The Colorado Rockies — a winter wonderland

The Colorado Rockies — a winter wonderland
Gavin Selway, owner and guide at Bearcat Stables in Edwards, Colo., brings around the sleigh that will carry visitors around the former ranch. The sleigh is pulled by Wyatt, a draft horse specially bred to pull heavy loads. Photos by E’Louise Ondash

 

A fresh snowfall is a beautiful thing, especially if you don’t have to go anywhere. And we don’t — at least not until tomorrow. It is our last day in the Colorado Rockies and my husband and I are with Bill and Sharon from Houston. We’ve come to Edwards (altitude 7,200 feet), a small town about a two-and-a-half hour drive west of Denver. Here at Bearcat Stables, we four marvel that, just as we begin our sleigh ride, the white stuff begins to fall.

The huge stone fireplace at the Club at Cordillera near Edwards, Colo., provides a cozy gathering space on a snowy night

The huge stone fireplace at the Club at Cordillera near Edwards, Colo., provides a cozy gathering space on a snowy night

“Just as I ordered,” jokes my husband.

This sleigh ride is an anniversary gift (let’s just say our Groundhog Day wedding took place sometime during the last millennium), and this scene couldn’t be prettier. The flakes are growing larger and wetter as we slide along the countryside in the small sleigh. It is driven by stable-owner Gavin Selway, who was basking in the Maui sun just a few hours earlier. Now back on the job, he tells us about the history of the Edwards area and Ellis “Bearcat” Beardon, the rancher who raised his family and worked on this land.

A foot of new snow blankets the Vail Valley, much to skiers’ delight. Unlike the last two years, the Colorado Rockies have seen generous snowfall this year – almost 200 inches.

A foot of new snow blankets the Vail Valley, much to skiers’ delight. Unlike the last two years, the Colorado Rockies have seen generous snowfall this year – almost 200 inches.

All around us, the landscape is transforming into a winter wonderland, as new snow covers the old, filling the crevices, smoothing the rough spots, and whitening the dark patches. My fingers are so cold they sting, probably because I keep trying to snap photos with my phone. But my borrowed ski jacket (thank you, friend Donna) and the blankets provided by Selway, keep me otherwise comfortably warm.

I can’t help it; I have to hum the theme from the film “Dr. Zhivago.”

Above us on the ridge we see a line of elk (Colorado has the largest elk herd in the country — 265,000, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife), and later, on the slope along the road, we see two deer grazing on shoots of grass that poke through the newly fallen snow.  We do not, however, spot the mother mountain lion Selway tells us about. She has been guiding her several cubs, one by one, down to the frozen carcass of a deer she killed several days ago.  This circle-of-life drama has been happening just a few feet from the main road, and the scene often attracts a dozen or more people who watch and take pictures. This apparently does not bother the big-cat family at all.

For those who have difficulty in adjusting to Vail’s altitude (8,120 feet at the base; 11,570 feet at the summit), there is oxygen in a can. Cost: $11 for two liters; about $20 for six liters.

For those who have difficulty in adjusting to Vail’s altitude (8,120 feet at the base; 11,570 feet at the summit), there is oxygen in a can. Cost: $11 for two liters; about $20 for six liters.

Gore Creek

Gore Creek winds through Vail Village, which features shops, restaurants and art galleries. The streets are heated so snow can’t accumulate.

After our sleigh ride, we drive to the nearby Club at Cordillera, where we warm up in front of the huge stone fireplace, and enjoy excellent salmon and lasagna in the large, timbered, high-ceiling dining room. In the background at the grand piano is master musician Peter Vavra, who can and will play any pop song, show tune or classical piece that you can name. He takes a break at our table and warns us that the local police are ticketing drivers who fail to clear the snow from all of their car windows — an admonition we don’t often hear in Southern California.

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