Years ago, at the birth of a flourishing hard rock mining community, the settlers of Ouray, CO retired for the winter with no idea of what a harsh mistress Mother Nature could be in the Uncompahgre River Valley. Early snows cut the budding town off from travel, and food stores became more and more sparse. As Christmas approached, the town found itself in dire circumstances. Many would have given up, hoarded what they had, and given nary a thought to their neighbors.
The folk of this new town were a hardier, more generous group of individuals. Rather than giving up, each member of the community emptied their meager stores and created a feast. Perhaps not what we might consider to be a feast today, but when faced with starvation, this Christmas dinner was truly decadent: beans, a pound of bacon, and flour to make flatbread.
After having gorged to their hearts content, the men decided to continue the revelry with a grand Christmas sledding party. Of course, there was no wine or beer or any other spirits to warm them as they careened through deep snow on the steepest hill in town. Yet again, these industrious men were undaunted, and in lieu of alcoholic beverages, someone broke out a bottle of vinegar, pouring a healthy dose to each member of this sledding party to warm and invigorate them, and christening Vinegar Hill with its name and role to this very day.
The years have gone by, the town has changed, but several things remain the same. The Million Dollar Highway brings visitors to town year round, the scenic vistas around Ouray rank among the best in the state of Colorado, and in the winter, sledding on Vinegar Hill remains one of the best free things to do during the winter in Colorado.
The spirit of the people of this small mountain town maintains many similarities with the settlers of the past. Winters cool breath does not frighten them and they love the active outdoor adventures, including sledding. In Ouray, there is still a sense of community, and love of this beautiful area, and wonderful Vinegar Hill. Once the snow blossoms in this tiny Box canyon, bales of straw block the bottom of the hill. Children of all ages still careen down the snowy path, but hot cocoa in thermoses has replaced a glass of vinegar to warm cold fingers and toes.
This winter has been warmer than others but many sledding opportunities abound near Ouray and make great things to do over Spring Break. Afterwards, enjoy a soak in our Ouray hot springs or enjoy the million gallon Ouray Hot Springs Pool!