Travel & tourism
Easing visa requirements, cutting wait time at airports and boosting youth travel seen as crucial to sustaining tourism growth By Bob Berwyn SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado high country could benefit — at least indirectly — from a sweeping effort to boost international visitation to the U.S. under a national travel and tourism strategy being […]
Partnership aimed at helping tourism businesses make the most of latest web technologies; cloud computing seen as key By Bob Berwyn SUMMIT COUNTY — Web 3.0 technologies and cloud computing could help grow small and mid-size tourism businesses, especially in emerging-economy countries, officials with the UN’s World Tourism Organization said this week as they announced […]
An exhibition starting March 30 highlights TSA’s prohibited objects By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY —Savvy flyers have long speculated that airport searches and safety checks are a form of security theater, at once meant to reassure travelers and to let terrorists know that they can’t just walk on to a plane without being challenged. Starting […]
National Park Service creates online itinerary for historic water projects By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY — Water has been a defining force in the American West for eons, first shaping landscapes like the Grand Canyon, then shaping the lives of residents, from the Anasazi to modern-day settlers and developers who live and play in region. […]
“Buy from here, good price” ~Alpha, our guide for Dogon By Garrett Palm Exhausted from working in the Saharan sand and sun at the Festival in the Desert, the majority of us volunteers boarded a penasse outside of Tombouctou to return to Mopti. We quickly fell asleep. The idyllic ride back was the same as […]
NGO’s urge U.S. government not to cave to industry pressure By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY — The political war over the European Union’s carbon cap-and-trade plan for airlines is set to continue next week in Moscow at an international trade conference. U.S. airlines unhappy with the plan have been pressuring lawmakers and the Obama administration […]
High in the Sawatch Range with Kim Fenske
Mount Massive dominates the skyline west of Leadville in Lake County, Colorado. The 14-mile hike up Mount Massive is considered a fairly easy trail during the short summer season, with a well-traveled path to the ridgeline. The standard route begins at […]
In the desert … SUMMIT COUNTY — During the past few weeks we’ve been running a series of travel essays by Garrett Palm, who is traveling in Africa and the Middle East. The first part of his trip was spent volunteering at the Festival in the Desert, a world music concert that has its roots […]
Correspondent Garrett Palm explores a river town in Mali, Africa Story and photos by Garrett Palm More: Travel: World music in the African desert Travel: Green tea and music videos in Mali Travel: Along the Niger River On our way to Tombouctou to volunteer at the Festival in the Desert we stopped at Mopti. a port on the Niger […]
“Garrett! Do you remember me? I am your first friend in Tombouctou!” ~Salek, Ishmael, and Beekeepa, separately Editor’s note: Correspondent Garrett Palm recently traveled in West Africa, volunteering at the Festival Au Desert. This is the third installment of his story. Read part one: Travel: Green tea and music videos in Mali, and part two: Travel: […]
More travelers looking for educational and cultural experiences By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY — The tourism industry may be looking at a major shift in the next few decades, as more people begin to define recreation as a learning and educational opportunity — a way to explore new ideas and cultures, art, science and history. […]
Park visitors spend $12 billion in gateway communities By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY — Travel and tourism at national parks continue to be economic engines for surrounding gateway communities, according to the latest National Park economic study, showing that the country’s parks hosted 281 million recreation visits in 2010. Park visitors spent $12.13 billion in […]
Visitation to Africa has nearly doubled in 10 years; tourism seen as contributing to overall prosperity By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY — Tourism has the potential to be a major factor in contributing to overall economic growth and prosperity in Africa, said UN World Tourism Organization leader Taleb Rifai, speaking recently at the Tourism Investment […]
“In my next life I want to come back as a Bozo fisherman.” ~ Corbin from Vancouver Editor’s note: This is part 2 of Garrett Palm’s travel report from Africa. Part 1, Green Tea and Music Videos in Mali, is online here. Garrett most recently reported from the Festival Fringe in Edinburg. Follow his Tumblr, […]
Correspondent Garrett Palm reports from Bamako *Editor’s note: Summit Voice correspondent Garrett Palm is spending a few months volunteering in Africa. Garrett most recently reported from the Festival Fringe in Edinburg. Follow his Tumblr, Life is a slow Harold, and check out his Flickr feed for more photos. You can also follow his African adventures […]
Emerging tourism source countries eyed to boost U.S. economy By Bob Berwyn SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado and Vail could be well-placed to take advantage of any boost in tourism that results from President Obama’s push to speed visa processing for foreign travelers, with Vail Resorts chairman and CEO Rob Katz being named to the U.S. […]
Filed under: business, Colorado, economy, federal government, Summit County news, tourism, Travel | Tagged: Barack Obama tourism, tourism industry, Travel, U.S. Tourism, Visa Waiver Program | Leave a Comment »
From Antarctica to Albania … SUMMIT COUNTY — For the time in a while, I was able to compile a short photo essay based on the theme of the popular #FriFotos twitter chat, founded by travel pro and all-around good guy @EpsteinTravels. This week’s theme is “exotic,” and I struggled a bit, because when I […]
Governments urged to facilitate travel as an economic driver By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY — Global tourism grew by 4.4 percent in 2011 as measured by the number of international arrivals, according to the results of the latest World Tourism Organization tourism barometer released Jan. 16. Arrivals for the year totaled 980 million, up from […]
Armchair travel … SUMMIT COUNTY — Today’s photo essay is a short visual journey to Corfu, gateway to Greece and the Ionian Sea. The island figures heavily in ancient Greek mythology as a stopping point for Odysseus and for Jason and the Argonauts. Read more in this Summit Voice travel story.
Travel experts say burdensome visa requirements hurting economy By Bob Berwyn SUMMIT COUNTY — Tourism is expected to grow about 3.3 percent annually during the next two decades, with international arrivals passing the 1 billion mark for the first time in 2012, but the U.S. may not have as big a piece of the pie […]
University teams try to envision national parks of the future By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY— The National Park Service is embarking on a delicate mission as it prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2016. The challenge is to maintain the rich tradition that have helped the parks become global icons, while at the same time, […]
April 11-12 conference in Andorra to look at mountain tourism in emerging countries By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY — Mountain tourism has a long and storied tradition in places like the Alps of Europe and Colorado, but countries with emerging econonmies are also trying to get into the game. The UN’s World Tourism Organization will […]
South and Central America seen as primary competition By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY —Pent-up demand, growing consumer confidence and a strong U.S. dollar may help fuel a resurgence of U.S. tourists traveling to Europe, according to a report from the World Tourism Organization. Despite updated projections that the U.S. economy will only grow by about […]
Travel rebound provides some relief for economic woes, with record numbers reported in July By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY — Continued economic uncertainty in parts of Europe didn’t hamper the tourism industry, which continues to outperform many other economic sectors. International tourist arrivals to the continent grew by a healthy 6 percent during the first […]
A few places to visit … SUMMIT COUNTY — Since today’s Summit Voice features a couple of stories on European tourism, we thought we’d include a photo essay showcasing some of our favorite spots around the Mediterranean. Check out the related stories: Europe tourism exceeds expectations so far in 2011 U.S. travel to Europe continues […]
sdf By Summit Voice SUMMIT COUNTY —It’s been 100 years since Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen first reached the South Pole (Dec. 14, 1911), spurring a wave of scientific investigations that continues to this day. Antarctica is the only continent with no native human population. The Antarctic treaty sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes […]
A week in rural France with an old friend in a new home Story and photos by Garrett Palm We rushed to get to the waterfall before the sun completely set. We had intended to get there much earlier, but our day in the rural Midi-Pyrénées region of France had been more enjoyable than efficient. The […]
United ads Aspen gets direct flights from Texas and L.A.
It will be easier than ever to get to some of Colorado’s best ski areas this winter, as several airlines have announced new flights, including daily nonstop service to Aspen from Dallas-Forth Worth and Los Angeles, starting Dec. 15 on […]
Kim Fenske wanders the Uncompahgre Wilderness
The Uncompahgre Wilderness Area lies west of Lake City and southwest of Gunnison. The Henson Creek Road begins at Second Street in Lake City and leads to Engineer Pass. Nellie Creek Trailhead lies a five miles west of town. Nellie Creek leads north […]
Exploring the Collegiate Range
The Collegiate Peaks west of Buena Vista provide many beautiful and challenging hikes within an hour of Summit County. The peaks are part of one of the ten largest wilderness areas in the U.S. Over the past several years, I have scrambled over the long […]
Nov. 12 event featues wildlife watching, family activities
Colorado’s bighorn sheep are, for the most part, peaceful animals, spending most of their time browsing on grass and wildflowers in some of the most sublime landscapes in the country. But for a few weeks every year right about this time, […]
Other federal agencies will also waive fees to encourage public land visits
If you have a hankering to explore Colorado’s fascinating Great Sand Dunes, or American icons like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, consider planning your visit around on one next year’s free days. Following a long-standing tradition, […]
Annual tourism growth of 3.3 percent expected the next couple of decades
Tourism is expected to grow about 3.3 percent annually during the next two decades, with international arrivals passing the 1 billion mark for the first time in 2012, up from 940 million in 2010. At that pace, the total number […]
Historic ranchlands and Native American sites added to South Dakota park
Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota will grow by more than 5,000 acres with the purchase of some private lands that include a 1,000-year-old buffalo jump and a historic homestead. “The addition of this historic ranch to the […]
Explore Arthur’s Seat with correspondent Garrett Palm
Story and photos by Garrett Palm
Clinging to some crags, I boulder up the side of Arthur’s Seat, a 350-million-year-old volcanic outcrop carved by glaciers. Looking down on the valley and ignoring the city behind me, I can convince myself I’m in the backcountry. But looking over my […]
Kim Fenske tackles a couple of summits in the southern Rockies
Story and photos by Kim Fenske
A few miles north of Great Sand Dunes National Park and east of Moffat lies the tiny community of Crestone. Taking a right turn on the main street of Crestone leads to a rough, dusty Forest Service Road […]
South America leads the way with 15 percent growth; only the Middle East and North Africa showed declines, reflecting social and political turmoil in the region
Despite ups and downs in the overall economy, global tourism continued to show strong growth in the first half of 2011, growing by […]
World Tourism Organization announces photo, Twitter contest winners
With World Tourism Day coming up next week (Sept. 27), the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization has announced the winners of its social media contest, which sought five images and the five tweets that best illustrating how tourism links cultures. As […]
Leaving Edinburgh on the East Coast train
Story and photos by Garrett Palm
The UK’s East Coast train lives up to its name for most of the trip, with views of green fields ending in brown cliffs that drop into the sea. Across the channel, a glimpse of the continent. A tattooed man with a […]
Guidebook author Kim Fenske shares trail beta and photos from a Colorado classic
Story and photos by Kim Fenske
Castle Peak is a majestic fortress, diminished only by the magnificent company it keeps. Since the more renowned peaks of Maroon, North Maroon, Pyramid, and Snowmass lie close at hand, Castle Peak rests in relative peace. […]
Liberty of tourism movements and rights of tourism workers are among the issues addressed by a global tourism ethics code
World leaders meeting in Madrid this week said it’s time to focus on the ethics of tourism and pointed out the potential pitfalls if one of the planet’s biggest […]
Explore the San Juans with Kim Fenske
Story and photos by Kim Fenske
Durango is the entry point for a rare adventure into the Weminuche Wilderness Area to ascend three challenging Fourteeners. After a six-hour drive from Summit County, an overnight camp is possible along Highway 160 on the outskirts of Durango or a couple […]
World Tourism Organization aims for sustainability
Many hotels around the world have already latched on to the green wave of sustainability, but there’s always room for improvement, and for a standardized way of measuring progress and cost benefits. A new online toolkit developed by the World Tourism Organization after three […]
From the travel files
Sorting pictures can be tedious, but pays off when you find some forgotten unpublished gems like this collection of images from Albania, a country that is rapidly emerging from a third-world slumber in a remote corner of Europe. Read about a leaky bus ride in Albania, more […]
Explore the Colorado Rockies with Kim Fenske
Story and photos by Kim Fenske
Longs Peak, 14,255 feet, is located near the southern boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trailhead and a small campground are situated along Highway 7, south of Estes Park and west of Boulder, about 140 miles from Summit County. Longs Peak […]
Travel: Proposed new North Woods National Park in Maine would be bigger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined
Top federal officials listen to local concerns; some recreation interests and property rights advocates see the plan as a federal land grab
It’s been a while since the U.S. created a new national park, but there’s a move to do just that in the remote North Woods of Maine, where […]
Climbing high in the Colorado Rockies
Story and photos by Kim Fenske
Whitney Peak is a prominent mountain lying east of Holy Cross Ridge in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. At 13,271 feet, Whitney Peak dominates the northern skyline of the old mining community of Holy Cross City. A hike to the summit of Whitney […]
Garrett Palm takes a break from the Festival Fringe to visit the Edinburgh Book Festival
Story and photos by Garrett Palm
I went to the Book Festival, which is a completely different world than the one I’ve been living in. This festival is in Charlotte Square, a good walk from my usual after-show hangouts in […]
Some trail beta from a backcountry veteran Story and photos by Kim Fenske
San Luis Peak is among the lowest of Colorado’s fourteeners, with a summit elevation of 14,014 feet. The mountain is also one of the easiest peaks to climb. But the Stewart Creek trailhead is set deep in the Gunnison National […]
“A stone city clinging to rock surrounded by green on the edge of the island …” Garrett Palm reports from the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh “It’s summer. It’s warm out,” our guitarist said when a member of the production team asked him about the cold and rain. While we hand out flyers for our show […]
*Editor’s note: Long before ambitious engineers built I-70 as a major east-west corridor across the Rockies, explorers, hunters and sheepherders cross the Gore Range via Red-Buffalo Pass.
Garrett Palm communes with his Edinburgh barber — By Garrett Palm
I got a haircut today. The barber was not pleased with the festival and the crowds it brings. I did not fear for how my hair would turn out because he seemed like a nice enough man, but he did have a temper. […]
Photos and text by Stan Wagon
Breckenridge ski patroller, photographer and fishing guide Matt Krane shared a few pictures from a recent visit to California.
Exploring the Keys: In search of the perfect sunset and a lobster Reuben
Story and photos by Scotty Bondo
The flight to Orlando was packed full of kids. We had never been on the same plane with so many potential noisey bio-hazards.
“Honey, did you pack the ear-plugs?” I asked quietly as we settled into our seats.
It was spring break for Summit County, Colorado and apparently Orlando has a small Disney problem that attracts the crotch fruits and their parental support units. I made a note to myself that flights through Orlando should be better timed, perhaps during the super-model spring break. The flight was actually fine — and quiet, suprisingly. Regardless I was still even more convinced to get that vasectomy I always wanted.
The next plane to Miami was on a 19-seat puddle jumper, so small we even got out to help push at one point. Why they had such a small plane flying from Orlando to Miami we could not figure out. Seemed like that would be a popular enough flight to warrant a plane with jet engines and a flight attendant. But the pilot was sober and there were only adults aboard, so we were both glad when we finally were airborne.
The internet flight and internet rental car worked out as promised without any help from William Shatner or garden gnomes, so we were on our way to the beautiful Florida Keys. I had my lovely girlfriend with me and some new snorkel equipment. We were looking forward to a great week in the sun and surf. The rental car came with an RFID Sun Pass to breeze us through the tolls (and report back our movements to big brother) so nothing was stopping us on our trip south. The next stop was Marathon Key.
In the Keys, addresses aren’t used that much. Everything is located by it’s mile-marker and with either a Bay-side” or an “Ocean-side designation.” Blackfin is bay-side at MM 49.9. Marathon is pretty much half-way between Key-West and Miami and makes a great jumping-off point for any adventure. We had originally planned on staying in Key-West but were very glad to find this place. Key West is a great place for a day or two, but is almost TOO touristy and Marathon just had a better vibe and more relaxed pace for us. So we happily pulled into our motel-resort and got ready for some beach time.
Kim is a sun-o-holic and I’m not. Our beach wear differs quite a bit. I stay covered head to toe under a big hat and Kim shows up wearing nothing but a paperback book. Like a stadium-roof in Canada, Kim’s bikini top tends to appear and dissappear with the cloud cover. She actually tans nicely, I tend to turn as red as an expired parking meter if I even get close to a bright lamp. Consequently we have different goals in trips to sunny spots. She likes an unobstructed solar view and I hope to find a good internet connection. We found both at the Blackfin.
Florida was having a bit of a cold snap this February. There were some cloudy days and record-setting cold mornings. Tanning in the rain doesn’t work I am told, so we had to find other things to do. Luckily we were in the Florida Keys, a Mecca for tourists, retirees and pirates there was plenty, as long as you like eating, diving, or fishing.
Snorkeling at Sombrero Reef
The diving is world class. Snorkeling at Sombrero Reef was a highlight. For 30 bucks at Tilden’s Scuba Center they take you out to the most amazing reef in Florida. The locals told us about this place and Barry reaffirmed the fact that this was the best snorkeling and diving to be found in the sunshine state.
I am not well versed in dive trips but Kim has snorkeled many places in the Carribean and also agreed that this was a rare treat It was like swimming in the aquarium at the doctor’s office. I was overwhelmed with the variety of sea life: Parrot fish, queen angel fish, eels, little “walnut” jelly-fish, and countless neon species filled were everywhere.
Captain Billy and his crew were amazingly patient, knowledgable, and helpful to the snorkelers and newly certified divers. Safety and fun were the keywords of the trip. They took us to two different spots along the state park reef and let us dive for more than an hour at each locale. The half-day tour is more than enough.
Key West is themed around Ernest Hemmingway, pirates and drag-queens. Beautiful Victorian cottages fade in the strong sun and scents of smoky barbeque and lime waft down sandy alley-ways. Chickens run wild in the cobblestone streets along with six-toed cats and locals on crazy, colorful cruiser-bikes.
You can tell you have entered into another world with it’s own rules and customs. A southern accent mixed with the lingo of a long life at sea fills your ears as you chat with the residents about shrimps, conchs and cocktails. Everyone seems to have been born on the very bar stool you now now find them sitting on. T-shirts and sandals are worn with forced tolerance as if they are just one layer too many. I wouldn’t describe it as a relaxed atmosphere, but it’s real and unpretentious; southern-paced, with a salsa undercurrent.
Our favorite stop now in Key West is a place called Peppers. It is a shop dedicated to the religion of hot sauce. Before going in however, you have to buy an iced bucket of beers from the sports bar next door (be sure to get some extra for your server). Then belly up to Pepper’s tasting-bar and plan to spend an hour or two testing and tasting some of the thousands of hot sauces and cooking marinades that line the walls.
A hot-sauce sommelier will take you on a tour of your tongue; armed only with corn chips, your server will expertly guide you through the halls of the habanero. Your palate will light up with heat and your skin will glow with a saucy sweat. They will mix sauces together and paint pictures of barbeques and glazed chickens that you can’t wait to go make yourself.
Kim and I considered ourselves lucky leaving with just a$150 worth of delightful treasures locked away in little red bottles. Whether you are a gourmet foodie or a sunday-afternoon-chips-and-salsa-while-watching-football-guy, you absolutely have to stop at Peppers. Luckily it’s just a block away from the Conch Republic where you can cool down afterwards in an open air patio next to the marina, eating some of their famous pink Key shrimp.
The Key West sunset is where color was invented, and the Mallory Square scene is world-famous — and rightly so. The sunset is a must-attend mass everywhere you go in the Keys and Key West has made it into an art. Touristy but fun, it caps off a perfect day.
For the foodies we found a couple of treats. Stopping at most any Miami Cuban sandwich shop on the way out of town for a classic Cuban sandwich piled high with pork, turkey, ham on a toasted bread with a pickle is a tradition for us now. Look for Las Olas Cafe in the South Beach area.
Just a couple of blocks off the highway in Marathon is the Key’s Fisherie, Market and Marina, at MM 49 at the end of 35th Streeet. There they have the award-winning best fish sandwich in Florida — the lobster Reuben: Toasted sourdough piled high with fresh lobster, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut. Sit up in the sunset grill and wash it down with a Key West Sunset Ale.
For dirt-bag tourists looking for cheap thrills you can visit the Hawk Cay Resort, with a great pool that’s easily poached and a free dolphin show for their guests. The dolphins are accesible right off the walkways around the hotel and they have a couple of shows daily. Not the caliber of a Sea-World type park, but it’s guilt-free because you didn’t pay for it. I like free stuff.
One of our favorite stops in South Florida is the Everglades. Winter is a good time to see wildlife in the park. We saw alligators, herons, osprey, ibis, coots, cormorants, great white pelicans, and my new favorite bird; the anhinga. All of them were tasty and delicious; we should have brought more charcoal.
After that, Kim and I turned in our rental car all caked with sand and lobster juice. We took the shuttle to the airport where various delays and another, unplanned night at a Marriott in Houston awaited us. Finally the cold, thin air of Colorado greeted us, and visions of another great trip to Florida filled our memories, like the fine sand in the bottom of my luggage.
See more photos and other cool stuff at Scotty’s blog.
On the reef: Eco adventures in Belize
TURNEFFE ATOLL — It’s rare to hear a tropical island-dweller say anything good about hurricanes, so Leigh and I listen up as Carlos Miller explains how the storms lead to renewal and growth, and not just destruction. Bigger hurricanes can destroy mangrove stands like the ones we’re exploring on Cockroach Caye. But over time, the storms flush sand off the reef and into the trees. The mangrove roots trap the sand to build new land, and the coral is swept free of choking sand, so the storms help sustain both parts of this intertwined ecosystem that plays a crucial role in transferring organic matter from land to ocean.
We’re in the middle of a snorkeling day about 30 miles from the Belize mainland, relaxing near a makeshift Robinson Crusoe shack on Turneffe Atoll. While chunks of foil-wrapped chicken sizzle fragrantly on a wood fire, Miller leads us around the tiny speck of land and explains how the mangroves are the marine nursery for the fish we’ve been seeing around the coral gardens of the atoll.
For now, Turneffe Atoll remains one of the most pristine and diverse marine preserves in the Caribbean. According to the San Francisco-based Oceanic Society, it’s the largest and most biologically diverse coral atoll in the Western Hemisphere.
But overall, Caribbean reefs are in decline. Due to over-fishing, Algae-eating fish are disappearing. Without those predators, the algae outgrow and smother coral. In some parts of the region, run-off from beachside development related to tourism is damaging nearby reefs. Other direct impacts include pollution from agricultural and industrial sources and sediment from deforestation.
Miller, one of the most conscientious guides we’ve ever met, wants to make sure Turneffe Atoll remains pristine. He practices and advocates for responsible ecotourism with his Caye Caulker-based Red Mangrove Eco Adventures, and his family flag is firmly planted on the tiny strip of coral. He inherited the island from his grandfather, along with an aura of paternal wisdom he demonstrates by mentoring local kids as apprentice skippers.
After lunch we explore one more undersea garden, six of us spread out across acres and acres of Caribbean Sea with nobody else in sight. Late-afternoon sunlight shimmers through a school of translucent squid hovering in a fantasyland of purple, green and gold coral patches. Leigh and I float hand-in-hand. The gentle currents rock and drift us gently through the slots and outcrops, in synch with endless schools of fish. Together, we feel part of our beautiful world.
As we head northwest back toward Caye Caulker, a school of bottlenose dolphins plunges through our wake. Even though we’re running late, Miller cuts the engine and urges us to jump in for an impromptu swim. As soon as our ears are underwater, we hear the squealing sea mammals, gently inviting us to dive and spin with them. This is the deep blue sea. Beams of sunlight filter through plankton-rich water, and the dolphins swirl closer around us in a trippy Jacque Cousteau moment before they disappear below. After dark, we trail our fingers through phosphorescent scent streaks of plankton motoring back to Caye Caulker in Miller’s skiff.
San Pedro vibe
Our day trip with Miller is part of a whirlwind spring getaway, base-camped in San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye. It’s the hub of Belizean shore tourism, with a classic palm fringed beachfront strip running a few miles up and down and the shore, where bikes and golf carts rule. The town is one of the main starting points for exploring the great Mesoamerican Reef, which is second only in size to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Partly for this reason, Leigh had long ago circled Belize on the travel map in her Summit County pad, so it was the perfect destination for a birthday trip.
One evening, we rent a heavy sit-on-top kayak, carrying it three blocks across the narrow spit of land to the lagoon side. You’d think that, in a town that’s only a couple of hundred feet across, people would be accustomed to seeing boats everywhere. But our portage draws curious looks.
We glide out to meet the fiery orange sunset as a few egrets flutter out of the mangrove thickets. Near a headland, we find a conch shell dumping ground where local fishermen abandoned dozens of the empty vessels. I dip shoulder-deep into the still bay and retrieve a few of them. On the bow of the boat, rays from the sinking sun burst across the pink interior of the shells with a tender and inviting light.
The laid-back pace of San Pedro suits our languid mood. We stroll late, eating ice cream and frozen custard first, then scouting seafood joints. The search culminates with a birthday dinner of fresh crab and conch in a sand-floored bungalow, where a trio of local kids does magic tricks and signs us up for a probably nonexistent school raffle.
Our first reef excursion is close to San Pedro. Both casual snorkelers and serious divers find it all here. Dozens of outfitters line San Pedro’s piers, all offering treks to popular spots like the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley. Longer dive trips venture out to the famed Blue Hole.
We sign up for one of the standard tours with Amigos Del Mar. The first stop is Hol Chan, a break in the reef where we spot a flotilla of patrolling barracudas and a sea turtle majestically riding the tidal current, along with armadas of neon-colored reef-nibblers, straight out of Finding Nemo. At Shark Ray Alley, the guides chum the water to draw a school nurse sharks and rays to the boat. It seems a strange practice for a marine reserve, but the guides say fishermen have been cleaning their holds in that spot for generations, long before they started hauling tourist divers to the area.
Tourist traffic at both sites is high during peak season. At times we feel like we’re playing footsies with scuba divers below and rubbing shoulders with passengers from several other boats anchored nearby. But the density and variety of marine life makes it worthwhile. As the swimmers disperse, Leigh and I are wide-eyed at the sight of a neon moray eel. We marvel at how close we can get to a golden curtain of fish, all swaying as one with the tidal current.
The half-day visits to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley are action-packed and great for kids. But for Leigh and I, the eco-oriented Turneffe Atoll trip with Miller had a more rewarding flavor, well worth the exhilarating two-hour ride across choppy seas.
On our last island day, we ride the water taxi back to Caye Caulker, Miller’s stomping ground. We enjoy the mellow barefoot mood on the sandy main street. A squall moves in, and the beachfront vendors hustle to pack away rainbow-hued sarongs and strings of beads. For our last dinner of the trip we meet Miller at the Happy Lobster, curious to hear more of his take on the tourist trade.
Ecotourism stems from the mindset of tourists as much as the number of recycling bins, Miller reminds us. That means includes showing gratitude and respect for the privilege of sharing other environments, cultures, landscapes and food.
This attitude can pay off with access to amazing sights like the Aktun Tunichil Muknal cave system, where we visited on the first day of our trip. Ten centuries before Miller started thinking about the sustainability of his guiding company, Mayan priests used the cave to appeal to a god for a balance between rain and sun. Danny, our guide, Danny, explains that deep in the labyrinth, the Mayans prayed to Chac, the sustainer, leading us into a crystalline underworld through a maze of watery tunnels.
The keyhole-shaped entrance to the cavern is draped with thick vines. Moss-covered boulders line the banks of the pool where we must swim to get inside the cave. We find our footing on a narrow ledge, one hundred feet past the entrance, and maneuver through a maze of stalactite-draped passages and sparkling caverns.
In the openings, 1,000-year old pots and bones are arranged around small sacrificial areas, including whole vessels, each one with a small piercing in the rim where a Mayan priest some thousand years before made an opening for the spirits believed to reside within. At first look, the remains appear jumbled. But the ritual use of pottery may have included aligning the pots to mirror heavenly constellations, Danny explains. The caves themselves were part of the ceremonies as a place of emergence, he said.
Most archaeological evidence suggests that, along with symbolic offerings, dire times called for human sacrifice. Priests opened the chests of their victims to tear out a beating heart. The bones we see reflect the intent of the priests. Entire skeletons are covered with a thin layer of sparkly limestone, beautiful but grim. Other sacrificial victims were somehow tied to the cave walls and left to die in a certain body position meant to show intent to the gods, Danny says, as we view the skeletal remains of the Crystal Maiden.
Mainland Belize also has a rich collection of Mayan ruins. Early morning on our departure day, we hookup with Johnny, a hustling friend of Miller’s who runs a one-man taxi guide service out of the capital. As we speed north on the main highway, Johnny shows us pictures of his daughter on his cell phone while trying to keep the driver-side door closed with his left hand. By the time we’ve heard all the old Fix-Or-Repair-Daily Ford jokes, we’re parked at Altun Ha, one of Belize’s several important Mayan sites in addition to Caracol and Lamanai.
The ancient jungle cities stand tribute to the Mayan era. Along with human sacrifice, this era produced extensive trade signifying a well-developed economy. Arts, math and astronomy matching the levels of the Arab and Hindu worlds were prominent. Some of the older sites date back to 600 BC, and some were inhabited through 900 AD, spanning the entire range of the Mayans.
Johnny power-walks us through the old fortress and temples, making sure we stay just ahead of the throngs of bus passengers streaming in from the cruise ships anchored in the Belize harbor. It feels a little like a race, but we find a few spots where it’s quiet and we feel how the Mayans used the man-made mountains as look-outs to scour the jungle canopy for campfires or other signs of intrusion.
From the summit of the highest temple, it all seems so clear and orderly; the neat plazas and paths, giant steps leading up to perfectly proportioned plateaus. But it’s also a reminder that every edifice, every civilization is subject to decay and decline. Maybe Mayan civilization collapsed under the weight of civil and political strife as neighboring settlements battled each other for a scarce resource.
On the bumpy road back to the airport, we scarf down the last of the spicy chicken taquitos from the sidewalk vendor in Caye Caulker, our last taste of Belize on this trip. We wash them down with $10 see-you-later drinks at Jet’s Airport Bar in the departure hall before winging back to our snowy mountain home. All is well in the age of jet travel, as long as you have an open mind, a pair of flip-flops, a Bloody Mary in your hand and a smiling travel partner at your side.
If you go:
In Belize City, try Hotel Mopan. It’s safe and clean and centrally located and has great rooftop views.
Stay away from Jet’s Bar in the Belize City airport. It’s cozy enough, but beware. The charming owner will convince you he has the best Bloody Marys for miles around, but he won’t hit you up with the $10 bill until you’re running to your gate.
Caves and snakes: The deadly fer-de-lance lives in the tea-colored tropical Belizean rivers. Crossing the RoaringRiver crossing on our trek to the cave, the guide makes us all stand still while one of the zig-zag-backed serpents slithers out of the water and into a tree.
Aktun Tunichil Muknal is a two-hour drive, then a 45 minute hike from Belize City, in the Maya Mountain backcountry. Several tour companies run trips from the nearby town of San Ignacio, but PacZ Tours picked us up at our Hotel in Belize City and offered first-class service and a friendly guide.
Offseason in Provence
By Bob Berwyn
When Leigh and I traveled to Europe late last year, we had an ambitious itinerary, traveling by train, plane, bus and ferry down the length of the Italian boot and across the Adriatic to Greece and Albania, with a stop at Pompeii for good measure. It was nonstop action most of the way, with adventurous moped rides and missed ferries in Corfu, traipsing around amazing World Heritage sites and sea kayaking in southern Albania, and late-night sandwich feasts in Italian snackbars.
But the trip began with a restful family visit in Brignoles, France. The quiet town in the Provence region is just off the beaten tourist path, although this past summer, it had a moment in the spotlight as a stage stop on the Tour de France. For us, it was a chance to reconnect with family and take a figurative deep breath before starting our whirlwind Mediterranean tour.
Living in the tourist Mecca of Summit County, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are many places where people go through their daily routines without ever seeing a tourist. It’s not that those places don’t have beautiful scenery of historic landmarks, but just that, for one reason or another, they never quite made it on to the map of must-see places.
During our stay, we settled into a peaceful routine. In the morning, we wandered from the house to the bakery to pick up baguettes and croissants. After a leisurely breakfast, we caught up on some work we brought with us, heading to the local McDonald’s, where we found a free and reliable wifi connection. Lunch, the main meal of the day, was served on the patio, and since the meal usually involved jugs of good wine, the only logical next step was an afternoon siesta.
The McDonald’s, we soon discovered, filled an unexpected cultural niche. Not everybody in France favors cozy cafes with surly, apron-wearing waiters. The restaurant was thronged overtime we went there, showing that the French have a serious love-hate relationship with McDo, as they call it. But the French McDonalds phenomenon has been well-reported, by Slate, for example, and also in the Times, which detailed how the American company makes more money in France than in England.
I’d rather just show you a few scenes of Brignoles and the surrounding area, captured in the following images.
Antarctica: Convergence in the Drake Passage
By Bob Berwyn
This is the second part of a series on a voyage from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula. Click here for part one: Beagle beer and friendly huskies in Ushuaia.
Our first day at sea is mellow. We make good speed, heading almost due south and averaging 12 knots, with huge albatrosses and petrels swerving and swooping alongside to keep us company.
Trying out a borrowed 300 millimeter lens keeps me busy for hours. I try to steady myself while keeping the horizon straight and focusing on the speeding birds at the same time. Finally, I manage to snap a half-way decent shot of a petrel skimming so close to the cobalt-blue water that it’s wingtip touches the surface.
When I wander up to the bridge, the Russian crew seems thrilled by the calm weather.
“Mr. Drake is sleeping,” says Russian Captain Nikolay Parfenyuk. “He is not hungry today. Mrs. Drake is saying, hello to all of you in a nice way,” the captain jokes.
The Molchanov is a Finnish-built ice-hardened vessel previously used by Russia’s polar research program. The ship is now leased to Oceanwide Expeditions for tourist expeditions on both ends of the Earth. In most conditions, the bridge is open to passengers, so we’re able watch Parfenyuk and his crew of officers plot a course through the Southern Ocean and scan the radar screen for errant icebergs.
The swell increases during the second night, tossing a few chairs around our cabin. Evelin Lieback, the ship’s doctor, hands out motion-sickness patches to several passengers, and a number of places remain empty in the dining room during the evening meal. Leigh and I don’t succumb to the dizziness at all. Instead, we enjoy the rocking and rolling in our comfortable berth.
By dinner the next day, it’s smooth sailing once again. Just as the kitchen crew starts serving desert, expedition leader Jan Belger says whales have been sighted. We all drop our forks and rush on deck, marveling as the gentle giants flash their dorsals and blow clouds of mist into the gold-tinted sunset. Fin whales are the second-largest cetaceans. Males in the southern hemisphere grow up to 88-feet long and weigh 70 to 80 tons.
For more information on the ecology of fin whales visit the IUCN’s Red List web site.
The Molchanov is full for the voyage, 52 passengers in all, with a large contingent of jolly Dutch. There are a few Germans, a couple of Israelis, a well-traveled couple from South Africa and some Brits. the passel of Americans includes eight from our own home state of Colorado as well as a few Midwesterners. One young traveler from California is making the most of the recession. He used his severance package to finance a world trip, including the jaunt to Antarctica. His berth aboard the Molchanov was booked last-minute in Ushuaia at a significant discount.Two of the experienced guides are Dutch, the third is a French biologist, and our cooks are Malaysian, so the good ship is bit like a floating United Nations.
The big milestone for this part of the trip is the Antarctic Convergence, where cold water flowing northward from Antarctica mixes with warmer water from the adjacent oceans. The turbulent upwelling is zone of high biological productivity, where phytoplankton nurtures vast swarms of krill, which in turns is food for whales and seabirds. The convergence is part of a circumpolar current — the world’s largest, carrying 130 million cubic meters of water per second, or 100 times the volume of all the world’s rivers combined. The current delineates a discrete body of water and a unique ecologic region. In 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization designated the waters south of the current as the Southern Ocean.
It’s still a productive life zone, but increased solar ultraviolet radiation through the Antarctic ozone hole in recent years has reduced phytoplankton productivity by as much as 15 percent and damaged the DNA of some fish. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing has depleted stocks of some species unique to the area, including Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish, sold commercially as Chilean sea bass.
There are also concerns about how climate change might affect the circumpolar current, which is known to be important to regulating the world’s climate, but those potential impacts are poorly understood.
Corfu: Crossroads of the Adriatic
By Bob Berwyn
A two-week jaunt around the edges of the southern Adriatic Sea included a stay in Corfu, where Leigh and I lingered longer than expected after some moped adventures, a missed ferry and getting locked into our hotel room, along with other unforeseen circumstances. We were glad it turned it turned out that way because we ended up enjoying a memorable real Greek feast in local’s place near the waterfront. One evening, as we sat in the ferry terminal working online, we watched a group of local men twirl their worry beads while watching the Greek soccer team on a big-screen TV. Read more »
Road Trip: Taos visit brings back memories of tofu, brown rice and deep powder.
By Bob Berwyn
When I moved to Taos for a three-season stint back in the early 1980s, I was on a quest.
I had just spent a couple of years living at a lighthouse near San Francisco running a youth hostel. It was a great gig, but far from the mountains — too far. As I plotted my escape from the Bay Area, I scoured all the ski literature I could find and narrowed my choices down to Jackson Hole and Taos. I was looking for steep and deep. I was looking for a place with some ski culture. I wanted to be surrounded by people for whom skiing was more than just a diversion or holiday pastime.
I road-tripped to northern New Mexico in my $600 beater van, a puke-green 1975 Ford Econoline that just kept on rolling through the golden aspens of late summer, delivering me safely to the ski valley parking lot just as the summer musicians were packing up their tubas and cellos. Nobody bothered me there, and I blissfully hiked for days in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area to get in shape for the season.
I lived on brown rice and tofu from the co-op, supplementing that basic diet with raspberries and mushrooms from the hillsides and home-brewed tea made from wild herbs; osha, gentian, barberry and more. I was cleansing my body. I did yoga and meditated daily to try and cleanse my mind and soul. The hippie vibe down in town was to my liking most of the time, although I was little skeptical when the owner of well-known hotel asked me about my horoscope early in a job interview.
A few days into my stay, I wandered into a tiny bookshop up at the base of the ski area. The name of the place escapes me now, but I remember the tall guy in glasses who looked me up and down and handed me a book called Serving Humanity.
“You need to read this,” he said, shrugging off the fact that I didn’t have any money to pay for it. The book I still have, and the New Age message has stayed with me too: Live right and dedicate your life to making the world a better place. I read the book by candlelight in the van as the nights grew longer and colder.
Eventually, the first snow of the new season fell. First it sifted fine like flour, barely dusting the dark-green evergreens. Later it came in a cold wet wave, draping the peaks with so much snow that I couldn’t leave the parking lot until the plows made their first appearance of the autumn.
Parts of the book that made perfect sense. To me, it meant I should use my own passion for skiing to teach and turn others on to this amazing sport, hoping to give them the same happiness and fulfillment I experience through skiing myself. I ended up on the ski school staff at Angel Fire, a much smaller ski area just on the other side of the peaks. But I skied at Taos on all my days off, and I well-remember my first-ever run. I rode up Chair 1, skated across to Chair 2 and suddenly found myself on the High Traverse, looking down Spitfire.
“There’s gotta be something easier here,” I though to myself, traversing farther until I was standing at the top of Stauffenberg. My knees beginning to quiver a bit. Sure, there was soft, fresh snow. But damn, it was steep. And the rocks on either side of the run looked mean and jagged. I traversed a bit farther and sensed that it wasn’t going to get any easier. I was committed and feeling very small up there on that big mountain.
“This is what you came here for, right?” I said out loud to no one in particular.
There wasn’t anyone around to hear me, anyway, or anyone to see me flail, so I made a kick-turn at the mouth of the chute to cut the steep angle. Then I tried an awkward hop turn, planting both poles in an effort to prevent my upper body from pitching down what felt like a vertical wall. I wrenched my skis around and ending up in the back seat, ready to smear my hip against the snow. Somehow, I stayed on my feet and decided to try another hop turn before my knees started shaking again. The rest of that run is a blur in my memory, but I will never forget those first shaky jump turns, and the realization that, even though I’d been skiing for 20 years at that point, I still had a lot to learn.
What a place to do it. Taos has it all. Moguls, chutes, cornices, open snowfields, tight trees … I came into my own as a skier during those three seasons, developing my alpine skills and later learning to telemark with quirky and quaint gear: double-cambered 215 centimeter skis, low-cut leather boots and wire-bail bindings that weren’t even as sturdy as today’s track-skiing X-C systems.
I also remember by last run from that era in my life. It was the final day of the season. The NCAA Final Four had just concluded and Taos was closing with style, about a foot of fresh powder atop a solid spring base. I headed up West Basin Ridge just before a patrolman stretched a rope across the slope (back in the day when you still had to sign out before they would let you go) and headed all the way out to Thunderbird.
Even late in the afternoon, there were only a couple of tracks on the slope. Taos has always managed its mountain with an emphasis on quality over quantity, sometimes closing trails before the end of the day just so they wouldn’t get completely skied out. I took a deep breath, looked out toward the desert highlands and mesas and plunged into the steep pitch, gaining speed but maintaining a steady rhythm with each turn. It was pure bliss. Steady, sure-footed and graceful (I think) I linked turns all the way to run-out.
I never even glanced up at my tracks.
I harvested wisdom in Taos. I found love and learned how to make it grow. I gained confidence on the mountain that I was able use it every place I skied after that, even the backcountry. I learned about myself and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do with my life when I left. What more can you ask from a stop along the sojourn of life?
No need to look back when there are no regrets. And I had none.
“I’ll be back someday,” I thought to myself as I rumbled out of town on a warm spring day. Bright-pink apricot trees bloomed along the road in Arroyo Seco, and a row of mountain bluebirds perched along the fence, singing goodbye.
I moved to California. Worked for the Mono Lake Committee, serving the environment. Opened a youth hostel near Mammoth Lakes, part of the nonprofit Hostelling International chain, serving travelers from around the world. Got married, had a son, tried to build the best family I could. Became a journalist; tried to save the Earth.
Lost my way for a while, then tried to find the path no regrets again. It’s supposed to get easier, isn’t it?
Fast-forward 20 years. I’m rolling down the highway again, this time in a relatively late-model Subaru Outback, with an amazing woman beside me and a pair fat tele boards tucked in a ski bag in the cargo hold. As we fly across the Rio Grande gorge, the lyrics to Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Wasted on the Way keep going through my head:
And there’s so much time to make up Everywhere you turn Time we have wasted on the way So much water moving Underneath the bridge Let the water come and carry us away …
I am older now.
I don’t know that I have more than what I wanted. Heck, I didn’t have any idea what I wanted back then. And who doesn’t sometimes wish that they had started long before they did? At 50, those lyrics take on some poignancy, and I feel like I want to make every run, every turn and every decision in life count.
No regrets, right?
And there’s so much love to make up Everywhere you turn Love we have wasted on the way …
Some things haven’t changed, like the ragged skyline of the Sangre de Cristos jutting up into a lipstick-colored sunset. The windy road up from Arroyo Seco to Taos Ski Valley still hides black ice in the shady corners under the giant cottonwoods. And my passion for sliding down snow-covered mountains burns as strong as it ever has.
Anyway, I’m not here to relive past glory or wallow in memories. I’m here to ski. And the first few days of this short visit to Taos have been stellar. A warm-up day to get reacquainted with the mountain. A storm day with plenty of down time for romance, games and good food.
And now, a crystalline bluebird day with more than a foot of fresh powder atop a bomber base.
OK, so some of the snow is a bit windblown and dense in places, but ski patrol is working hard to get the Ridge open, and after a few runs together on some blues, Leigh graciously lets me ditch her and head for the top of the mountain. Cut, carved and packed by skiers, the snow on Al’s Run is buttery and fast, and Rhoda’s Glade, somewhat sheltered from the previous day’s ferocious winds, harbors a stash of silky snow that skiffs away in smoky clouds beneath my edges. Finally I venture into the tight trees in Blitz and West Blitz, finding lines that I haven’t skied in more than 20 years. It all comes back in flash, not as a conscious memory, but more deeply ingrained in my skiing brain; little slots between landmark trees that open into new fall lines, roll-overs and drop-offs with soft powdery landings … who says you can’t go home?
Even better, I get a chance to hook up with fellow snowblogger Carson Bennett at lunch. We decide to make the most of the conditions and explore as much of the hiking terrain above the lifts as we can cover in an afternoon. Together with Ryder Kenney, we hike up to Highline Ridge and over to Juarez, where the snow is firm when we drop off the cornice, then softens to creamy powder and even a few patches of chunky avalanche debris lower down the face.
We scream down the backside of the mountain through some chowder that skis sweet and easy, then load back up for another Ridge Run. This time, Ryder leads the way out West Basin Ridge to Zdarsky, named after an old-school Austrian ski teacher who is considered one of the fathers of modern Alpine technique. Here the snow was less affected by the windstorm, hallelujah-deep, and the terrain is simply stunning, a maze of twisted pines, giant rock outcrops and twisting avalanche run-outs. Ryder blasts down the fall line while I fumble around with my camera, trying to capture a bit of the magic.
Even though it’s getting late, we make it back to the top of Chair 2 for an encore run in the same area. Again, we hike the Ridge through the frosted forest, the late-afternoon desert light so clear and bright that it shines right through my skin and bones and X-rays my soul.
I remember the feeling, the reason I keep climbing peaks and sliding down them and it all seems very simple and pure: This is who I am, this is how I live, this is what makes me whole.
STUDY: TOURISTS BACK STRONG CORAL REEF PROTECTION
By BOB BERWYN
Tourists are often charged with loving their favorite places to death, but when it comes to coral reefs, that may not be the case.
Oregon State University and University of Hawaii recently completed an interesting study showing that people feel so strongly about the importance of protecting coral reefs that many would be willing to forego a visit if that’s what it takes to save them.
The study suggests reefs are a rare exception to controversies over human use versus environmental conservation. The core belief is often strong enough that if it means people have to be kept out, so be it.
“It was really quite astonishing, almost shocking how much people wanted this resource protected for its own sake,” said Mark Needham, an assistant professor of forest ecosystems and society at Oregon State. “We fish and hunt wildlife for food or sport, we cut trees for timber. In most natural resource issues, we find conflicts over management for economic value versus environmental preservation or protection, but we really didn’t see that here.
“Our surveys found overwhelmingly that people visiting coral reef areas did not think that human use and access were the most important issues when it came to these areas,” he said. “And if anything was to have a deleterious effect on reef ecosystems, they would want it stopped.”
That results are of interest in Hawaii because the state’s coral reef ecosystems are a major draw for the tourism industry — seven million people a year who spend more than $11 billion, in part, to enjoy the glistening waters, multi-colored corals, and myriad tropical fish . They are a destination for everyone from snorkelers and scuba divers to tourists in glass-bottom boats and toddlers wading knee-deep, all who come to see the incredible diversity of marine life. More than 80 percent of Hawaii’s visitors recreate in the state’s coastal and marine areas, and a majority go snorkeling or diving.
Past research has measured physical damage or other pressures placed on coral reefs. in some cases, human use has been restricted to limit impacts. But until now, resource managers had no real barometer on just how much public support there was for such measures, especially among hobbyists and tourists who use this resource.
These recent surveys obtained attitudes and opinions from more than 3,500 residents and tourists visiting seven coral reef sites in the Hawaiian Islands, including state marine protected areas, fisheries management areas, and a county beach park. The surveys also measured attitudes about overuse and crowding, and opinions about management needs.
Opinions about coral reefs varied, Needham said, but were mostly just variations on how much protection might be needed, with some people feeling more extreme than others. Virtually no one wanted expanded use of coral reefs to the extent it might degrade them for enjoyment by future generations, and many were willing to endorse any level of protection needed, even if it meant banning human use. These views toward coral reefs reflected peoples’ core personal values and are unlikely to change much, scientists said.
More photo links:
SATURDAY TRAVEL: NEW COLO. AIR, GROUND OPTIONS FOR SKIERS
There’s snow in the forecast and the peak season is just about here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, so it’s time to plan a great ski trip. To make it easier to reach all the ski resorts in the state, the experts at Colorado Ski Country USA recently compiled a list of travel tips with information on air and ground transportation to, and within, Colorado.
New flights to Southwest Colorado make it easier to get to Telluride, Steamboat has launched a new web site with flight information and the popular ski train to Winter Park is back.
New flights into the Telluride/Montrose Regional Airport will give skiers more options for travel to Telluride Ski Resort this season. New this winter from United Airlines is a second Saturday flight from Chicago during peak winter travel periods and two-class service (first class and coach) from Los Angeles on Saturdays. United also adds Sunday service out of L.A. this season for Telluride travelers. This winter’s total number of air seats to Telluride/Montrose maintains pace with last year’s record number and boasts nine non-stop destinations: Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Dallas Ft. Worth, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Newark, and Los Angeles.
Another new daily direct flight, from Los Angeles to Grand Junction, will make getting to Powderhorn Resort simple for West Coast powderhounds this season too. Allegiant Air now offers direct flights between LAX and Grand Junction on Mondays and Fridays. The Friday flight from L.A. arrives in Grand Junction at 4:25pm, leaving just enough time to drive to the resort, try one of their famous Ribeye Sirloin Filet Burgers at the new Skiers’ Union Café and Bar, and get a good night’s sleep before hitting the slopes in the morning.
And don’t forget about crosscountry skiing atop Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-top mountain located just a few miles from Grand Junction and one of the best Nordic areas in the state. The Grand Mesa Nordic Blog has great information and links.
Also new for this season, Steamboat Resort launched http://www.FlySteamboat.com http://www.FlySteamboat.com, a new website to help travelers chart the most affordable and efficient flights to Steamboat from major cities across the United States. Recent expansions and improvements at the Steamboat Springs/Hayden airport this season allow the facility to host nonstop direct flights from nine cities across the US, with daily arrivals and departures plus connecting flights providing access across the country and around the world.
Four major US carriers—American, Continental, Delta/Northwest and United Airlines—offer nonstop jet service from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Newark, New York/LaGuardia and Salt Lake City. The plentiful flights are also a boon to Howelsen Hill, which welcomes Olympians form around the country to its ski jump training facilities.
To help families afford a winter vacation, Steamboat is also bringing back its popular Kids Fly Free program this season, offering a free airline ticket for kids 12 and under when their families book a two-night stay through Steamboat Central Reservations. Some restrictions apply.
Aspen/Snowmass also makes air travel easy for its guests this winter. Located just three miles from Aspen and six miles from Snowmass Village, the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport sees approximately 150 direct and connecting flights per week, including many connecting international flights. Delta, United Express, and Frontier airlines all offer direct service into Aspen/Pitkin Country Airport. Once there, guests wanting to move between town and the mountains can take a free shuttle. For visitors who want to sample the different mountains, Aspen/Snowmass provides a free shuttle between all four mountains regularly during the skiing day, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
CRESTED BUTTE THREE-FOR-TWOS
When traveling by air to Crested Butte Mountain Resort, visitors can take advantage of the resort’s Friends and Family Fly Free program. The offer is simple: buy two airline tickets and get the third free. The maximum number of tickets per reservation is nine and there is a four-night minimum stay required. Upon arrival, let someone else do the driving. Crested Butte’s transportation network makes for a hassle-free vacation. Alpine Express meets every flight and provides door-to-door shuttle service between the Gunnison/Crested Butte airport and Crested Butte; a short, scenic 30-minute transfer.
Monarch Mountain, another staple on the Colorado skiing diet, is also accessible from the Gunnison/Crested Butte Airport. Of course, Monarch is also the closest resort to Colorado Springs, Colorado, bringing in many visitors who fly into the Colorado Springs airport.
PURGATORY/DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT & SILVERTON MTN
The closest resort to the Durango/La Plata airport, Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort is a cinch to get to by air. Durango airport currently takes daily, direct service from Denver on United and Frontier Airlines and from Phoenix on US Airways. These airlines may consider adding more flights from these locations in the near future, due in part to the past success that the flights have seen carrying skiers and riders to the area. Once guests arrive at the airport, the resort works closely with the City of Durango to provide daily shuttle service from Durango to the mountain.
Skiers and riders wanting to experience the advanced, natural terrain that Silverton Mountain offers can fly to Durango/La Plata airport as well.
GROUND TRANSPORTATION:THE WINTER PARK SKI TRAIN IS BACK; SHUTTLE SERVICE TO COPPER
The historic Ski Train from Denver to Winter Park is back this season, under new operation by the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. Early bird tickets are on sale now for $34. The iconic train is slated to begin running from Denver’s Union Station to Winter Park Resort on a regular schedule starting December 27, 2009.
Copper Mountain makes it easy for guests to get to the resort by shuttle bus. Guests who fly into DIA can take a direct shuttle provided by Grayline, Copper’s Official Ground Transportation Provider. There are many benefits to utilizing this service: no need to worry about paying for gas or parking, or driving through snowy weather.
Sunlight Mountain Resort also offers a shuttle to the resort from select hotels in Glenwood Springs as part of its “Ski, Swim, Stay” package. The shuttle service is free with purchase of the vacation deal, which allows guests to combine a night’s lodging, admission to the Glenwood Hot Springs, and a day lift ticket at Sunlight for one low price.
As Denver’s “closest, cheapest, and freshest” resort, Echo Mountain also boasts easy access along with a fun attitude. The mountain, which specializes in terrain parks, lies only 35 miles away from downtown Denver on Highway 103. Just past the town of Evergreen and a stone’s throw away from other mountain towns, the resort’s location and affordability often entice skiers into an impromptu getaway to the ski and ride area.
PUBLIC TRANSIT TO ELDORA
Eldora Mountain Resort has one major advantage in the ground transportation game: it is the only resort accessible with the Denver/Boulder area’s public transportation system, RTD. Located only 21 miles from Boulder and 45 miles from Denver, Eldora Mountain Resort is uniquely situated near several of Colorado’s main metropolitan areas. With its new Boulder Ski Escape package, guests can spend a night in one of 19 participating Boulder hotels and a day skiing at Eldora for as low as $64.50 per person. This deal makes the short drive or bus ride all the more enticing.
Loveland Ski Area is the first ski area along the I-70 corridor coming from Denver, so skiers and riders can drive less and ski more at Loveland. Near to the highway, the resort resides within the wooded alpine reaches of the Arapahoe National Forest. To make a trip by car even easier, Loveland provides free, close-in parking to its guests at both of its parking areas and a free shuttle service to take guests between parking areas and to the lifts.
Also nearby to the Front Range, Ski Cooper sits atop Tennessee Pass just nine miles north of the historic mining town of Leadville. The ski area offers guests a family-friendly atmosphere in a location that’s easy to get to, drawing visitors from the surrounding areas, including out-of-state guests and locals from Denver and Colorado Springs.
Visitors can bag two resorts with one drive by visiting Winter Park Resort and SolVista Basin at Granby Ranch, which neighbor each other on Highway 40. SolVista’s night skiing operation allows guests who drive to the resort to avoid busier times on the road, enjoying snow-packed turns while others are in the car heading home.
TICKET DISCOUNTS FOR CAR-POOLING
Also for ground travelers, two Colorado resorts are at the forefront in encouraging carpooling: Wolf Creek offers a carpooling match-up service over the internet called “Share the Ride, Share the Fun.” The program is designed to connect drivers with people who need rides. Riders share the cost of fuel with drivers who are heading to the slopes.
Arapahoe Basin also encourages travelers to carpool by offering a carpool incentive program this season. Guests who arrive at A-Basin with four or more passengers in their vehicle receive a lift ticket discount, even when other passengers in their vehicles have season passes.