By Steve Graham
Winter is coming.
Well, officially winter is almost over, but we’re likely to see plenty more snow in the mountains. That means you still have time for a classic winter yurt trip.
Yurts are round and sturdy huts that have been used most famously by Mongolian nomads in Africa and central Asia. Traditional yurts have wood frames covered with wool or animal skins. Colorado’s modern yurts retain the wood framing, but replace the wool felt with heavy-duty, high-tech canvas and other durable materials with the addition of windows and skylights.
Most of these huts sleep up to six people. They offer a variety of comfort levels and amenities, but all of them get you into the wilderness without pitching a tent in the snow.
If you don’t want to snowshoe or backcountry ski, many yurts are also available in the summer. Here are four great yurt trips in Colorado — and four local beers to warm you up once you get there.
State Forest State Park
State Forest State Park is a gem of snowshoeing and moose viewing about two hours west of Fort Collins, the Napa Valley of beer.
Never Summer operates 12 unique yurt sites in the park, with various levels of access and amenities. Three yurts near the park entrance have year-round drive-up access, solar lighting and a fully stocked kitchen. Two of those three yurts are also wheelchair accessible. Other available yurts are more basic and require up to two miles of intermediate-level cross-country skiing to access.
Winter rates are regularly $90 to $100 for weeknights, and $110 to $120 per weekend night. Weeknights are currently on sale through the end of April.
Upon arrival, 21 craft breweries in Fort Collins offer infinite options, including New Belgium, the mothership of Colorado craft beer. One great choice for warming up when you reach the yurt is Snowbank Brewing’s chocolate stout. Every Friday afternoon, Snowbank offers a new flavor of this stout infused with locally made Nuance cocoa.
Pearl Lake State Park
Only 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs, Pearl Lake State Park caters to those who prefer a more remote setting.
The road to the lake is currently closed for the winter so plan on an easy ½-mile snowshoe or ski trek to two lakeside yurts on a ridge overlooking the Farwell Mountains.
Cooking and fires are not allowed in the yurts, but they are equipped with electric heat and power, screened windows, two sets of bunk beds and a table and chairs. Outside the yurt is a picnic table, deck chairs and a fire ring. These yurts run $80 per night.
On the way out of Steamboat Springs, stop at Butcherknife Brewing Company for a growler of Buzzcock, a sessionable British dark mild ale. If you go up on a Monday, you can get a half-price growler fill and have the state park to yourself.
For a harder workout at a higher altitude, check out the two Leadville Backcountry yurts above Empire Reservoir at 12,000 feet.
From the trailhead a few miles outside Leadville, it’s five miles of advanced cross-country skiing with 1,200 feet of elevation gain.
Each yurt costs $85 per weeknight and $95 per weekend night, and sleeps five people with a double bed and three single bunks. The yurts also come with a woodstove, firewood, a propane light and cook stove, table and chairs and basic kitchen equipment.
You will have earned your beer after the trek to these yurts. Stop on the way to Leadville at the recently opened Outer Range Brewing Company in Frisco. The brewery specializes in Belgians and IPAs, and even deliciously combines both styles in the Before Dusk Belgian Pale Ale.
Tennessee Pass Sleep Yurts
Tennessee Pass is in the same geographical region but features a different level of luxury. These yurts are located near the base of the Ski Cooper ski area.
While you still have to ski or snowshoe to the yurt, it’s only one third of a mile from the gourmet restaurant at Tennessee Pass and one mile from the Nordic Center. You can even have your luggage and beer cooler hauled up to the yurt by snowmobile. Breakfast, dinner and wine can also be catered to the yurt.
Each yurt is furnished with hand-crafted log beds, full linens and down comforters, soapstone woodstoves and a fully stocked kitchenette (including running water — a rarity in the yurt world). Yurts cost $225 per night with this cost including Tennessee Pass trail fees.
If you need something stronger than the Palisade cabernet catered from the restaurant, carry up the intense and high-octane Night Run Russian Imperial Stout from Leadville’s only brewery (for now), Periodic Brewing.