Some sports inspire such fanaticism that fans will travel far and wide to experience them in desirable locations. Ski is one, and — as anyone who has succumbed to the addiction knows — so is golf.
This willingness to travel is good news for travel agents looking to book sports-themed travel, but it’s also a boon for ski mountains looking to morph into four-season resorts. Adding world-class golf to an already established winter destination is an obvious way to repurpose the infrastructure that already exists, including accommodations, restaurants and even children’s programs.
In Colorado, tourism officials like to brag that visitors who golf at high altitudes have another advantage: If you hit a drive on a high-altitude course, your ball will go 10% to 20% farther than on a course at sea level.
True or not, it is interesting to note that many of Colorado’s 250-plus golf courses are at 7,000 feet above sea level or more.
The 27-hole, public Pole Creek Golf Club, for example, towers at 8,600 feet above sea level and is within minutes of Winter Park Resort, where Olympic athletes have trained for more than a decade.
The Club at Crested Butte features a Robert Trent Jones Jr. course situated on 160 acres in the Elk Mountain Range near Crested Butte Mountain Resort. This is a private club, but public tee times are available in the afternoons.
Of course, Colorado isn’t the only state that has blended winter sports and golf at nosebleed heights. In Wyoming, for example, the Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club partners with local resorts to offer visitors stay and play packages, while Park City Golf Course in Utah is a popular public course at an elevation of about 6,700 feet. Similarly, Sun Valley in Idaho and Northstar at Tahoe in California/Nevada also offer multiple golf courses with packages for visitors.
If there is a downside to the high altitude, it’s that thin air affects different people different ways, and in fact can affect the same people different ways on different visits. That said, most mountain resorts are experienced in dealing with guests with symptoms of altitude sickness, and they offer tips to help ease the process so that guests who are uncomfortable the first day often are fine in a day or two.