Okay, maybe we're biased, but we think getting married in Colorado is a pretty nifty idea. From skiing through waist-deep powder in the winter to gliding down the continental divide on a mountain bike in the summer, the state is fun-o-rama. Let's take a look at the reasons
Colorado is one of the easiest states in the West in which to get a marriage license. There is no blood test, medical exam, or waiting period. Drop by any marriage license office in the state, show some form of ID (you both need to be present), pay $20, and that's it. You've got a marriage license good for thirty days anywhere in the state.
Local Bridal Customs
Colorado prides itself on a laid-back, "Hey, dude" attitude. Weddings are similarly low key. It's not unusual to see a bride in lace-up boots and a Victorian-inspired bridal gown, while a groom dons western garb with bolo tie. Outdoor enthusiasts have been known to marry on skis at the summit of the Continental Divide—on the Fourth of July! After swooshing down the slopes, guests can take a twilight sleigh ride to a reception dinner cook-out (in a heated tent in winter, of course) featuring such delicacies as Buffalo Stew and Elk Steak. While you might see glittery dresses and fur coats in hoity-toity ski resorts like Aspen and Vail, the other 99 percent of Colorado is strictly a blue-jeans land of place.
Best Time to Go /What Makes it Special
In recent years, Colorado has developed into a year-round destination. Obviously, winter skiing is still the big attraction, with the resorts packed to capacity the week after Christmas through New Year's Day. Spring break and Easter weekend are other crazy times. What if you want to avoid the crowds? Depending on the snow conditions, some resorts open in November and offer discount lodging and lift tickets. January is a "value season" at most resorts, since the crowds thin out after the New Year's holiday. Spring skiing (late February through April, except for spring break) offers good conditions and sparse crowds. The best tip: ski during the week to avoid weekend crowds of local Coloradans who flood the slopes on Saturdays and Sundays.
What about the rest of the year? After the skiing ends, many resorts offer year-round activities like golf, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. From camping in Rocky Mountain National Park to visiting Dinosaur National Monument (a la Jurassic Park) on the western slope, the list of things to do is endless. We like the many festivals and arts fairs, including the Cherry Creek Arts Festival near the Fourth of July in Denver and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June. The best time to visit in the summer is probably June and July (increasingly popular August family vacations makes that month less attractive), Fall brings the changing of the aspen, whose leaves turn in a spectacular show of bright gold. The peak of the fall foliage usually occurs in early to mid September.
No matter what the seasons, Colorado is always blessed with low humidity. Spring and fall are similar with warm days (60s and 70s) and cool nights. In the high country, it can snow in June or July and then warm into the 80s the next day. Sudden summer thunderstorms can knock the temperature down thirty degrees in a matter of minutes. On the eastern plains (Denver and Boulder), summer temperatures can soar into the 90s. Let's not sugar-coat this: the winter in the mountains can be brutally cold, with highs in the 20s and lows near or below zero. Fortunately, the sun often shines, so bring the sunscreen no matter what the sea son.
Insider Travel Tips
Spend the first night or two in Denver to acclimate to the altitude. Drink lots of fluids and limit alcohol to avoid altitude sickness or dehydration. A good place to stay: The Queen Anne Inn (800-443-4667 or 303- 296-6666) is a quaint Victorian inn near downtown Denver that runs $70 to $130 per room. Good spot for dinner: Mexicali Cafe in Larimer Square, where the
Mexican food is authentic and affordable, The best way to save money on ski lift tickets: get
them as part of a package or buy them at discounted prices from grocery stores (King Soopers and Safeway) in Denver.
Another wacky idea: take a day trip to Boulder, twenty-two miles northwest of Denver. This liberal preserve features the University of Colorado, "Mork and Mindy's House" (1619 Pine Street), miles of hike and bike trials, and funky natives who wear Birkenstocks and eat various forms of tofu. Walk the Pearl Street Mall and stare at the hippies in their tie- dyed shirts, talking to their stockbrokers on cellular phones. Sample the Boulder Creek Bike Path that winds its way through the city In the summer, check out Chautauqua Park at the base of Flagstaff Mountain. Best spot for dinner: Flagstaff Restaurant on Flagstaff Mountain (ask for directions) offers the best view, while OJs in the Hotel Boulderado is near the Pearl St. Mall and offers outstanding "creative" cuisine.
Costs, Accommodations, and Getting Around
So which resort do you stay at? First ask yourself some questions: are you there to just ski or do you want a real town with shops, restaurants, and nightiife? How about crowds of celebrities—love 'em or hate 'em?
Each resort has it's own flavor (and price level). At the top are Aspen (800-262-7736) and Vail (800-525-2257). Personally, we like Vail better than Aspen, which can be a wee bit pretentious. Vail's mountain (and its sister resort Beaver Creek) offer a wide variety of slopes, with lots of beginner and intermediate runs. On the other hand, if you're an expert, you'll find plenty of challenge in Vail's back bowls. Aspen itself mostly offers difficult to expert runs, while nearby Snowmass has more easy trails: Both Vail and Aspen attract boatloads of celebrities.
Vail offers several packages, such as a seven-night stay at a one bedroom condo at Vail International, a six-day lift ticket, and airport transfers. Prices range from $1520 per couple in the summer, to $1772 in early December, to $2310 at Christmas, February, and March (high season). The top-of-the-line Lodge at Vail runs $2642 (summer) to $5424 (winter) for the same length of stay.
If this scene isn't for you, you'll like Breckenridge (800-424-8400), which has a real Victorian mining town with more down-to-earth shops and restaurants. Skiing is excellent—in addition to the Breckenridge resort itself, you are within a very short drive of several other resorts like Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, and Copper Mountain.
In fact, Keystone itself has moved aggressively into the "destination wedding" market in recent years. The resort's Denver sales office (800-362-3392) handles seventy weddings a year. You can choose from one of fifteen sites, including the summit of the mountain, the Keystone Ranch, or Ski Tip Lodge. For a reception at one of those facilities, a minimum purchase of $2500 in food and drink is required. Of course, the resort also does quite a few "intimate" weddings, offering discounted lodging, a wedding coordinator, and help in setting up the ceremony. As for the honeymoon, a premium, one-bedroom condo with spa and fireplace goes for $125 per night in the summer. Prices run from $195 to $330 per night in the winter, with discounted lift tickets available.