As we descend down Berthoud Pass, the expanse of the valley starts to come into view. Driving further north towards Fraser and Granby heading towards Grand Lake, the views open and the skies become enormous. Spending time in the Fraser Valley reminds me of Colorado’s version of “Big Sky Country.”
In an earlier post, I wrote about our love of Nederland and not wanting to move anywhere else. But in truth, if the day came, when we would decide to downsize, the Fraser Valley is where we would go. In contrast to the Front Range, it is quiet, peaceful and unassuming here. At the same time, it offers world class recreational opportunities — downhill skiing at Winter Park, nordic skiing at Snow Mountain Ranch and Devils Thumb, and hiking and backpacking in both the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Several years ago, I met some people skiing at Winter Park who were from Europe. We had an interesting conversation about both the ski resort and the Fraser Valley.
“The skiing here is incredible — so much diverse terrain and great snow!” they exclaimed. “But where’s the night life, where are the cool bars, gourmet restaurants? We expect our ski vacations to include an apres ski scene as well.”
“That’s not what Winter Park is about. The people who come here are families and couples who usually rent condos for the week or weekend, and buy groceries at the local Safeway. A night out is pizza at Hernando’s and they are in bed, fast asleep by 10 p.m.”
They looked dismayed. And though Winter Park’s parent companies, formerly Intrawest, now Alterra Mountain, have tried to develop the village to some extent, I just don’t see that changing. And for me, it’s part of the charm of this area.
I love the wide open valleys, the views of far off peaks like the Never Summer Mountains, and the glimpses of moose grazing willow along the Fraser River. Call me selfish, but I don’t want to ski or hike where I’m shoulder to shoulder with the uber-rich, who are bragging about some celebrity they hobnobbed with the night before.
Perhaps the attraction for me, is that the Fraser Valley and its unpretentious towns here remind me of Nederland’s alter ego on the other side of the divide. Not touristy, and marches to the beat of its own drum. Sort of a hidden gem, not known well to people outside the state of Colorado.
And I like it that way.