by Paul Maraschiello


My roommate dropped me off at the airport early to compensate for the heightened security after the 9/11 terrorist attack. I was singled out for a thorough search but I didn't mind. A disreputable looking character like me expects to be searched in these day of terrorist attacks. The flight was uneventful and I arrived in Denver in good spirits. I picked up my rental car and headed to Leadville. The trip took a little over two hours and when I arrived in this little mining town, I was happy to be there.

Wild Bill had been after me to visit and do a little skiing with him. He owns the Leadville Hostel and Inn and offered to put me up for free. I had never stayed in a hostel and was interested in experiencing these low-cost accommodations. Hostels are very popular in Europe and there a quite a few of them in the USA. I had no problem finding the place and was very happy at the friendly atmosphere I found when I got there. The only thing better than the gemütlichkeit (friendliness) is the view.

The Leadville Hostel and Inn is located in the heart of Colorado ski country and the prices are very reasonable ($20 per night - $100 per week). They are about 20 miles from Ski Cooper, 36 miles from Vail, 30 miles from Copper and about 45 miles Breckenridge and Keystone. When the pass is open (in the summer) they are only 35 miles from Aspen BUT in the winter it's a 3-hour drive. This is a great place to stay if you are on a budget and have a car. The rooms are very big and contain bunk beds. My room had 2 bunk beds and one double bed, private bath and slept 5-10 people (depending on how friendly they are). It was clean and very comfortable. For a couple of evenings I had roommates but nether of the guys snored, so it worked out pretty good.

There was a core group of permanent guests who lived at the hostel and were ski bums that worked at the Copper ski area. Most of them were from the USA, Australia or New Zealand and they were a friendly group who made this itinerant ski writer feel at home.

I used this place as a base and visited the ski areas in the surrounding country. When I was there, I skied at Breckenridge, Vial, Keystone, Copper and Ski Cooper. I left for a couple of days and stayed at a hostel in Aspen for a couple of days.

When I came back, I stayed in another room that could only accommodate six people (3 double beds) and I had the room all to myself for the rest of my stay.

There was a big screen TV in the main living room with plenty of couches and easy chairs for tired skiers to zone out in front of the tube. They had a very large dining room and a large eat-in kitchen where guests could prepare meals. There were laundry facilities where you could wash your clothes and even a computer where a guest could surf the net and pick up e-mail.

This is a great place to stay for single travelers or small groups of skiers who are watching expenses. Families will enjoy staying here, as well as ski clubs looking for no-frills accommodations.

The town of Leadville has quite a history. It was a boom town during the silver rush in Colorado and Doc Holiday spent some time fleecing miners of their hard-earned money at the poker table in the Silver Dollar Saloon on Main Street. The miners are all gone now but the Silver Dollar Saloon is still standing. The decor is very interesting and those decorations are probably worth more than the whole building. The people in town are friendly and there are a few good restaurants in town where you can get a good meal for a reasonable price.

I made a few friends when I was in Leadville and it is a place that I will visit again. I hope to get out there in the summer time where I can enjoy all the things that Colorado can offer. I might even go back there during ski season . . . the price is certainly right!