots!

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