We’re kicking off 2017 with a new blog series, which looks at Estes through the eyes of newcomer and journalist, Stephanie Granada. We will follow along as she embarks on snowy adventures for the first time and shares how this beach girl stands up to life in the mountains.
Most beach natives don’t move to the mountains of Colorado in late November. They wait for the first signs of spring to bloom before trekking north. But, after coming to Estes Park for the last two years I knew now is the best time to tap into this tight-knit community. People find themselves generally more relaxed as the traffic dies down, you can get a seat at your favorite restaurant or bar any time of day, and there are moments when it feels as though you have the whole Rocky Mountain National Park to yourself. As a gal who grew up going back-and-forth between the tropics of Colombia and Florida, I wanted to dive into this winter wonderland head-on. I will admit, it’s taken some adjusting—specially in the wardrobe department—but now that I have made it through my first round of sub-zero nights, I’m convinced winter in Estes is Colorado’s best-kept secret. Whether you are just passing through or setting up roots, here are five things to know to get the most out of your first winter in Estes Park.
1. The clothes really do make the man (and woman): I used to think I was too warm-blooded to sustain the cold, until I learned I just wasn’t dressing the part. Most days it’s the wind rather than the temperature that will chill you to the bone, so wind-proofing your wardrobe is essential. The Warming House off Moraine Avenue stocks Marmot pants and jackets that are famously wind-resistant. To comfortably get through the season, we all know we need a long puffy coat (get a knee-length jacket; it makes all the difference), cozy sweaters, scarf, snow boots, hats, leggings and undershirts for layering, and gloves, but we tend to overlook the importance of keeping our toes warm. Nothing will end a snowy hike quicker than the feeling of numb appendages, and just wearing snow boots and thick socks isn’t always enough. Estes Park Mountain Shop stocks Darn Tough socks, which are dense but not thick (thicker styles restricts blood flow and ultimately make you colder), keep their shape over time, and offer more padding on the toes and heels. Just to be safe, go ahead and pick up toe warmers for $2, as well. Gloves are another area you don’t want to skimp. Look for a pair with at least two layers—an inner one that traps in heat and wicks moisture, and an outer layer that is wind and water resistant. While not as convenient, mittens tend to be warmer than gloves. Realize that dressing for the cold doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style. The Grey House downtown has chic flannel dress shirts, cozy hoodies, and stylish denim that make for attractive layering pieces.
2. You too can be a snow bunny: Until I moved here, I had never skied, snowshoed, snowboarded—none of it—but what's great about Estes is that you don’t need to be a pro athlete or have the latest gear to fit in. As the Visit Estes team kindly pointed out: “Duct tape on worn down jackets are welcome here!” That couldn’t be more true. Though there is a whole range of outdoor activities and high-power adventures, there is zero pretentiousness or snobbiness. It’s easy to find locals (and official guides) willing to show you the ropes—whether it’s for climbing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or hiking icy trails. The Warming House and Mountain Shop, mentioned above, offer gear rentals and professional guides. Cost isn’t something you should worry about either. Sled and snowshoe rentals are about $5 at The Mountain Shop, and microspikes, which are a necessity for hiking in the winter, are $8. Here, we round up five great winter adventures to help you take advantage of what a Colorado winter has to offer.
3. Books are your friend: Winter storms have practically become synonymous with Netflix marathons, and trust me, I enjoy binge-watching a new show just as much as the next person, but after a couple days my brain starts to turn to mush. During those weeks when going outside isn’t a pleasant option, you’ll feel more accomplished snuggling up with a good book. Find a fireplace or corner window and let the snow flurries and Rocky Mountain views surround you, as you remember why reading will never go out of style—no matter what new apps come our way. Estes makes it easy to unleash your inner bookworm. There are leave-one-take-one book kiosks around town; the library has a solid selection of Estes history titles; and the MacDonald Book Shop, downtown, has a friendly, knowledgeable staff, extensive assortment of regional and national magazines, and new and old best sellers.
4. You can’t (or shouldn’t) go at it alone: It’s true that one of the perks of an Estes winter is the peace and quiet that comes along with it, but humans are social creatures and it helps to have someone to motivate you to get out of the house. Good thing the locals are so friendly and welcoming here. One good way to meet people is by attending the variety of events that take place year-round—even in winter there are festivals and gatherings every month. Beyond that, Estes’ watering holes create a solid socializing scene. Rock Cut Brewing and Lumpy Ridge Brewing Co. are the two newest craft breweries and both have cozy quarters. Elkins Distilling Co. hosts mingling events every month and offers free whisky tastings. Dancing Pines is right downtown and serves sweet, warm libations. If you’re more of a lone wolf—or even if you’re not—consider getting a pup. Not only do canines make great snuggling companions for chilly afternoons, they will also make sure you get outside for walks and may even be your ticket to making new friends. No one breaks the ice better than a dog.
5. Setting goals help: In the winter, the days are shorter and the chilly weather tempts you to stay indoors. Here is a little trick I started to play on myself to keep sane and active: I set goals, or challenges. Not the lose-five-pounds, eat-more-kale type of goals, but rather fun diversions. Example: Drink your way through town to find your favorite warm beverage (don’t try to do this in one night); learn to knit a scarf (The Stitchin’ Den off Virginia Avenue offers classes); pick up a new winter sport (see #2); acquire mountain-life skills; or cross off all the local museums. Enlist friends (see #4) to make it more fun