OPEN YEAR ROUND: Grand Lake the hidden gem at world’s end |

OPEN YEAR ROUND: Grand Lake the hidden gem at world’s end

In a town many think closes for the winter, Never Summer Mountain Products on Grand Lake’s main street opens every day at 9 a.m. The only days you’ll find it closed are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

Patrick Randall owns the sporting goods store, a family business started by his parents in 1982.

Named for the mountain range to the north, Randall’s business is one of the reasons the sign welcoming visitors to Grand Lake reads, “Open Year Round.”

Grand Lake is known as the western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. On the northern edge of town, Trail Ridge Road connects Grand Lake to Estes Park — but when the road closes for the winter it leaves only about five miles of access into the park.

“Trail Ridge Road plays a big part in the fall, winter and spring economy up here,” Randall said. “As soon as the park closes the road down, they almost turn a faucet off. You can tell if the road is open or not based on traffic.”

Randall’s business has chosen to stay open every day even in the winter, as it means customers know that they’ll be there.

“Overall we do great winter business due to in part to the fact that we’re consistently open,” Randall said.

Other businesses might not be open every day, but there are always a few restaurants and stores available every day of the week.

The best days to find the biggest variety of open businesses are Thursdays to Sundays, according to Emily Hagen, executive director of the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce.

“In the winter, Grand Lake becomes the last stop at the end of the road,” Randall said. “People do have to want to come up here. Around the holidays business is very good; lots of people coming up for Rocky Mountain National Park, taking a break from skiing at the parks or snowmobiling.”

Patrick’s business sees five to 10 people through the door every day during the winter, but often much more than that. Part of this is because of the various events put on by the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations in town.

Events include fishing tournaments, hockey games, snowmobile races and fireworks. Even without an event going on, there’s plenty to do in town.

“In the winter we put a lot of emphasis on our outdoor recreation,” said Hagen.

Grand Lake is known as the snowmobile capital of Colorado, with tons of businesses offering rentals. Snowmobiles are even allowed on the roads through town.

Beyond that, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are big sports in the winter. With businesses like Randall’s offering rentals for treks on public land and the Grand Lake Nordic Center just a mile outside of town, there’s plenty of winter recreation to go around. The Nordic center even offers some dog-friendly trails, a rarity in the county where national parks ban canine companions.

The national park does remain open to cars about five miles in, so hiking remains a popular activity. Because it does take more effort to reach the area, the snow-covered trails become nearly empty. For nature enthusiasts, there is nothing better than having a trail to yourself.

“We get this opportunity to have a deserted national park at our backdoor,” Randall said. “You can go up there any time, find a trail and not encounter hardly anybody.”

While Grand Lake sits at the “world’s end” in the winter, the scenic town is not without a pulse. It may be on a relaxed mountain time, but the town is very much alive.

“I really love that it’s like a little snow globe up here,” Randal said. “It’s a really great place to get away to. A very cute, quaint little town with amazing outdoor recreation opportunities, beautiful scenery and no lack of things to do.”

Winter events in Grand Lake

NOV. 29

Tree Lighting Ceremony in Town Park, 5-7 p.m.

DEC. 14

“Home for the Holidays” at Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

DEC. 15

“Home for the Holidays at Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, 2-4 p.m.

DEC. 26

Kauffman House Museum Christmas display, 1-4 p.m.

DEC. 27

Kauffman House Museum Christmas display, 1-4 p.m.

DEC. 31

New Year’s Eve with Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, 9-11 p.m.

DEC. 31

Kauffman House Museum offers treats and tours while awaiting fireworks, 10 p.m. to midnight

JAN. 1

Fireworks over the lake at midnight

FEB. 1

“Wild, Wild West” Winter Carnival, all day, concludes with fireworks

FEB. 8

Pond Hockey Classic adult tournament, all day, registration required

FEB. 9

Pond Hockey Classic junior tournament, all day, registration required

FEB. 22

Ice Addiction Tournament, final round in series, lot opens at 4 a.m., registration required

FEB. 22

Snowmobile for Life Poker Run, community house, 6-8 p.m.

FEB. 29

Xtreme Mountain Racing snowmobile race

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