There are dozens of hidden gems across America. Talking ski towns that fly under the radar. Most people haven’t heard of these towns, which is just fine with the locals that live to play. These are the places without gloss, the unknown gems, where the locals are friendly and shops are locally owned. Some have terrain for everyone, while many are for experts with a passion for something more and become embedded in a back country paradise. Typically reached via long miles of scenic driving, they all deliver some of the most unspoiled skiing North America has to offer.
We have been blessed with such a place, a place where you once caught freshies days after a storm. If you haven’t noticed, those days are gone and the streets are abuzz with the talk of the Valley close to Denver. Like it or not we are staring at the land rush of the century.
A wise man once said the only constant in life, is change.
In the last couple of years, Winter Park and the Fraser Valley have been in the media spotlight. Poll inclusions and well placed marketing awards have shined down on our diamond in the rough. Just a couple of years back Fraser Colorado was put on a prestigious list of unknown gems by National Geographic. It went something like this.
FRASER, COLORADO Best For: Adventurous families with a taste for top-of-the-world skiing
Fraser is an anomaly in the resort-packed northern half of Colorado—a humble, affordable town in the shadow of a premier ski area. Somehow managing to skirt the popular radar, this railroad town of 910 maintains the air of a funky, back-of-beyond Western hamlet even though it’s only 70 miles from Denver. You don’t come here for the nightlife scene, unless you count the illuminated tubing hill on the slopes behind town. But there’s a great pizza shop, saloon, bowling alley, and a ski shop, Joe’s Backcountry Repair, that will hand-tune your planks. You can also still take the train here, with a small Amtrak station right in town.
Five miles up the road, its runs visible from town, is Winter Park Resort, a complex, sprawling ski area with 3,081 acres of terrain, 3,060 feet of vertical, and 25 lifts. The two primary mountains, Winter Park, for beginners, and Mary Jane, for the experts, are like two different ski areas. There are several other distinct zones, many with high-speed chairs, that disperse the weekend rush of skiers. Mary Jane is famous for its bump runs, but the larger resort is dominated by groomers and wilder blue runs, with some scenic, above-timberline options that can make intermediates feel like mountaineers. The resort for its owner, the City of Denver, has given it its usual mega-resort, condo-explosion treatment, but it hasn’t diminished the eclectic charm of Fraser (or its sibling, the town of Winter Park) nor the adventurous, family-friendly feel of the mountain itself but it’s changing fast and if you want a piece of the mountain lifestyle the door is wide open.
That was a snippet of an article written by Aaron Teasddale for National Geographic. Fraser Colorado was buried in a list that included, MCCALL, IDAHO. GLACIER, WASHINGTON. SMITHERS/TERRACE, BRITISH COLUMBIA. MOUNT SHASTA, CALIFORNIA. PHILIPSBURG, MONTANA. COOKE CITY, MONTANA. PAGOSA SPRINGS, COLORADO. These towns sound familiar? Vaguely? Well think about this.
Those communities are miles and miles away from civilization. None of them are at the back door of a metropolitan region expecting a short-term, exponential front range explosion, a populous that will overwhelm our states resources and the Fraser Valley.
As the capita pre square mile continues to tax our lifestyle, I would hope we can continue to be respectful of each and everyones life quest.