Taking Root in Colorado – An Interview with Alison Stafford

Skiing, lakes, national parks, fly fishing – it’s all within 30 minutes of our Granby condo.

Alison

Recently I reached out to my high school classmate Alison (Jolin) Stafford to see if she would be willing to answer a few questions that I had about Granby, Colorado, traveling with kids, and prime ski season. She graciously provided me with tons of helpful tips and is letting me share them here.

Family adventures in Granby, Colorado
Fun for the whole family!

Kelly: We went to high school together, but to be honest, I mostly know you from your exciting social media posts about living life in Colorado with your husband and adorable twins. I’d love to know what inspired you to move to Colorado and what you love most about raising young boys there?  

Alison: The mountains brought me west from Kansas City in 2006 for a brief stint in Steamboat Springs.  I hopped back to KC to get my Masters Degree in Nonprofit Management at UMKC, then immediately knew I wanted to be back in Colorado.  I’ve been in the Denver metro area now for 11 years and wouldn’t change a thing.  I’m a nomad at heart, but have delightfully (and surprisingly at times) taken root in Colorado.  Raising my toddler twin boys in the outdoors is something I’m very grateful for – as well as my husband.  Whether the woods of Northern Michigan or on the water boating around KC,  we both grew up loving the outdoors in our respective hometown areas and love that we have an endless array of options for our kiddos to choose from too.  We have short road trips often and always find new treasures to explore.

Kelly: There are so many great places to visit in Colorado, what draws your family to Granby? 

Alison: The proximity to Granby is a major bonus for us as it’s only 1.5 hours door to door from our home to our mountain condo.  Also, we get a lot more bang for our buck while still have ski in/ski out amenities.  Skiing, lakes, national parks, fly fishing – it’s all within 30 minutes of our Granby condo.

Skiing, lakes, national parks, fly fishing – it’s all within 30 minutes of our Granby condo.
The breathtaking view from our condo balcony. Views of Grand Lake & RMNP in the distance. 25 min from the south entrance to the park.

Kelly: What are your best tips for enjoying ski vacations with kids? (How early do they start ski school, do you rotate, is there a kids watch area?) 

Alison: I can’t wait to start our 2 year old twin boys in ski school, but unfortunately we’ll have to wait until next ski season.  Selfishly and shamelessly, it’s one of my driving factors to potty train the little stinkers asap.  For now, since we have a ski in/ski out condo, my husband and I take turns throughout the day.  Convenience is key (with skiing and life).  We’ve also found a great local babysitting service that we use.  With the close proximity, we can take some runs down the mountain, have a quick happy hour, then hit the hot tub all in 3-4 hours.  It’s perfect!

Ski Granby Colorado
Main lift at Granby Ranch Ski resort.
Ski date in Granby Colorado
Day date with the hubs. We have a great sitter through Grand County Sitters.

Kelly: What are your favorite restaurants in Granby/Grand Lake area?

Alison: Easy answers – Tabernash Tavern and also Heck’s Tavern at Devil’s Thumb Ranch.  We’ve gone to both as a date without the kiddos and also with the entire family.  One of the many reasons we love the area – very family friendly everywhere!  Granby is on the brink of a lot of growth and we’re very excited about the new options.

Friends reunion in Granby Colorado
Friends since elementary school girls trip! 

Kelly: When I think of Granby I think of skiing, but I know it’s a year-round destination plus it’s close to Rocky Mountain National Park and other National Forests areas. What other outdoor activities do you enjoy with your family in this area? Any favorite hikes you’d recommend?

Alison: We recently rented a pontoon boat on Lake Granby for Father’s Day and it was a blast.  Being out on the water is simply breathtaking and there’s a lot of options to stop and take it all in.  A HUGE bonus for me is that all of the lakes allow stand up paddle boarding.  That is one of my big hobbies and there are sandy banks a’plenty launch off while the fam hangs out, has a picnic or splashes in the water.  Hikes will be on the agenda soon, but 2 year old toddler twins makes that a little tricky at this point.  My husband is a big fly fisherman so anytime he can get a cast in the water, he’s happy.  Luckily we have private fishing access to the Colorado River via our mountain condo at Granby Ranch.

Heated swimming pool in Granby, Colorado
Snow on the ground still means fun in the (heated) pool.

Kelly: How can people stay at your vacation rental? How far out do people need to book? What is prime ski time? Any other tips?

Alison: We love having other families enjoy our home away from home.  I personally manage our condo, so you’re always working directly with me for any questions or needs.  Bookings and the calendar are current through: https://www.vrbo.com/1219384 I have families that book a year in advance and also availability with short notice at times too.  If we aren’t staying there ourselves, I love for others to stay and enjoy.  Prime ski time is December (holidays) through early April and they recently built in new snow making capabilities which means MORE SNOW!  It’s convenient, not overcrowded, reasonably priced, beautiful and we’ve yet to have a person not fall in love with the area.

Yoga from the Top, Granby Ranch summer Saturday mornings
Yoga from the Top! Granby Ranch summer Saturday mornings.

Eldora Ski Weekend

This week Estes Park, Colorado had its first snow of the season. Which means it’s time to start planning our winter trip(s) out to Colorado. There are a lot of fun things to do in Estes Park during the colder winter months. We’ve written about sledding, snow shoeing, winter hiking and shopping in downtown Estes Park.

For all that Estes Park has to offer, it does not have a traditional ski resort. However, there are day-trip destinations close by including Eldora which is located in Nederland, Colorado. Nederland is located an hour from Denver, an hour from Estes Park, and 35 minutes from Boulder, Colorado. There is a bus service from downtown Boulder to Eldora.

Ski lift at Eldora

Eldora is smaller in size compared to other popular skiing destinations in Colorado. We didn’t grow up going skiing, so we appreciate that there are slopes available for different skill levels. Lessons are offered for adults and children starting at age 4.

Eldora is scheduled to open for the season on November 15, 2019. You can find more information about ticket prices online at eldora.com.

My husband has enjoyed a couple winter ‘guy trips’ to Eldora and Estes Park. He helped me put together a sample itinerary based on his trips.

Itinerary for Estes Park and Eldora Winter Adventure Weekend

Winter Hike Rocky Mountain National Park

Thursday: Fly into Denver International Airport in the evening and rent car. Drive to Estes Park to stay in cabin. Stop by grocery store on the way into town to stock up on essentials.

Friday: Wake up and eat breakfast at the cabin before heading to Eldora for a day of skiing. Try to leave before 8am to beat the crowd. Parking is limited. Some in the group can take ski lessons, others might choose to immediately hit the slopes. After a full morning of skiing, take a break by eating lunch at one of Eldora’s restaurants.

Get in a couple more runs. After leaving Eldora, stop by Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland, CO for a pint of beer. (Thank sober driver by promising to pick up his dinner tab.) Drive back to Estes Park and grab take-out pizza at Antonio’s Pizza, Poppy’s Pizza, or Sweet Basilico.

Saturday: Wake up and go to breakfast at Notchtop Café. Head to The Warming House which opens at 9am to rent gear such as snowshoes and hiking poles. Head into Rocky Mountain National Park to snowshoe or hike (depending on weather and trail conditions). It’s important to talk to national park rangers to check on conditions before heading out in the winter. Two hikes you can ask about are Bierstadt Lake and Mills Lake.

Frozen Mills Lake

After hiking, warm up at a local brewery. We enjoy Rockcut where you can play games in their laid back tasting room. Walk to nearby Café de Pho Thai for late lunch.

Downtown Estes Park has some great places to shop for a souvenir for kids or significant others. Trendz boutique and Mary Janes have a lot of great gift options.

Return to cabin to barbecue or make some chili. Stay up late playing ‘nerdy’ board games.

Sunday: Head back towards Denver. If there is time, stop at Snooze for brunch before dropping off the rental car and taking off at the airport.