The meaning of red, white, and blue — and a memorable Independence Day in Colorado.

One of the best Fourth of Julys I’ve ever spent was in Colorado with my then little boy. He and I were in Vail, not long after 9-11, so celebrating Independence Day and what it meant to be an American felt especially meaningful and important — wherever we happened to be.

That trip was the only time I’ve ever gotten altitude sickness and I was worried I’d be soaking in a tub with a cold washrag on my forehead instead of hitting the town for patriotic festivities. But after a couple of days of trying every known fix, I finally acclimated — just in time for the Fourth of July.

My son needed no acclimation. Born and raised in Texas, he curiously has always seemed most at home in the mountains of Colorado. He must have been around 8 at the time of that trip — still happy to be seen in public with his mom and to consider me one of his best friends to do stuff with. In just a few years, it would no longer be the case, but at that age, going to Vail’s Fourth of July parade sounded just fine to him — especially if ice cream cones were on the agenda.

The Vail “America Days” town parade — billed as one of Colorado’s largest — was festive and hometown-y and welcoming to visitors. It was a lot bigger than the one in Texas my son was used to riding his bike in.

Photography: Courtesy Highline and VAMDLC; Vail Resorts

Even festooned in red, white, and blue, Vail resembled Europe in the Rockies. I found out why: The famous American mountain town was patterned after the romantic Swiss Alps village of Zermatt. The Colorado-Switzerland combo was somehow wonderfully compatible with all the Americanness of the day, and Vail looked especially grand in summer sunshine flying those beloved patriotic colors.

Red for valor and bravery. White for purity and innocence. Blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

After the parade we saddled up horses for a trail ride to a vantage point that let us look down at the town. Later we fit in a scenic gondola ride for a much higher view. In the evening, back down a couple of thousand feet, we watched the sunset and alpenglow. Then came the big fireworks display.

Parades, horses, ice cream cones, mountains, fireworks, a kid who still thought I was cool — that vacation might be why I associate all that’s good about Colorado with the freedom-loving Fourth and the rewards of single-parenthood.

I can’t think how long it’s been since my son’s wanted to spend the Fourth with his mom. But I know that beyond all his 20-something swagger, he has fond memories of that day.

It will be years before he’s a parent himself and old enough and experienced enough to understand the poignancy of the years when it was just him and me. But I look forward to the day when he comes to the realization and we plan a Fourth of July trip to Colorado with his kids and their grandma for another most memorable Fourth.

Photography: Courtesy Vail Resorts

For more about Vail, visit the website

For more information about Vail America Days, visit their website

If You Should Find Yourself in Colorado This Fourth

From our friends at Colorado Ski Country USA comes this itinerary of what’s on at member resorts in the Centennial State for the Fourth of July. (Please note that the Town of Vail joined Eagle County and other communities across the state in cancelling its professional fireworks display due to continued dry and windy conditions on the ground. Check with local sources to find out if fireworks are still planned.)

Winter Park Resort

Fourth of July Celebration
Hideaway Park in downtown Winter Park will host an Independence Day celebration complete with free inflatables, face painters, carnival games, and live music. A fireworks display will begin at 10 p.m. For more information, visit their website.

Telluride Resort

Fourth of July Celebration
Telluride’s Fourth of July Celebration will include the annual parade down historic Colorado Avenue, followed by the fireman's picnic in the park with games and events. As the sun sets over the San Juan Mountains, guests can enjoy the Electrolier light show in Heritage Plaza. For more information, visit their website.

Photography: Steamboat Resort

Steamboat Resort

Fourth of July Cowboys’ Roundup Days
In Steamboat Springs, the Fourth of July is a weeklong celebration that pays homage to the Yampa Valley’s Western heritage and sense of community. Guests will enjoy a pro rodeo performance, a ranch rodeo featuring real cowboys and cowgirls from local working ranches, a summer ski-jumping competition, a parade, a block party, and Steamboat’s legendary fireworks display. For more information, visit their website.

Kendall Mountain

Silverton’s Annual Fourth of July
Hosted by the Town of Silverton, this event is known throughout the region for its old-fashioned family fun. Kendall Mountain Recreation Area will be open for camping through the holiday and is within walking distance of all downtown festivities, including the parade and carnival in Memorial Park. For more information, visit their website.

Howelsen Hill

Jumpin’ and Jammin’ Ski Jumping Competition
Guests can celebrate the Fourth of July Steamboat-style with Olympians and ski jumping in July. The Jumpin’ and Jammin’ Ski Jumping Competition will feature 70 of the nation’s best Nordic-combined and ski-jumping athletes as they soar off a 75-meter jump. Visitors can enjoy local food and drink vendors, music, and festivities. For more information, visit their website.

Granby Ranch

Fourth of July Celebration
Granby Ranch will celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with food, games, live music, face painters, a bouncy house, and a variety of family-friendly activities taking place on the Base Lawn. For more information, visit their website.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Fourth of July in Crested Butte
Crested Butte guests will enjoy a full-day Fourth of July celebration in town and on the mountain, including a parade, a classic Fourth of July BBQ dinner with all the fixings, and free concerts all evening at Red Lady Stage. Performances begin at 5:30 p.m. and guests are invited to bring a picnic blanket or lawn chairs and dance the night away. For more information, visit their website.

Photography: Courtesy Aspen Snowmass

Aspen Snowmass

Wild West Rodeo in Snowmass
Celebrating its 45th season in 2018, the Snowmass Rodeo is the longest-running rodeo in Colorado. The authentic Western event features exciting competitions like saddle bronc and bull riding, team roping, and barrel racing. Guests can enjoy a BBQ dinner and cocktails from the full bar or stroll around vendor booths and watch the live entertainment such as roping demonstrations. For more information, visit their website.


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