Published February 11, 2009
Scenic, friendly, and ridiculously convenient to top ski resorts like Breckenridge, Vail and Copper, Frisco, Colo. has one fatal flaw that keeps it from becoming the Centennial State's next big tourist destination: no downhill skiing of its own.
But that "flaw" may be the secret reason that Frisco is also one of the most appealing places in Colorado to spend a day away from the lift lines. Without the tourist traps that proliferate at the feet of the slopes at Vail and Breckenridge, the little town that calls itself "the Main Street of the Rockies" manages to maintain its charm and vibrancy without losing its sense of itself as an example of small-town Colorado. This is the place where locals go for a full day of fun while the weekenders from New York and Los Angeles are busy doing shots of Jagermeister by the hotel hot tub.
5…Frisco Fill Up
Forget the wheat germ and protein smoothies. Breakfast in the Rockies still means the kind of hearty stick-to-your-ribs fare that a day navigating double black diamond runs requires. One of most beloved breakfasts around is found at the inexpensive Log Cabin Cafe, which commands a central location on Main Street, off of Second Street, in Frisco (121 Main St., 970-668-3947). This being a town settled by pioneers, trappers and miners, the restaurant really is a log cabin, dating to a relatively recent 1908. The service is relaxed and very friendly, so don't feel bad about sleeping in and rolling in for a late breakfast — you'll still be greeted with a smile and a heartfelt welcome. The most popular dishes are the heaping huevos rancheros and green-chili-smothered chili rellenos (yes, for breakfast), but those with more timid tastes will appreciate the "Texas-style" thick French toast topped with blueberries.
The Log Cabin Cafe is located directly across the street from the Frisco Historic Park & Museum (120 Main St., 970-668-3428). The museum is housed in a building that once served as the town schoolhouse. One corner of it is still preserved, as if all the children from miles around were about to troop in, take their seats in the rows of old-fashioned desks, and listen to lessons on the alphabet and arithmetic taught by a schoolmarm at the chalkboard.
Across the room model train aficionados and visitors with God complexes get their kicks at a big diorama that shows a miniature Frisco from the late 19th century, complete with horse-riding townsfolk, women wringing out their laundry, laborers shoveling fuel into primitive ovens, and a white man working side by side with a Chinese coolie near the train tracks. Not far away from the pint-sized hustle and bustle, the frame of what looks like a huge warehouse is going up—the first sure sign that this Frisco-from-the-past has one foot firmly in the modern age.
Outside the museum, you can see much of the diorama in real life, 11 buildings remain from the 1880s that served as saloons, hotels, a jail, log homes, a log chapel, and the ranch house of a business that raised dairy cattle. All are open to tourists most days, and, like the museum, free of charge. The museum has regular guided tours throughout the week.
3…Work it Off
More energetic visitors who want to burn off the huevos can still go skiing in Frisco; cross-country skiing, that is. The Ten Mile Recreational Pathway criss-crosses Main Street and Summit Boulevard in several places. Ultimately, it leads the intrepid on what could be an odyssey of several dozen miles from Vail to Dillon, but you'll probably want to opt for a shorter jaunt if you hope to make it back to town for dinner. In the winter, it's a haven for Nordic skiers, but in the summertime it's a well-trod circuit for bikers and joggers. You can rent gear for any season at Wilderness Sports (400 Main St., 970-668-8804).
Those wishing a more controlled environment to snowshoe in, or a trainer to teach them cross-country skiing, might prefer the Nordic Center (The Peninsula Recreation Center Area, 18454 Hwy. 9, 970-668-0866), with meticulously groomed terrain — 40 km of groomed cross-country and 13 km of snowshoeing trails — on the shores of the Dillon Reservoir, all the way down to Breckenridge. Lessons, rentals and demos are all available.
2…Catch a Breeze
Though few think of sailing when they imagine the Rocky Mountains, the Frisco Bay Marina (900 Main St., 970-668-4334) offers sailing on the Dillon Reservoir, nestled dramatically within gorgeous violet colored mountain range. Sailing on the glassy waters of the 3,300-acre basin of melted snow on a sailboat, kayak or paddle boat will make you make you appreciate the line "purple mountains majesty" as you never could as a 3rd grader. The marina also offers waterborne tours of the Dillon Reservoir, which includes a guide who can explain historical facts about the body of water that serves as the source of Denver's drinking supply, and was created only by totally submerging and destroying some local communities.
For a town of only 2,700 year-round residents (closer to 7,000 during ski season), Frisco has more than its share of restaurants and bars. Many of the seasonal transplants who work at local ski resorts end up at Backcountry Brewery (720 Main St., 970-668-2337), a mostly generic second-floor microbrewery/restaurant that serves up standard American grub like hamburgers, fries and buffalo wings alongside passable brews.
The real find in town is the Moose Jaw (208 Main St., 970-668-3931), an unassuming shack in the middle of Main Street that serves as the true meeting place for year-round Frisco residents young and old, and is a required stop on bar hops for local partyers. It's easy to pass an hour or two hearing tales of old Frisco at the bar while munching on what may be the area's best burgers.
Couples looking for romance will want to forgo the Colorado-cantina atmosphere for something mellower. Two Below Zero Dinner Sleigh Rides (The Peninsula Recreation Center Area, 18454 Hwy. 9, 800-571-6853) has four teams of mules and three handcrafted red-oak sleighs that take you down secluded snowy trails to a hidden 1850s-style camp deep in the woods, complete with a campfire, dinner and "cowboy music." After nuzzling with your snuggums to the harmonica noodlings of a prospector named Texas Pete, you'll never again regret missing a day on the powder.