Loveland Pass

There is one other place from my Colorado sightseeing that I think I can share with you. I think this will be the last of my Colorado attractions series for now.

Ladies and gentlemen, today, I show you, the Loveland Pass.

The first thing you need to know is that, just like that statue at Harvard University is not of John Harvard, Loveland Pass is not located in Loveland. In fact, it is nowhere near Loveland at all. The reason they share the same name is because they are both named after that same William Loveland dude.

Loveland Pass is more than 100 miles away from Loveland. To get here from Loveland, you would need to drive to Denver on the I-25, and then head east on the I-70. The drive would normally take more than 2 hours due to heavy traffic in Denver.

Okay, so what exactly is the Loveland Pass? Well, it is a high elevation mountain pass that goes parallel with the I-70. It is also the highest mountain pass in the world that remains open all year long, even during winter season.

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This is sometimes a dangerous road to drive on. The snow is one thing, and then there are big trucks to contend with. You see, there is a tunnel on the section of I-70 that runs parallel with the Loveland Pass. This tunnel has a maximum height of 4.24 meters. This tunnel is also restricted from HAZMAT-carrying trucks (HAZMAT = hazardous materials). This means those really really big trucks, and those trucks carrying toxic waste are a common sight on the Loveland Pass.

So why am I taking the trouble to drive 2 hours to come to this seemingly perilous mountain pass? A few things…

1. The Continental Divide

You know North America is in the middle of two oceans, the Pacific and the Atlantic, right? So, basically, most of the rivers will have to flow towards either one of these two oceans. The Continental Divide is a mountainous range that separates the watersheds draining towards the Pacific from those draining towards the Atlantic.

Okay, I’ll try to use dummy terms. The Continental Divide is a line of mountains cutting accross the North America continent that separates the water flowing to the Pacific with the water flowing to the Atlantic.

So, what’s so great about this whatever-it-is divide? Well, the view is. If you are standing at any point of the Continental Divide, you can be guaranteed of spectacular view of the mountains. Usually one would need to go on an epic hike to reach this line and access the spectacular views. There are not very many places in the whole of the United States where you can access this line by car.

And… and… the Loveland Pass is one such place. Yes! That’s why people from near and far come in the droves! Including me!

Unfortunately, it was snowing and the car park was covered with snow when I drove past this Continental Divide. None of the cars were stopping, everyone was just going very slowly to capture the view with our eyes and then moved on. So I did the same. Since I was also alone, there was no one who could grab the camera and take a shot of the view. I know I sometimes take pictures while driving, but I’m not reckless enough to do it on a snowing road!

So I had to borrow a photo from someone else’s website to show you what I’ve seen.

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Photo source: Silent Landscapes

Yeah, this was what I saw with my eyes. Spectacular, isn’t it?

2. Arapahoe Ski Basin

Colorado is a high altitude state, as such the mountains here are very popular skiing destinations. The Arapahoe Ski Basin area located at the Loveland Pass, enjoys tremendous popularity around the country for having extended open seasons. This ski resort opens from mid October and remains open until mid July the following year, making it the ski resort that is earliest to open and latest to close.

I was not interested to go skiing, but I was extemely interested to see how a ski resort looks like. So I parked at the resort.

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I was hoping that I could take the cable car ride to the top and see how people prepare their skis. I heard that we can do that even if we do not ski.

Apparently, I heard wrong. The guy at the information counter turned me back, claiming that only skiers with their gears are allowed to take the cable car ride, and that “If you are not planning to ski, then this is as far as you can go. Sorry.

Crikey… There was basically nothing much I could do. So I left. As soon as I hit the road, I remember I passed by an open space not too long ago where we can get a clearer view of the ski slopes. So I drove back to that area and got some shots in.

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And then I got back into the car and was ready to leave when disaster struck.

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You see, this was the open area that I parked at. As you can see, it is actually a sheet of snow. I thought it was alright to park there, because there was tire marks which indicates that other cars have parked here and left without trouble.

I forgot that my rental car this time was not a 4WD and it has a V6 instead of V8 engine. So when I tried to leave, as a stepped on the gas and turned my steering wheel to the left, the car veered to the right instead. So I hit the brakes immediately. And then I switched to the lowest gear, for it has the highest torque. Then I tried again, and again the car veered to the right instead of left. In other words, I was slipping away from the road instead of towards it.

Then I panicked. I was beginning to think of all sorts of scenario: flagging down strangers for help, calling for towing assistance, sliding down the slopes and crashing, and so on. I sat in my car in cold sweat for about a minute.

And then I remembered the typical gear ratio of a car’s engine. The reverse gear is supposed to be the one with the highest torque. And if I hit the car on reverse, I should be able to follow the tracks that my own car made earlier, back out to the roads. With trepidation, I tried to do that. And thankfully, it worked! I was able to reverse the car back to the road, I was free again!

After that frightful encounter, I became a chicken through and through. I dare not stop anywhere else at all. I drove all the way until I arrived at a place called Keystone. Apparently this is another ski resort, and there are rows of shops here, so I parked the car and got out to get a breather, to calm my nerves for a bit.

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Yeah, this was my car for that drive. A Chevrolet Impala. Good car, did not fail me in the end!

I spotted a sports cafe here. Well, it is called the Haywood Cafe and Sports Grill, it has to be a sports cafe, right? It didn’t look like a place with great food, but I went in anyway, because I was desperate for some food and warm coffee to further calm my nerves down.

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I got myself this, a pulled pork burger with fries. I was surprised by how cheap the food here was. I mean, this is a ski resort, I would expect the food here to be overpriced. But my burger and fries here was US$ 6. This is cheap for American standards. And the coffee was complimentary and free flow. And I remember the burger was rather decent.

3. Dillon

I spent one and a half hours in the cafe before hitting the roads again. After driving for another 5 minutes, I reached the end of the Loveland Pass. Here there is a town called Dillon. It is another quiet and peaceful town, located right next to a lovely lake.

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At first I thought this is a lake, but it is actually the Dillon Reservoir. No wonder the water looks much nicer compared to Boyd Lake, there’s some man made elements here. There’s a trail along the reservoir if you fancy a walk here. Otherwise it is rather nice to just stare at the water, and the multitude of boats docked by the jetty.

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And then it is time to make the two hours drive back to Loveland, and my Loveland Pass journey has come to an end.

16 Comments

  1. Those Chevrolet Impala models were huge monsters plying as long distance taxis in Thailand when I was a kid. They were also popularly used in the movies of Sha-Na-Na and Grease. So cool and reliable. I fell in love with them in US and bought one when it was newly launched in Malaysia. It was a disaster and no more!! The parts are soooooooooo bloody expensive!!!

    • They’re not exactly the pinnacle of reliability engineering, as is the case with most American cars. It is nice to drive them as rental cars in the US, nightmare to own them for long term. 😐

  2. That was a very scary drive. If you had turned the steering wheel to the right going forwards, would the car go back out on the road? Probably a naive question, but I don’t drive much (it gives me headaches).

    Driving on snow and taking photos…that would have been the ultimate test of your superpower 😀 I suppose since there is no snow in Malaysia, the closest scenario would be driving in the torrential rain and snapping photos.

    • No it won’t, that space was slightly slanted to the right, whichever way you steer, it will slide to the right. That’s what makes it so scary. 😐

      I will NEVER attempt snap(photo)-driving in the snow or in heavy rain. I’m not THAT reckless with my life. 😐

    • I have absolutely zero experience driving in snow prior to this. I only applied my knowledge on car basics on a non-snow condition. Thankfully it worked! Else I might really have been in trouble. 😐

    • Pass as in, mountain pass, a road for you to pass through the mountain.. It was pretty scary, that experience..

  3. Beautiful views and that meal was value for your buck.

    Rental cars usually have all season tires on them. I am sure that people residing there change to winter tires as they have way more traction during ‘slippery situations.’

    • When I got back to work the following week and related my experience to my coworkers, they basically said that I’m a “reckless dumbf**k” for daring to drive into snow with my rental car and that I was lucky not to crash. I guess it was a close call. It was probably the most dangerous situation I have got myself into on my travels. 😐

    • Not sure if you can handle the cold now as well as you used to in your younger days though.. I know most Asian retirees no longer look forward to ice cold weather. 😐

  4. Wow! You are really brave to drive all the way to Loveland Pass alone. If anything were to happen to you, no one would know.

    What a harrowing incident when your car was not moving forward on the ice. Lucky you kept your wits and thought of a way which worked. It is really dangerous if there is ice on the road. When my spouse was driving in US, he saw a car skidded on ice on the road and went off the road in front of his car and then he drove very, very slowly after that. So scary.

    • I figured I was all alone anyway. If anything were to happen to me in malls or even when cooped up in the hotel room, it is not like anyone would know immediately, makes no difference. 😛

      So true about driving on ice. You absolutely cannot lose your concentration. And even then, if you skid on ice, there’s nothing much novices like us can do…

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