A portable heater dangles precariously over the bathtub as I huddle in the fetal position in a shallow pool of lukewarm water. It's been 20 minutes since I ran out of hot water, and my 20-year-old water heater is sputtering tiny sparks at the tank, taunting me that relief is soon to come.
I think back on some recent research from the Harvard Medical School, which claims that subjecting yourself to temperatures several degrees above freezing triggers the production of brown fat cells. These supposedly burn calories more efficiently than the abundance of white fat cells most of us store for the winter, usually, directly after the holidays. This may be a perk to Colorado, but not what I needed to cheer me up.
Don't get me wrong; Colorado is a spectacular winter haven. However, sometimes I wish I could bypass the lines, weather delays, Mr. and Mrs. Nude CT body pageant screenings, board an imaginary plane, and find myself in a tropical heat wave for one day. At that moment, a cloud of ideas poured over my brain. I jump out of the tub, run down the hall naked, apologize to the company my wife is entertaining in the living room, and set to work locating the best places to warm the human spirit. My only stipulation was they had to be within driving distance of our beautiful state of Colorado.
For this job, I was going to need some advice from the locals who lived through the Cold War, or at the very least, survived the great Colorado blizzard of 2003. In case you missed the March storm, it amassed 31.5 inches of snow across the state in a period of just two days. Betty was one of the first locals to answer my call for help, reminding me that Colorado is home to several hot springs, and they don't turn off with a switch whenever somebody forgets to pay the gas bill.
The Trimble Hot Springs, located near the San Juan National Forest, are open year round, offering natural saunas and freshly filled geothermal mineral pools. If you're anywhere within the neighboring towns of Durango, this will be your closest retreat from winter. About an hour and a half drive east of Durango, you'll come across the Great Pagosa Hot Springs. Native Americans called this 75-foot natural spa ‚ÄúPag-Osah,‚ÄĚ which translates to mean a sacred area of peace and healing.
Further still, approximately two hours North of Durango (a five-hour drive west of Colorado Springs), you'll find the Orvis Hot Springs. On particularly blustery days, the ‚ÄúLobster Pot‚ÄĚ natural tub will literally cook the cold right out of your bones, employing its Death Valley-like temperatures that range between 108 and 114 degrees Fahrenheit. There are additional heated, outdoor ponds in the area, offering stunning mountain views, all set to the tune of a cascading waterfall.
Betty's personal favorite, three miles west of Denver, is the Glenwood Springs Yampah Vapor Caves. These underground mineral steam baths consist of three murkily lit rock caverns buried just below mounds of December-grade Rocky Mountain snow. These soothing geothermal pools are the perfect ending to your Aspen Mountain ski trip (one-hour drive), and are the only known natural vapor caves you'll find in North America, which should make you feel pretty darn special.
If the idea of poaching yourself in a bubbling cauldron doesn't knock the chill off your fancy, Sara Sutton Fell describes her ideal retreat as visiting the Butterfly Pavilion, located in the heart of the mile-high city. While there may be other heated terrariums in Colorado, only one features hundreds of butterflies cascading through the air, reminding you that Spring is just 90 days around the corner. If butterflies are not your idea of a warm fuzzy, the Denver Botanic Gardens offers an escape to an indoor world of cascading waterfalls, lush tropical foliage, and the majority of flying critters are left in their frozen cocoons, outside the pavilion.
At some point during my quest, I was brought back to the roots of Colorado, when Allison suggested that sometimes we don't have to step inside closed doors, to escape the frigid bite of old man winter. The Broadmoor may be known as a five-star hotel, but you don't have to be a registered guest to take advantage of its myriad of outdoor fireplaces and spa services. Allison's best-kept secret is to seek out the fire pit off the west lobby bar. This is her favorite place to savor some tasty tapas and wine, roast s'mores over the smoldering embers, and bask in the glow of holiday lights illuminating across the nearby lake.
Okay, so perhaps burbling mineral water and butterflies are no replacement for the white sands of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. However, these simply can't be beat for a retreat that is practically right outside your backdoor, costs less than $50, and you can actually drink the water!