Winter on the Mountain Where Holiday Spirit Shines

Glenwood Springs holiday traditions include Winter on the Mountain at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

The mountain-top theme park in Glenwood Springs, Colo., continues its tradition of family-friendly holiday fun—COVID-19-style—beginning Friday, Nov. 13, with holiday lights, a giant musical Christmas tree, firepits for roasting marshmallows, live music and more. Gondola Giving, a fundraiser to provide meals to community members in need, starts then as well and continues through Dec. 24.

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Locals’ Choice Awards Names Glenwood Caverns in Multiple Categories

Fun in the Big Chair

The votes have been tallied and the results are in—Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is a Locals’ Choice winner, placing in top spots in seven categories.

The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (GSPI) recently announced the winners of its 2020 Locals’ Choice Awards—and area residents are feeling the love for the mountain-top Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs. They selected Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park as their number one choice for Best Attraction, Best Family Entertainment and Best Place for a Kid’s Birthday Party. The Adventure Park also placed in other categories including Best Live Music Spot, Best Entertainment Venue, Best Place to Take an Out-of-Town Guest and Best Winter Festival or Event.

Adventure Park Feature Story

The GSPI featured Park owners Steve and Jeanne Beckley in the Locals’ Choice Arts and Entertainment special section.

“It’s a huge honor when this happens—this is really cool. I think it’s a testament to the place, but it is such a huge reflection of our team that works with us in carrying out our mission of making people smile,” Jeanne Beckley said. Read the whole GSPI story here.

The 2020 Locals’ Choice Awards

 Thanks to everyone who voted for Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, we look forward to seeing your smiling faces and to welcoming you back to our mountain-top theme park soon. We also want to give a shout out to these other great local businesses who share the Locals’ Choice spotlight with us.

Family looking at flower garden at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park#1 Best Family Entertainment: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

(Glenwood Hot Springs Pool; Brenden Rifle 7 Theaters)

#1 Best Attraction: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

(Iron Mountain Hot Springs; Glenwood Hot Springs Pool)

#1 Best Place for a Kid’s Birthday Party: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

(City of Glenwood Springs Community Center; Glenwood Hot Springs Pool)

#2 Best Live Music Spot (Ute Theater and Events Center; Steve’s Guitars)

#3 Best Entertainment Venue (Glenwood Vaudeville Revue; Ute Theater and Events Center)

#3 Best Place to Take Out-of-Town Guests (Rifle Falls State Park; Iron Mountain Hot Springs)

#3 Best Winter Festival or Event: Winter on the Mountain (Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony; Hometown Holidays in Rifle)

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. We encourage everyone to stay healthy by practicing social distancing as well as following national, state and local guidelines. To receive updates on our re-opening date and other news, please follow us online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Tune in to Watch RMPBS Fairy Caves Episode

Kids learn about cave science on cave tours

Rocky Mountain PBS “Colorado Experience” Viewers’ Choice Episode about the Fairy Caves airs Thursday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m.; viewers outside of Colorado can watch at https://www.rmpbs.org/schedule/ at the same time.

Fairy Caves Wins Viewers’ Choice

This time last year, Colorado residents voted for “Fairy Caves” to be the 2020 Rocky Mountain PBS “Colorado Experience” Viewers’ Choice.

Every year, Colorado Experience conducts a Viewers’ Choice Award contest to let viewers decide what episode Rocky Mountain PBS will produce. According to producer Eric Hernandez, “For a few weeks, typically in March, there is a call for submissions when anyone can suggest episode ideas; we always get a long list of interesting and important topics. This year we had 360 submissions! We narrowed that down to six finalists from different regions and timeframes and opened the contest for voting.”

Getting the Vote Out

The team at Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves, which is part of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, pulled out all the stops to encourage people to vote. An initial email was sent to managers and supervisors asking them to share with their employees, friends and family members. A social media and email newsletter campaign started, and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association asked for support from the business community. It all came together with reminder emails and Facebook posts.

History in the Spotlight

“This show is so special to us as it chronicles the history of the Fairy Caves as well as Glenwood Springs, and the timing is wonderful because this year marks the 125th anniversary of the discovery of the cave. We got a sneak preview and it brought tears to my eyes,” admitted Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park co-owner Jeanne Beckley. “Although our local premiere has been postponed, we hope our community can tune in Thursday night.”

Episode Airs March 26 

The Fairy Caves episode airs Thursday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m.; viewers outside of Colorado can watch at https://www.rmpbs.org/schedule/ at the same time. Filming primarily took place last May. Jeanne and husband and co-owner Steve Beckley are featured in the show along with general manager Nancy Heard, natural attractions manager Kathy Miller, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society Bill Knight, and cave historian and author of “Colorado Caves” Richard Rhinehart.

Learn the Fascinating Story of the Fairy Caves

“Colorado Experience: Fairy Caves” explores the magical Fairy Caves—once dubbed “The 8th Wonder of the World.” Hidden inside Glenwood Springs’ Iron Mountain, this living cave network inspires awe. But the caverns were nearly lost to time and were closed for more than 80 years—until an engineer who also happened to be a caver had a vision of how to return the magic to this fantastical place.

Iconic Local: Steve Beckley

In the December issue of Aspen Magazine, writer Hayden Gamble featured our very own Steve Beckley as part of an article on Glenwood Springs. Read the whole story here or pick up the latest issue of the magazine out now.

When he’s not envisioning additions and improvements to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hot Springs, Steve Beckley enjoys spending time at his remote cabin with his wife and business partner, Jeanne, and their two sons.

As a caver studying petroleum engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in the early ’80s, Beckley read about the Historic Fairy Caves in an out-of-print book, Caves of Colorado. He spent the next 16 years convincing then-owner Pete Prebble to let him visit and, eventually, buy, the cave on top of Iron Mountain in Glenwood Springs.

That led the Beckleys to quit their jobs and move from Denver in 1998. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, which has grown from a mom-and-pop cave tour into an award-winning theme park, celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and Iron Mountain Hot Springs has become one of the area’s most popular attractions.

What’s your favorite thing about Glenwood Springs? The people who live here, without a doubt. Ever since Jeanne and I moved to Glenwood Springs 20 years ago, we have built wonderful relationships with the people in this community. Whether we know them from our businesses, our neighborhood, the schools or the Boy Scouts, we couldn’t ask for a nicer, more supportive group of folks.

Favorite hiking trail? We are so lucky to have Glenwood Canyon right in our backyard. The No Name Creek Trail and Grizzly Creek Trail are two of my favorites.

Favorite ski trail? The Beaujolais Run at Sunlight Mountain Resort

Favorite dining splurge? It’s too hard to choose just one. The Riviera, Co. Ranch House and Smoke are among my favorites.

Drink of choice? I like to end the day with a glass of red wine on my deck overlooking beautiful downtown Glenwood Springs.

Best place to caffeinate? I drink decaf Americanos all day long. Some of my favorite places to fuel up are the Hotel Colorado, The Bluebird Cafe, The Espresso Hut and River Blend Coffee House. I drink a lot of coffee.

Favorite event? Jeanne and I both love live music events such as Music in the Park, Music on the Mountain and Strawberry Days.

Best-kept secret in GW? I’m not telling! You need to explore all the wonderful Glenwood Springs amenities and find your own secret place.

Holiday Season Kicks Off Nov. 23

The mountain-top Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colo., continues its tradition of community-minded holiday fun on Saturday, Nov. 23, with a fundraiser and food drive to provide Thanksgiving meals to community members in need, followed by a kick-off party with live music, holiday lights and a visit from Santa.

 Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park continues its tradition of community-minded holiday fun on Saturday, Nov. 23. It starts with Gondola Giving from 2 to 6 p.m., a fundraiser and food drive to provide Thanksgiving meals to community members in need. Guests can receive free gondola passes to use that day by donating grocery store gift cards or non-perishable food items. The mountain-top Winter on the Mountain kick-off party begins at 5 p.m. with live music by the Leonard Curry Trio, a tree lighting at 6 p.m., more than half a million holiday lights and visits from Santa Claus and the Coca-Cola polar bear.

“This day is all about community. It’s friends, neighbors and even strangers making it possible for others to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner together,” explained general manager Nancy Heard. “Then, everyone can come together to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season at our kick-off party. The only cost is a can of food, and that includes a ride on the new Glenwood Gondola, the lighting of our Christmas tree, beautiful light displays, music, a visit with Santa and a cup of warm apple cider.”

Turkey Tram-a-Ganza transitions to Gondola Giving

Gondola Giving is a joint promotion with Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Bighorn Toyota. This event, which runs from 2 to 6 p.m., benefits local food pantries. In years past, the food drive focused on frozen turkeys. That is not the case this year; LIFT-UP has specifically requested grocery store gift cards and non-perishable Thanksgiving dinner fixings for area families in need foods.

Anyone who donates a gift card worth $20 or more receives four gondola passes to use that day and one entry in a drawing to win Annual Thrill Passes, Funday Passes and passes to soak at Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Those donating a can of food receive one gondola pass to use that day. People can drop off donations and register for the drawing at the Bighorn Toyota truck parked at the tram base at 51000 Two Rivers Plaza Road, then pick up their free gondola passes at the cashier window. The free passes are valid Nov. 23, 2019, only.

Winter on the Mountain at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Winter on the Mountain returns for 5th season

After a hiatus last winter for construction of the Glenwood Gondola, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park celebrates the return of Winter on the Mountain. Beginning at 5 p.m., guests can take in the holiday lights, visit and take photos with Santa Claus in the North Pole and get a hug from the Coca-Cola polar bear in the Plaza, where the lighting of the Christmas tree begins at 6 p.m. The Leonard Curry Band is performing Americana, bluegrass and some holiday favorites in the Lookout Grille throughout the evening.

“There’s a strong sense of family, community spirit and even a little holiday magic in the air at the kick-off party every year,” added Heard. “The kids are excited to share their wish lists with Santa, and parents can get that perfect pic of them together in time for holiday cards. With the lights, music and festive atmosphere, it’s a very special evening.”

Entertaining Guests All Season Long

This family-friendly park in Glenwood Springs, Colo., shines all season with a display of more than a half million lights, a giant Christmas tree, fire pits for roasting s’mores and lighted rides on the Alpine Coaster. The cave tours, 4D motion theater, laser tag arena and General Store are open as well.

Fire pits in the plaza are a natural gathering place to warm the hands and roast s’mores, with a tempting selection of hot cocoa, cider and winter beverages for kids and adults available inside the Lookout Grille. Along with a cozy fireplace and holiday décor, the restaurant offers appetizers, sandwiches, hearty winter specials and desserts. Beer, wine, cocktails and a robust Bloody Mary bar round out the drink options. There’s live music in the Lookout Grille nightly during the holidays as well.

From Nov. 15, 2019, through Feb. 28, 2020, the Lookout Grille hosts Friday Afternoon Club from 5 to 8:30 p.m. with live music and food and drink specials. Gondola rides are free after 4 p.m. with a coupon that appears in the Post Independent each Friday. Each coupon is valid for up to four people.

Ride Alpine Coaster at Winter on the Mountain

Winter Season Rates and Hours

 The discounted Winter Funday Pass is the best value to enjoy Winter on the Mountain. It includes the gondola ride, unlimited turns on the Alpine Coaster, 4D Motion Theater and laser tag arena, and two guided cave tours at a cost of just $42 per adult and $37 per child, ages 3 to 12. A round-trip ride on the Glenwood Gondola is $19 per adult and $14 per child for guests who want to view the lights, enjoy lunch or dinner at the Lookout Grille, do some shopping at the General Store and visit with Santa.

Winter on the Mountain at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday from Nov. 15 through Feb. 29, 2020. The park is closed Monday through Thursday. During the holidays, it will be open daily Nov. 15 to Dec. 1, except for Thanksgiving Day, and Dec. 20 to Jan. 5, except for Christmas Day.

Post Independent Spotlights Caverns Employee Cole Newton

The Glenwood Springs Post Independent recently ran a feature story on our very own Cole Newton, cave tour supervisor at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Read Cole’s fascinating story and why he has a special affinity for all things caves.

Sunday profile: Glenwood Springs native seeks the undiscovered underground

by Josh Carney, [email protected]

When he was just 2 weeks old, Glenwood Springs native Cole Newton found himself deep underground with his parents, Ken Newton and Kathy Keeler, who met while caving. Since then, caving has been a way of life for the 26-year-old Newton.

At 7 years old, Newton became the youngest person to date to submerge to Sub 1 (submerge level 1 for scuba divers in the water flow) inside Spring Cave outside of Meeker.

That passion for caving has created a unique purpose for Newton’s life – educating the public on the wonders of caves, exploring new and exciting places within caves and working to preserve them for future generations.

 

UNDERGROUND EDUCATION

“I really hope we can continue to education people on why caves are important to our ecosystem on the surface and underground,” Newton said. “They can be a wonderful environment to study and protect. We don’t want to throw garbage into that hole, because that hole can lead to a city’s water supply and other things like that. It’s not a trash can just because it’s a hole in the ground; I want to change that perspective about caves for the general population because caves are important and special.”

Newton originally went to college to become a music teacher, but realizing that teaching in a classroom wasn’t his cup of tea, Newton went back to his passion of caving, which later led to him teaching (in a sense) tour guides all there is to know about the beautiful caves only a short trip away from Glenwood Springs.

Giving tour guides each and every day during peak season on the mountain seems like it could be a drain, but Newton attacks each tour with a uniqueness that can’t be found elsewhere.

“I don’t script my tour guides,” Newton said. “I try and read the tours and let the guests kind of feel me, in a way. It all depends on the makeup of the tours. If I have a bunch of little kids, I talk more about the dragons and the fairies within the caves; if I have a lot of adults, I’ll focus more on the science of things. I want them to get what they want out of the tour, so if I do that, every tour isn’t the same, which keeps it fresh.”

EXPANSION, PRESERVATION, AND EXPLORATION

When not giving tours through the cave systems on Iron Mountain, Newton is in charge of updating the new stairs within the cave system, leading the project to put in new concrete and steel, guiding concrete and steel workers on where to place the materials. On top of that, Newton has been mapping and navigating the new King’s Row Loop tour, playing an integral part in hoping the loop comes to fruition.

What Newton loves most though is traveling around the world to visit other cave systems in hopes of learning about the geological systems within the cave.

“A lot of times, I’m looking at the geological aspects, like how is this cave different from caves in the western U.S. versus the eastern U.S. or south U.S, etc.,” Newton said. “Because the way that geology works across the world is that every cave is a little different. They all have a little different influence on how the water would have formed the cave, or whether it was lava or water, things like that. They all create different features, which I find fascinating.”

Earlier this year, Newton traveled to the Frasassi Caves in Italy, which is Italy’s top cave system. The immense cave system was discovered in 1971, and part of the caverns was opened to visitors in 1974. The caverns can be visited only on guided tours, which Newton went on.

The huge rooms of the caverns are filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites, and highlights of the tour include the Ancona Abyss, a room so large that Milan’s Duomo (the world’s largest Gothic cathedral) could easily fit inside it, a crystallized lake, a Grand Canyon, and a room filled with formations that resemble candles.

“The stalagmites were just gorgeous,” Newton said. “They’re 30, 40 feet tall and have these amazing little cuts on the side of them, so instead of being flowy, they have these extra little features on them.”

Aside from educating himself on the geological systems within the caves he travels to see and explore, Newton also pays attention to the tour guides and how they’re structured as he’s always learning and looking to improve.

“It’s important for me to do that, because if I can learn from others and see how they’re running their own tour guides, I can bring something back from that to the Glenwood Caverns and try to make the tours I give the best possible experience they can be,” he said.

In the end though, the free exploration is what drives Newton. Moving deeper into caves is supposed to be fun for cavers, and without fun it’s not successful.

“There’s got to be some fun in it; you want to have fun,” Newton said. “That’s why you do it. That’s where you get your energy. If one person has that energy, it makes for a successful and fun trip for the group.”

That sense of fun and excitement continues to drive Newton today through his passionate daily tours of the Fairy Cave and King’s Row Cave, and during his free time caving on his own, discovering all there is to see deep beneath the earth’s surface.

[email protected]

Month-long, Family-fun Octoberfest Returns to Glenwood Caverns

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park celebrates autumn at Octoberfest, Oct. 1- 31 with a pumpkin patch, leaf-peeping and food and drink specials daily. On Saturday, Oct. 12, and Saturday, Oct. 19, visitors can also enjoy hayrides, face painting, kids’ games, keg bowling, music by local band Alpine Echo and a beer garden.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is once again celebrating the harvest season with a month-long, family-friendly Octoberfest. From Oct. 1 through 31, daily fun at the mountain-top theme park includes a pumpkin patch, fall photo opportunities, and Octoberfest food and drink specials. There’s even more fun on Saturday, Oct. 12, and Saturday, Oct. 19, with hayrides, games for kids, face painting, and pumpkin decorating and an oompah band. There are additional activities for adults this year with stein-holding contests, keg bowling and a beer garden.

“October is one of our favorite months at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Our guests can enjoy traditional harvest season activities, Octoberfest favorites, changing colors and beautiful fall weather,” Nancy Heard, general manager for the park, said. “We’ve added some new things this year as well, including a beer garden, a stein-holding contest and keg bowling on Oct. 12 and 19. Plus, the crowds are smaller here and in Glenwood Springs this time of year, and our new gondola whisks you up and down the mountain in no time.”

Daily Activities in October

Every day in October is special at the park with a pumpkin patch, a deal at just $3 each, and fall photo opportunities. In addition to the colorful maple trees and flowers in the plaza, the park features several vantage points with panoramic views of the changing colors in Glenwood Canyon and the Roaring Fork Valley. The gondola, Lookout Grille, Mine Wheel and viewing decks at the Giant Canyon Swing and above the restaurant are some of the best places for leaf peeping and photos.

The Lookout Grille serves autumn favorites all month, including bratwursts and sauerkraut, pretzels, seasonal beers, spiked apple cider and festive fall drinks for kids. The popular Bloody Mary Bar is open and stocked with dozens of garnishes so that guests can create their own creative concoctions. The General Store adds a seasonal favorite, pumpkin, to its selection of homemade fudge flavors and features fudge-covered apples as well.

All of the park’s rides are open through the end of the month, weather permitting. Halloween-themed decorations lead guests on the trails to the ride, while spooky music sets the tone for a ghostly, one-of-a-kind experience for those who dare to drop.

Saturday Oct. 12, and Saturday, Oct. 19

In addition to everything listed above, the park is pulling out all the stops on Saturday, Oct. 12, and Saturday, Oct. 19, from noon to 6 p.m., with more options than ever. For families with young children, there are hayrides, games for kids, face painting, pumpkin decorating and live music. Everyone can take home free, fall-themed souvenir photos from the AIRi Photo Booth.

Celebrate Octoberfest at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

For adults, beer is the name of the game this year with three new ways to enjoy it. A beer garden located in The Fort features Samuel Adams Octoberfest and a selection of seasonal brews along with bratwursts cooked on the grill, sauerkraut, Bavarian pretzels, popcorn and roasted nuts. Two local teams are making special appearances to pour the beer: the 10th Mountain Roller Dolls roller derby team on Oct. 12 and the Defiance Rugby Team on Oct. 19. In addition, stein-holding contests test competitors’ strength, and keg bowling is barrels of fun.

Polka dancing and lederhosen take center stage in the plaza from noon to 4 p.m. as local band Alpine Echo entertains festivalgoers. The band features John Levin on drums, bass and vocals; John Pataky on accordion, drums and vocals; Joe Pologar on horns and vocals; Charles Smith on lead guitar and vocals; and Gerhard Rill on strings, keyboards, accordion, horns, drums, bells and vocals.

Face painting, kids’ games and hayrides are included with admission; pumpkins are just $3 each. Regular admission rates apply. Gondola rides cost $19 for adults and $14 for kids. Funday Passes, which include the gondola ride, cave tours and unlimited turns on all open rides, cost $58 for adults and $53 for kids 3 to 12.

Sustainability on the Menu

Eco-friendly products including straws, flatware, cups and plates help reduce the company’s impact on the environment, adding to sustainability practices already in place.  

Protecting and preserving the environment was a top priority for Steve and Jeanne Beckley before they reopened Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves to the public in 1999. It remains so today at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, which is evident from the increase in sustainability practices at the mountain-top Lookout Grille this year.

Eco-friendly Products & Practices

The onsite restaurant is now using eco-friendly forks, spoons, straws, plates for banquet meals, packaging for grab-and-go items like yogurt parfaits, pretzels or veggies with hummus and to-go boxes from Eco Brand, which is based in Boulder, Colorado.

This mindset is spreading. Lookout Grille kitchen manager Aaron Shockley recently noticed how much compost material was accumulating and decided to do something about it. The food compost is now being donated to Big Rock Ranch where it is put to good use feeding chickens.

 

Green Values from the Get-Go

“We have worked diligently over the years to protect the cave. From the start, we installed the airtight doors in the tunnel to King’s Row to maintain the original levels of temperature and humidity so that the cave didn’t dry out,” Jeanne Beckley, who co-owns both companies, said. “There have been computer monitors in the cave since we opened to ensure we sustained these levels, protecting the cave as well as the environment for the unique species that live inside of it.”

A few years ago, the Adventure Park replaced all of the lights inside the cave with LED lights to reduce its electricity consumption and the heat generated by the incandescent lights, which helps protect the humidity levels and the cave’s tiny creatures. Since the LED bulbs don’t have to be replaced as often, employees have less direct contact with cave formations as well.

“It seems only fitting that we now focus on reducing our use of plastic and move toward more paper and compostable products in the restaurant. Also, we hope our guests notice and are motivated to make some changes of their own,” Beckley added. “These changes fit our value system. We care deeply about the environment and will continue to look for ways to reduce our impact.”

Learn more about Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and plan a visit today!