Monday, November 29, 2010

Summit County Breweries

Summit County has many breweries and this article written by Caddie Nath appeared in the Summit Daily News on Sunday November 28, 2010 Unfortunately it was not put on their Twitter feed or I would have shared it that way, so I hope the newspaper is okay with me publishing their great article on local breweries on the High Country Activities' blog.
Among High Country brewers there seems to be an understanding that the best beers in the world are those brewed in the searingly fresh air and pure icy water of the Rocky Mountains. Maybe they're right, maybe not, but their theory is definitely worth investigating. A trip to Summit County would be incomplete without a refreshing sampling of what might be the best beers in the world, each featuring the unique and adventurous spirit of the mountain lifestyle and all hand-crafted in one of the four local micro-breweries. So for those who can be drawn away from the slopes or the trek home for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, a brew tour of Summit County might be the perfect way to finish off an awesome ski weekend. 

Breckenridge Brewery

The tour begins at the Breckenridge Brewery, located on Main Street at the very south end of town. A Breck institution, the brew pub is the self-proclaimed oldest in the county and highest (by elevation) in the country. Unlike other breweries, which keep tanks in back rooms or behind glass walls, Breckenridge does their brewing right in front and over the heads of customers sitting at the bar, with towering holding tanks greeting visitors as they enter. The brewery prides itself on its inventive line and often has something new and experimental on tap for the adventurous drinker. Brewers Jimmy Walker and Matt Darling's current project is a Belgian series cultivated from the brew pub's most popular beers. The Belgian flavor of the month is the Trademark Triple, which follows the brewery's popular Trademark Pale Ale, but contains Trappist yeast. The Triple, a lighter brew, blends citrus with a spicy finish for a full, unique flavor that Walker calls “funky.”

“It's kind of cool because it shows you what a yeast will do to a beer,” Walker said. “It's a learning experience.”

Their seasonal beer is the malty Christmas Ale. Sometime in the next month the Breckenridge Brewery will introduce the Double Chocolate Stout, which, from someone who got a sneak preview, is creamy, smooth and satisfying. Walker promises Stout-lovers will “freak out” over it.

The Breckenridge Brewery bottles its beers out of its Denver location, but all beers on tap in Breckenridge were brewed in-house.
Backcountry Brewery

Winding 10 miles north on Highway 9 from Breckenridge into Frisco, the next stop on the tour is the Backcountry Brewery, across from Lake Dillon at the very end of Main Street. The restaurant and brewery are upstairs, where guests will find beers that are pretty much as fresh as it gets. Owner Charlie Eazor promises the brews never see light or air until they flow from the tap and into the glass. His philosophy on beer is simple.

“I think you're supposed to enjoy drinking it,” Eazor said.

With five Great American Beer Fest gold medals in the bag, the Backcountry brews seem to be pretty enjoyable, from an easy Wheeler Wheat that will be a winner with lighter beer drinkers to the more intense Peak One Porter that's a favorite with the locals. But it's the Telemark India Pale Ale, a gold medalist, that really delivers. The copper blend of northwest hops goes down easy and tastes great.

For visitors looking to take their favorite brew home with them, bottles and Backcountry's signature pig kegs are available for purchase.

Dillon Dam Brewery

The tour continues across the Dillon Dam road or over the hill on Interstate-70 (the Dam road is closed at certain times of day and in bad weather conditions) to the Dillon Dam Brewery, just off Highway 6 in Dillon. The brewery is a local hot spot with a big bar and an energetic atmosphere. The broad variety of beers on tap makes it a good stop for groups with diverse tastes. With a selection that ranges from a light wheat to a no-nonsense Irish stout, the brews that fall toward the middle of the spectrum offer a unique opportunity for those loyal to one kind of beer to venture out of their comfort zone.

“Part of what we try to do is do something for everybody,” brewmaster Cory Forester said. “I love when I can surprise somebody. Ask for a sample and sometimes you're going to be surprised at what you might like.”

The Dam Straight Lager, a smoky smooth Great American Beer Fest silver medalist, is a good bet. The amber offers a full, caramel malt flavor that beer connoisseurs will appreciate, but has a relatively lighter body and isn't bitter, making it enjoyable for those who usually stick to the wheats and pilsners. Sweet George's Brown is another house favorite, owner George Blincoe said. True to its name the English-style ale is almost sweet and surprisingly smooth for its color. Look for a seasonal pumpkin brew coming soon to a tap near you.

The Dam offers bottled beers for those who want to take the flavor home and tours of the massive behind the scenes brewery can be scheduled ahead of time. 

Pug Ryan's Steakhouse and Brewery

The brew tour then heads up the hill on highway 6 away from the interstate, concluding on Village Place in Dillon at the infamous Pug Ryan's Steak House and brewery, named for an infamous 19th century bank robber. Warm and inviting with low ceilings and a wood burning fireplace, the little brewery is a favorite with locals and offers some of the most creative brews in the county. Where other breweries rely on the same base grains for all their beers and flavor the individual brews with different spices and strategies, Pug Ryan's takes variety and experimentation right down to the foundations of their beers. The brewery buys grains in smaller batches giving brewers the flexibility to switch things up more often and be adventurous with their recipes, CEO Travis Holton said.

“(With smaller batches) our brewer can craft each beer kind of like the recipe for a soup,” Holton said.

The Belgium style Saison, flavored with spiced coriander and orange, is a pleasant late-year seasonal and the Pallavicini Pilsner is a popular seller, but the Kitchen Sink Stout is not to be missed by anyone who appreciates a darker beer. The beer, aged seven weeks in a burnt oak whiskey barrel delivers a flavor that is complex and innovative. It begins as a traditional stout, strong and smooth, but slowly brings to life the smoked wood and whiskey tastes infused during the aging process. The stout is brewed only a couple times a year and this batch might only last through the holidays.

Pug Ryan's beers are canned, never bottled and available for purchase.

The SDN recommends anyone planning to take a brew tour of Summit County designate a driver or use the free Summit Stage transit system.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway

Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway
Dolores River
San Miguel River
Nucla Loop
Hanging Flume
Glenwood Springs

As I experienced the past few frigid days and a minus 11degrees this morning in Frisco, Colorado, I am reminded of the last of my three day trip to the western border of Colorado and the eastern border of Utah, on Sunday October 17, 2010.

I woke up in Bedrock to a beautiful alpenglow on the butte above my camp site and went to read the information about the Dolores River, that is only open for rafting for a short time in June. Apparently the historic Bedrock store at the end of the road I had gone down to the river was in the movie "Thelma and Louise."

We continued on Highway 80 to Vancorum. The road here was open range land and very straight with the river valley to the left and the Uncomapaghre Plateau in the distance.

In Vancorum we joined the Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway by turning left and traveling north on Highway 141. I had taken this road going south on my way to raft the Grand Canyon in the fall of 2009, and this part of my trip was really the reason I had come west, as this road was so spectacular. I needed gas and some breakfast and so I turned off the road on the Nucla Loop but was a bit disturbed to find the name of the road was Calamity Road. I thought that the loop would bring us back to the Byway, but it actually starts north of Nucla and is a dirt 4X4 and mountain bike road up onto the Uncompaghre Plateau that comes out on the Byway way to the north. So I actually headed south to Naturita, a good sized town with the local highschool, a grocery store / gas station, some motels, and an airport. There were a lot of motorcycles parked at the motels. Highway 141 is a favorite fall drive for motorcyle enthusiasts.

The road from Vancorum north follows the San Miguel River a tributary of the Dolores. The stands of Cottonwoods along the river were a brilliant yellow, with very large bushes of Rabbitbrush along the road side.

The first place of interest I came to is the ghost town of Uravan This was the site of mining for Uranium and Vanadium (hence the name of the town) and the Vanadium Corporation of America, was founded in 1936. Both ores come from a yellow sedimentary rock called Carnolite. Uranium from the town was used during World War II for the Manhatten Project that lead to the development of the atomic bomb. Vanadium was used to harden steel - now Molybdenum is used and is also mined in Colorado at the Climax Mine on Freemont Pass in Park County and at the Henderson Mine in Summit County. At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s the town had over 200 mines. Uravan continued to thrive producing uranium for nuclear power plants until the 1980s. In 1986 the town became a superfund site and clean up continued until 2001. During the mining era the town produced 42 million pounds of Uranium and 220 million pounds of Vanadium. All that remains now is is a turn off and interpretive sign at mile marker 76.

I crossed over the San Miguel river and as it enters a deep canyon the road climbs onto the plateau above with plenty of Pinon Juniper and Sage Brush with the mountain sides dotted with mine tailings. At mile marker 81 is the Hanging Flume overlook and interpretive sign This area was discovered in 1776 when two Spanish friars, Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silverstre Valez de Escalante set out from Santa Fe to find a route to California. The Dominguez-Escalante Expedition covered 2000 miles in the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. In the late 1800s the Montrose Placer Mining Company needed water for their gold mining claims and decided to build a flume to transport the water needed for their placer mines This flume would have to be ten miles long, and to complete the entire route at the proper gradient, the flume would have to cling to seven miles of sheer rock walls, at times suspended hundreds of feet above the river. The Hanging Flume is gradually being restored and was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2006. It is one of the World Monument Fund's 100 most endangered sites, along with such notable destinations as the Great Wall of China, Ellis Island and Mesa Verde.

Between mile markers 88 and 89 the San Miguel joins the Dolores River and the road enters the Dolores River Canyon that lasts until mile marker 100 with truly spectacular scenery.

Once the canyon widens out there are many beautiful farms including one for reindeer. At the town of Gateway where the road crosses the Dolores and it turns to the west to begin its journey to meet the Colorado River in Utah, there is the stunning Gateway Canyons Resort This is the junction of the Dolores River Canyon  and the Unaweep Canyon and the road turns to the northeast.

At mile marker 117 is the West Creek Picnic Area where I enjoyed lunch and Sawyer had a dip in West Creek.

Beginning at mile marker 121 is for me the most beautiful part of the trip. On the right hand side of the road is the northern edge of the Uncompaghre Plateau. Its slopes are a kaleidoscope of hues from the Scrub Oaks, Sage Brush, and Rabbit Bruish - pale yellow, green, brown, bronze and ruby red with splashes of bright yellow in the gullies from the Aspen trees. At mile marker 125 the Gateway Canyons Resort has their stables. The rest of the valley is filled with farms until mile marker 135. Unfortunately the valley is really wide and it was hard to obtain a good picture of the colors on the slopes but hopefully these pictures give an idea of the valley and the incredible vegetation along the roadside.

At mile marker 140 the Nucla Loop rejoins the highway winding down from the plateau. After the canyon the road climbs and at mile marker 147 there is a great view of the Bookcliffs to the north of Grand Junction and the Colorado River. The road finishes at mile marker 151 and joins Highway 50 and then I turned off on Highway 141 to Palisades. On Highway 6 in Palisades where I stopped to try and buy peaches but the produce was into the fall season with apples, pumpkins, chile peppers and gourds. As I crossed the Colorado River I had now finished my loop and would retrace my route on Interstate 70 back to Frisco, Colorado. As I passed Glenwood Springs I was able to catch a wonderful snowcapped view of Mount Sopris. Driving next to the Colorado River with the engineering marvel of the elevated part of Glenwood Canyon signified the end of my Fall and winter's approach and hopfully a great ski season for High Country Activities.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ullr - God of Skiing

So we are all thanking Ullr right now for the amazing conditions we are having for the opening of the Summit and Eagle County Resorts - Arapahoe Basin, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone and Vail. A- Basin, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain are open already, Vail opens on Friday November 19 with 550 acres and Beaver Creek opens the Wednesday before Thanksgiving on November 25.

But exactly who was Ullr and why do we invoke him when we get the kind of dump we are having right now and have been all week?

I found this article on the web. It was written in 2000 so there are some comments about skis that are outdated but you will get the point, even if it is written in a some what irreverent style.

Ullr - The Man, The Myth
by David McKee, Vancouver, BC.
October 2000
You know the feeling-you are on your skis working the rhythm, enjoyin' the speed, and suddenly for a few turns, you feel immortal.  The feeling is difficult to describe but perhaps you sensed a little inspiration from Ullr.the god of choice among Scandinavians and backcountry snow lovers alike.
Ullr, a.k.a. Uller, Ullin, Holler, Vulder, and Ull, is a pre-Viking era Nordic god and he kept fine company with the likes of Odin, Thor, and other esteemed deities.  Among his many skills, he was the god of skiing, archery, hunting, and was known to be quite promiscuous (which he may have inherited from his mother Sif, the Goddess of Fertility).  Sure, Ullr had some neat traits but in our world of plastic boots, cap skis, laser sights, and Viagra, it's easy to dismiss them as the quaint skills of some randy old god.  Nevertheless, think back to the days when being noted as a master archer was no slight task.
At the time, Ullr was competing with the likes of Thor, who brandished a hammer capable of shooting lightning bolts in battle (sort of like skiing old Karhu XCD's while your buddy is on a pair of AK Launchers).  Then there was Loki the trickster, who could assume the form of animals to deceive or escape the wrath of the gods.  Despite his lack of supernatural powers (aside from skiing), Ullr was the name invoked to warrant good luck when undertaking a duel.  His name, which means glorious or dazzling, clearly reflects his abilities, and myth has it he once held the seat of the highest god.  His character and the legends associated with it are pervasive throughout the historic tales of the Vikings, Goths, Saxons, and ancient Britons.  Basically, Ullr rules!
In addition to dueling, gods were also known to have a penchant for good times, and Ullr, when he was not out making fresh tracks, was known to flirt with the Goddesses on a regular basis.  His sexual prowess is legendary and if modern pop culture is any indication, then the goddesses may well have been sporting horns and pointy metal bras - necessitating some smooth talkin' and delicate moves on Ullr's part (and you thought the obstacle course on Survivor was tough).  As an historical aside: Ullr's sexual prowess seems to support archaeological evidence that polypropylene underwear has not existed until recent times given the effect sweaty polypro has on most folks' amorous inclinations.  However, most important to us snow lovers, Ullr is the god of skiing.  As the undisputed master of skis, he often used his skill to escape from foes or track down prey in addition to shredding fresh POW.  In a sport intimately tied with Scandinavian tradition, it is no wonder that in Norway there are a number of place names that incorporate the name of Ullr.
In the days of Ullr, skis were not entirely what we'd recognize today.  In fact, what we know as skis probably did not evolve until the last century.  In the time of the gods, skis were akin to two planks of wood - one wrapped with cord to provide traction.  As people were often hunting or at war, a single ski pole was often used, allowing a free hand for a weapon.
It is said that Ullr was such a great skier that he would streak across the sky leaving the brilliant stars as his trails (they obviously had some fine powder days).  Though very skilled, Ullr guarded his knowledge closely and refused to show the other gods how to ski.  Luckily for us, he let the secret out of the bag and we will all be soon celebrating his glory.  Next time you are trying to bash through some wind crust or plunge head first into fresh waist deep powder, be sure to invoke his name and remember - ULLR RULES!

Illustration from an Icelandic manuscript
showing Ullr on his skis
and with his bow
Every January the Town of Breckenridge has a crazy Ullr parade down Main Street. Details are on the High Country web site at The parade is followed by the annual Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Competition to be held January 25 to 30, 2011. The sculptures will remain until February 6, 2011 weather permitting.
So join us in Summit County at one of our wonderful ski areas this winter and help celebrate our connection to Ullr, Norse God of Snow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Where to Ski in Summit County

Arapahoe Basin
Breckenridge Ski Resort
Copper Mountain
Keystone Resort
Beaver Creek

Summit County, Colorado has four great ski areas within 20 miles.
Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort are owned and operated by Vail Resorts who also have Vail and Beaver Creek in nearby Eagle County. If you buy a lift ticket for either Breckenridge or Keystone you will also gain lift access to Arapahoe Basin. In addition if you purchase at least a three day Vail Resorts pass in either Breckenridge or Keystone, you will be able to ski one day at either Vail or Beaver Creek, four and five day passes give you two days, six days three days etc. If you need more information about the Vail Resorts lift tickets, check out the section on the lift ticket page of the High Country Activities web site at
There are ski shuttles that are available for booking to transport you to the slopes of Vail and Beaver Creek and High Country Activities is able to set up this reservation for you
Copper Mountain is independently owned, and has unique terrain that is naturally divided on the mountain into a beginner, intermediate and expert runs, with additional bowl skiing access.
Arapahoe Basin also sells its own lift tickets and is a great mountain for expert skiers with its high elevation and brand new bowl.
To learn more about which mountain might be right for you, the unique aspects of each of them, where they are located in Summit County and what is offered at each resort, the High Country Activities lift ticket page also has a detailed description.
If you would like to learn a bit of the history of all of the ski areas and the towns where they are located read the indvidual pages for Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek
With the new snow that Summit County is currently receving, High Country Activities hopes that you are excited to come and visit us, and that you will have a better idea of where you might like to spend your time skiing and riding.