Is Colorado like Switzerland

Out and about in Colorado: A piece of Switzerland in the Wild West

Ouray (dpa / tmn) - Tourist trips to the USA are currently not possible. But when the visit is allowed again, there will still be a lot to discover - for example American Switzerland.

Was it the resemblance to the Alps or was it homesickness? European settlers named the mountains around Ouray the American Switzerland. There is even a Matterhorn.

The Rocky Mountains do look extraordinarily harsh and rugged here. The mountain village of Ouray is closely embraced on three sides by giant peaks, at almost 3,000 meters it is penned in a funnel gorge that the mineral-yellow gurgling Uncompahgre River has dug out of the hard stone.

In terms of landscape, Ouray makes a lot of doubles. But the people enliven the Bilderbuchtal with their very own Wild West version of Helvetia. In summer geraniums bloom on the carved wooden balconies of the “Box Canyon Lodge”, but now in winter it becomes clear: This is not a transplanted alpine inn, but a real American motel with off-road jeeps smeared with mud in the parking lot.

Gold rush and displacement

Colorado has always been a magnet for adventurers and adventurers. Ouray was first populated by rough miners, not mountain farmers. The first gold diggers rumbled into the remote cul-de-sac in 1861 with covered wagons. However, the region has been home to the Tabeguache Ute for centuries. Chief Ouray (1833-1880) sought peace, but ultimately the ancestral people were driven out. It is not known why the mine camp was named after the great local chief a little later. Archaeologists found historical remains of Ouray's winter quarters on the grounds of the Wiesbaden Hot Springs Motel.

With a cowboy hat in the thermal bath

The municipal thermal spring outdoor pool from 1927 is odorless because it is sulfur-free. Ourays model pool cannot compete with fashionable Swiss health resorts. But where else do eccentric bathers wear wide-brimmed cowboy hats?

Historical markers are on the many Victorian buildings in the town. At the Outlaw Restaurant you can read that John Wayne played billiards here during the breaks in filming "The Marshal" and his hat is still hanging behind the bar. The history museum distributes brochures for the tour on its own.

Ouray is only nine blocks long by a maximum of ten wide, has a paved road, Main Street, and no traffic lights. Today around a thousand people still live here. During the mining boom around 1890 there were twice as many. The splendidly designed "Beaumont Hotel" with a slate roof attic, corner tower and golden weather vane dates from this period. Those who could not afford an architect ordered a facade kit made of molded cast iron parts from a catalog. This was supplied by the railway, which finally ran to Ouray in 1887.

The Wright Opera House - now a theater, cinema and concert hall - is a beautiful testimony to what was once instant design. Ouray has successfully preserved its history.

Western nostalgia and deep snow joys

Most of the mines are now depleted, unprofitable and closed. Ghost towns and mining skeletons line the Million Dollar Highway, 40 hair-raising kilometers between Ouray and Silverton. The first version of the pass road was just a horse cart narrow and stony.

Today Ouray no longer has a train station. But the narrow-gauge line to Silverton is still active. Historic steam locomotives bring day-trippers up to three times a day in the middle of summer to the 600-soul nest with the colorful western cottages. Then crowds of mountain bikers and hikers also explore the old mining trails. In winter, deep snow fanatics make the pilgrimage to Silverton Mountain, the highest and steepest extreme ski area in North America.

Cheers for the tranquility

Meanwhile, Ouray could learn from Switzerland. Davos was first a small mountain village, then a chic spa. It is now a posh ski resort. But: "Fortunately, we have no space for such a huge resort," says Celestino "Bombie" Martinez. The 66-year-old was born and raised in Ouray, a veteran. He serves scrambled eggs with red salsa on tortillas in the Outloaw restaurant.

Tradition, a love of home and the geographic location saved Ouray from being sold out, says Martinez. The narrow valley is just enough for a public toboggan run and Lee's Ski Hill two streets away, where Ouray's crowd of children has fun.

Vertical in the frozen waterfall

Things get wilder in the Uncompahgre Gorge. The natural waterfalls there ice up every winter, and since the early 1990s self-appointed extreme plumbers have been helping with tap water and 140 lawn sprinklers and forming frost walls across the board for an “ice park”. In January, international climbing professionals meet here for championships. Newbies can take entry-level courses.

White-blue light shimmers from the cascade of bizarre icicles, unreally beautiful and cruelly cold. The knees are trembling. The climbing rope tied to the hip belt pulls tighter. Through a deflection anchored at the highest point, it runs back to the guide, who secures from the ground. And as a child, Bombie only wants to climb in rubber gloves and sneakers?

Celestino Martinez smiles. He would have liked to have had such equipment back then. “Change is good,” he says. But change doesn't mean marketing. "We have to keep our niche." And by that I mean both - this valley and its uniqueness.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210224-99-575509 / 3

Travel and safety advice for the United States

Esta application page


Visit Ouray

Colorado Tourism Website

Ouray and Silverton

Arrival: Denver is Colorado's international hub and before Corona was also served non-stop by Lufthansa from Frankfurt. There are connecting flights to smaller regional airports. It is cheaper and more practical to book a rental car in Denver.

Entry and Corona situation: German vacationers do not need a visa for the USA, but must obtain an electronic entry permit at It costs $ 14 and is valid for two years. Tourist entry into the USA is currently not possible due to the pandemic.

Information: Colorado Tourism Office c / o Get It Across Marketing, Neumarkt 33, 50667 Cologne (Tel .: 0221/47 67 12 0, E-Mail: [email protected], -de).