When it comes to planning a winter trip to the Rocky Mountains, customization is the name of the game. With variables such as location, type of lodging and a long list of activities from which to choose, no two vacation packages are the same, which makes the Rocky Mountains the perfect destination for families, nature lovers, ski enthusiasts or those hoping to enjoy a lively nightlife.
“All of the resort areas are reaching out to offer something for everyone,” says Jeanne Berard, a travel agent with Classic Travel and Tours. “It isn’t just downhill skiing any longer. Now there is snowboarding, snowshoeing, fishing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, sleigh rides, cross country skiing, horseback riding, ice skating and snow tubing.”
For those looking to venture outside of the United States, the Canadian Rockies are a pristine and spectacular option, and places such as Lake Louis and Banff National Park are often forgotten destinations, says Beth Payne, a travel consultant with Central Travel. After flying into Vancouver or Calgary, travelers can board a train for a scenic ride through the mountains where they can stop to enjoy overnight stays.
“Lake Louise is a mountain lake that is the most unreal shade of blue,” Payne says. “There are several hotels right on the shore where you can base yourself to explore the area. There are glacier tours, canoeing, hiking, fishing and many more activities close by.”
Two-week train tours through the Canadian Rockies start around $4,000 per person not including airfare. The North American Rockies have a high concentration of things to see and do as well and Jackson, Wyoming, a mountain city in Grand Tetons National Park, is an option that has a broad appeal.
“There is skiing, romantic lodges, hiking and the usual national park scenery to enjoy,” Payne says.
Jackson is just south of Yellowstone National Park where boiling mud pots, deep canyons, vast lakes and snowy peaks make the location one of the most unusual and amazing sights, Payne says.
Lodging in Jackson starts around $150 per night. Although camping options are plentiful, Payne warns that campgrounds and National Park hotels fill up quickly.
Details on park lodging and on purchasing passes for Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks can be found at www.nps.gov.
Estes Park is considered the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and is famous for skiing, spectacular views and the Stanley Hotel. From Estes Park, travelers can enter Rocky Mountain National Park, which is affordable at $20 per car for a seven-day pass. The park is often free several times each year, and dates can be found on the National Park Service website.
Avid skiers will find endless options in the Rockies with prices varying widely based on dates, availability and type of accommodations and length of stay, Berard says. The keys to any ski vacation package are lift tickets and equipment rentals, which are priced differently for children and adults as well as skill level.
For those who like road trips, many parts of the North American Rockies are easily accessible from mid-Missouri. Berard says a car trip to Breckenridge, Copper Mountain or Winter Park can take 10 to 14 hours depending on exact destination and weather conditions along the way. But, Payne recommends brushing up on mountain driving tips before hitting the road.
“Check your owner’s manual to see if you need to take any additional precautions with your car,” she says. “Many places in the Rockies require snow chains or four-wheel-drive during the winter months.”
Train rides through the North American Rockies are also a wonderful option, Payne says. There are many choices for day trips, but Payne says she personally recommends trains in Royal George, Leadville and Silverton.
The list of things to do is long and adventurous, but Payne also cautions travelers to plan to take it a little slower while in the mountains as the elevation can cause issues such as nausea and headaches for many people.
“To avoid elevation sickness, drink lots of water and take a painkiller before going out for the day to prevent a headache, and be sure to take it a little slower,” she says. “Just because you can hike five miles in Missouri without getting winded doesn’t mean you can do it at 12,000 feet. Trust me, I learned this one the hard way.”
Central Travel: 228 Madison St. 573-634-1317
Classic Travel & Tours: 1025 Southwest Blvd. 573-634-4881