Front Range Winter Bike & Brews to Avoid I-70 Traffic

By Rob Quinn

This is part 1 of our “Staycation Series” designed to offer you recreation and accompanying hang out ideas all year round that don’t rely too much on I-70

The beep beep beep of the life support machines made a nifty rhythm, sort of like a Depeche Mode song with no depressing vocals. 

“What happened Doc?” I ask the cold as ice lady doctor with a no-nonsense hair bun that resembled nurse Ratchet.

“He slipped on the ice on the way out of the brew pub six months ago, hit the back of his head and he’s been in a coma since. He does seem to acknowledge it when people talk to him, so feel free to chat it up while I make the rounds”.

Unbelievable I mumble. My bro looks like the flute player in the American Revolution painting with his head bandaged. This is surreal I think to myself. 

Another nurse walks in with the makings of a sponge bath, this nurse bears an incredible resemblance to Pamela Lee Anderson in her prime, but instead of wearing the standard scrubs, she is wearing an extremely short old school nurse’s outfit with white fishnets, held in place by a garter belt. Just then, like a miracle, my best buddy opens his eyes and miraculously says “how is it brah” like nothing has happened. I explain to him that he wiped out after a night of double IPA revelry, and you’ve been in a coma since.

Him: Wow. I feel like a million bucks. What’s gone on?

At this point I have a number of mind-blowing revelations from pandemic to Ukraine but instead I lead with this, “Vail and associates sold 2.2 million Epic passes and it’s been an epic shit show. 2 hour waits and no parking.”

It was then my buddies eyes rolled backwards and back into the coma from which he just emerged…

Wake up or you’ll be late…my wife shakes me and the alarm sounds. My buddy is not in a coma…he’s in my driveway, it’s 5:45 AM and unless I get my arse in gear we’ll get caught in traffic on the way up the hill. I had just fallen victim to one of the oldest plot short cuts in-the- book. The dream intro…

Back in the old days it was a pretty short list of midweek skiers. Either you were retired, a bartender, owned the company, family owned the company.

Not so much anymore now that Friday is the new Saturday and the new Saturday and Sunday look a lot like the old Presidents Day or MLK Holiday. Every friggin week.

Whatever you do don’t blame Vail and Associates. I know that sounds funny and very unfashionable. But look at it like this. The new boss came from Pepsi Co. I don’t know if you noticed but there is a nice little price war going on with Pepsi and Coke that make a UFC fight look tame. Have you ever marveled on how they can brew (if that’s what you call it) package and deliver a 12er of Mountain Dew (the yellow color comes from the same chemicals as fire retardant!) cheaper than imported water? 

Remember when a restaurant used to charge you per soda? Now it’s a tap-a-thon-till-u-tap-out. If you hadn’t noticed soda is a volume business and now so are ski passes with Epic and Ikon going toe to toe.

Weekend snow biking, ski during the week!

Add 1 million or so new friends to the mix that moved here for the same reason many of did, and you have a new level of traffic that for me quite frankly has been a game changer-like only go up I-70 on weekends only if absolutely necessary. The new norm is now to sneak up a day or two midweek for a quick in-n-out with Mary Jane or Loveland and avoid 70 like the plague on the weekends. That statement certainly has new poignancy these days! 

That brings the epic question. If you are not skiing, what are you going to do for the 12 to 14 weekends that constitute ski season? 

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind. Right in the foothills. The answer is to play local, my friend with an adventure zone that stretches from Chatfield Reservoir to Staunton State Park to north of Golden. With barley a discouraging word traffic wise.

Here is my go-to list:

Chatfield State Park. Click Here for Park details

The longer I live next to “Chattie” the more I realize what a gem it is. Most of my days start with an early AM trip to the doggie park to handle our pack of 3. But the real allure is that water! In the summer Chatfield and its smaller gravel ponds offer some of the best SUP in the state, with people coming from all over for the perfect conditions. The winters have become a little tricker, but they can still offer some great classic Nordic skiing when the conditions are right and the ice is frozen solid. I have a rather scientific method called “The Cletus test”. It’s fairly simple. 

Once you see a bunch of 300 lb. Ice fishermen dudes I nicknamed “Cletus” clunking around in their boots and drills, I know the coast is clear for my 190 pounds to glide over that on 210 cm touring skis. When the conditions are right (early!) it’s as good as it gets. Ready for a little early morning eye opener with your breakfast burrito? Ain’t no shame since you just got 2 hours of Classic Nordic in. Swing by Siren’s Bar and Grill (formally the North Shore) www.sirensbarandgrill.business.site.com

And hang with the pros.

Meyer Ranch Park (click here for park details)

Ever seen the open space on 285 before you hit Conifer to your left if you are headed west? Often times you’ll see sledders on the slope by the parking lot. That is Meyer Ranch Park. A Jefferson County Park, which means admission is free! It’s a compact little trail network with 667 acres and around 5 miles of trail. Trails are of a moderate grade and it gets stomped down quickly after snowfalls. The trails are shaded which preserve the snow well into the spring. Although popular with hikers it’s perfect for fat biking and two laps around is a worthy mid-winters night dream. You can probably drive there, get your ride or hike on before your pals hitting Vail even park.

So, you say you like a joint with personality after your workout? If that’s the case, I insist you head down to the Indian Hills exit to the Sit N Bull Saloon. No website for this classic dive. Want to really party with the locals…at 11 AM…then step right up. 

Staunton State Park. (click here park details)

The granddaddy of em all if you are talking Fat Biking due to its extensive trail network and 6% steep trails. This park was established in 2013 with just under 4,000 acres of land to ramble in. It’s the best place to fat bike in the winter in the front range. Like Chatfield, admission or a state park pass is required. To put things in perspective,it costs $10 to enter Staunton vs $229 for a Vail lift ticket. 

Don’t forget to stop by Mad Jacks www.madjacksmountainbrewery.com

For some local flavor and one of their award-winning beers. An eclectic crowd to say the least! 

Elk Meadow Park.(click here for park details)

True to its name Elk Meadow is a place you might see herds of Elk. During the Winter the lower loop is perfect for fat biking. At 1,658 acres and 14 miles of trails Elk Meadow punches way above its weight with some certifiable gnar on the upper end if you are feeling sassy. 

See another guy named Jack on the way out, Cactus Jacks www.evergreenlivemusic.com

You’ll share the parking lot with other bikers—dudes in Harleys but it mashes into a bikers / hippies / jocks / live music by the creek goodness. The food is excellent. Seems to always smell like Colorado in the parking lot of cactus Jacks. 

North Table Mountain. (click here for park details)

Did you know in the summer North Table Mountain has one of the highest concentrations of rattle snakes in the world? Don’t worry they sleep in the winter. The 6,555-foot mesa is located in North Table Mountain Park. At just under 2,000 acres and 17 miles of trails. North Table Mesa has enough to make you forget about the pow or lift lines you are missing. After a gut busting 700 foot up you have a world class mesa to play on while the others wait in the singles line to save time. Swing by Over Yonder Brewing www.overyonderbrewing.com just off I70 and Morrison Road to work on the post-ride tan. You don’t want those skiers to get all the compliments do ya?

When life serves you lemons (traffic and crowds) it’s best to make lemonade (no traffic, great exercise options and epic apre !). Unless daddy buys a company, or you hit the Powerball it looks like a game of cat and mouse with the crowds and traffic patterns. 

I’m finding by adjusting my schedule I’m cutting down on stress and maintaining that hard earned fitness through the winter. 

Now you’ll have to excuse me while I try to get back to sleep and see what ever happened to that nurse….

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