Peaks and Perfection; John Denver Sang the Praises of America's Spectacular Rocky Mountains and after Following in His Footsteps, Lindsay Sutton Has a Song in His Heart Too
Byline: Lindsay Sutton
| E all know how British football fans have their distinct and firm loyalties, whether that be Cardiff or Swansea, or Arsenal or Spurs. So it is with American fans of the great outdoors, the local rivalry being nowhere more evident than in America's Rocky Mountains.
There's a friendly and jocular feeling to the joshing between rival resorts - but there's a bit of an edge as well.
It's not just the winter skiing that divides historic Aspen and Breckenridge from the purpose-built, state-of-the-art Vail. They also poke gentle fun at each other over their summer-time offerings too.
Vail is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a resort this year, offering fun-loving tourists 5,000 ski-able acres which double up as a spring, summer and autumn playground of international repute.
But Aspen - a characterful, silver-mining boom town of the mid-19th century - still refers to Vail as "a gas stop on the way to our place". For good measure, Aspen folk add: "They're a resort. We're a historic community that happens to be a resort."
Breckenridge, another history-laden place, weighs in with: "We're much closer to Denver International Airport - they're both over the hill and often cut off by bad weather."
The truth is that each of the three centres has its distinct attractions. You can't go wrong with any of them if you love the outdoors and majestic, awe-inspiring settings.
There are the big-picture settings of the 14,000 feet Rocky Mountain peaks that form the USA's Continental Divide like the serrated edge of an upturned kitchen knife. Then there is the back-to-nature pursuit of a close-up encounter with the flora and fauna of Alpen-style valley floors under the bluest of skies. There's nothing finer than a warden-led walk out on the wild side.
Then there's white water rafting, harum scarum mountain bike riding, hiking and walking on the snow-free ski slopes... or just simply enjoying the crystal-clear creeks or breathing the mountain-fresh air. It's all designed to give you a Rocky Mountain High, as singer John Denver might put it.
Even before you savour America's natural mountain beauty, there's the delight of Denver itself. It's America's 21st biggest city and your natural entry point to the adjacent, all-year round mountain and valley playground.
The celebrated 'Mile High City' is the perfect place to acclimatise to the mountain altitude and the effects of the sun in the pollution-free atmosphere of the Rockies.
Denver has superb shopping and world-class arts and music offerings - all linked by a free, loop-style, eco-friendly bus service.
We hit the Mile High City for America's July 4th Independence Day celebrations - and unlike the same day in 1776, we Brits were made most welcome at the music and fireworks display that was quite sensational.
Then it was on to Vail, the purpose-built ski resort that has turned its attention to summer tourism. It's just been 'refreshed' with a $2.6bn regeneration package that has re-booted the resort and left it a citadel of 'cool'.
The constant emphasis in the Rockies is health and wellness. The high-roller brigade certainly get their kicks here, with big hitters coming to Vail as part of their big-bucks regeneration programme. The Solaris Residences apartment and hotel complexes are the last word in high-end luxury.
On a more accessible front, there's a free bus service | The ski lift, above, and shopping resort, top right, both in Vail; and Capitol Hill Mansion B&B in Denver, right linking up the entire resort and the gondola up Vail Mountain only sets you back $25 for as many trips as you want. …