Colorado's skiing is legendary but what happens when the snow melts? Read on to find out...
Having skied in Colorado for the last few years, I decided to try it out in the summer and realised it was just as fabulous without the snow!
Starting off in Denver, I was disappointed with the city itself; it was pretty unremarkable, although lunch was lovely at Rioja, a restaurant on historic Larimer Street. Also worth a visit is REI, a huge outdoor gear store located in the restored 1901 Denver Tramway Building - the building was as impressive as the stock.
I really enjoyed Boulder, a laidback university town with a great atmosphere. There were people jogging by the river (can't believe how fit people are in Colorado), chilling in the cafes or just strolling down Pearl Street, with its eclectic mix of shops, cafes and restaurants. Found a great shop called Outdoor Divas, which stocked a wide range of outdoor clothing for women - wish there was a branch in this country.
We drove on to Estes Park, known as the gateway to the Rockies, where the historic Stanley Hotel stands proudly overlooking the town. After staying the night, it was time to hit Trail Ridge Road, which runs through the Rocky Mountain National Park. This 48-mile road connects Estes Park and Grand Lake and is the world's highest continuous paved highway, at 12,183 feet. I'm glad I wasn't driving, as it was a little hairy at times, but there are a number of lookout stops and of course the camera was at the ready for the magnificent elk.
On to Grand Lake, where the weather was stunning and the day was spent hurtling around the lake in a motor boat (my husband thought he was James Bond... I think not!), eating ice cream and generally chilling out.
Next came Vail, which I have always loved during the winter but can quite honestly say was just as good during the summer. A pretty, purpose-built resort, it was a hive of activity, with so much to see and do, and good restaurants and shops. Hiring bikes is easy in Vail, and cycling around the golf course was pretty special, particularly in amongst the 'real' cyclists who were riding through the mountains! A great deal of work has gone into redeveloping Lionshead and although still work in progress, I think it is a job well done, with The Arrabelle at Vail Square taking pride of place.
Aspen proved to be totally different to the image I had in my head. I thought it would be another version of Vail but it was a real working town. On first sight I was slightly disappointed but after a couple of days I really fell in love with the place. The number of restaurants was huge and you could have anything from a simple pizza to a gourmet meal.
After Aspen came the incredible Independence Pass, which is closed in the winter for obvious reasons. We then went back round to the I-70, made a quick shopping stop at the outlet store, and the loop was completed. Then it was on to the New Jersey Shore - but that's for another day!
Colorado is every bit as good in the summer, providing a variety of activities and some truly memorable holiday moments.
Places to stay
The Sitzmark Lodge: comfortable hotel in the heart of Vail with good summer rates.
The Arrabelle at Vail Square: luxury hotel in Lionshead.
Mountain House Lodge: comfortable B&B accommodation in Aspen at affordable prices.
Stanley Hotel: historic hotel in Estes Park
Rioja, Denver: chic restaurant offering a Mediterranean-inspired menu.
Terra Bistro, Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa: good food in elegant surroundings.
Jimmy's Restaurant & Bar, Aspen: fab atmosphere and good value bar menu.
Brunelleschi's Dome Pizza, Aspen: excellent pizza at reasonable prices.
REI, Denver: outdoor gear and accessories.
Outdoor Divas, Boulder: outdoor clothing for women.
Kemo Sabe, Vail and Aspen: amazing shop with the 'real deal' in cowboy boots!
Silverthorne Outlet Shopping: good variety of outlet shops available.
Summer is a good time to buy last season's skiwear - Oakley goggles are a fraction of the price!
Remember, it cools down at night in the mountains, so make sure you pack appropriate warm clothing