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Tuesday, February 20, 2001
SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Flying Colorado Springs

The City of Colorado Spring Municipal airport (COS) is by far the most convenient airport when flying in to visit the Springs ( Rental cars and hotels are plentiful, as are your choices for fuel.

The Colorado JetCenter (877-853-7523) caters to the big iron, and is priced accordingly. However, the JetCenter is open 24 hours, seven days a week, while the other FBO’s on-field have more restricted hours. Colorado Aviation (719-591-2065), tucked behind the T-hangers at the end of taxiway A2, offers reasonably priced self-serve fuel and tiedown. Falcon Aircraft (719-597-2272) is located at the far south end of the ramp.

Once on the ground, a rental car is recommended to fully explore the many sights around Colorado Springs. All major rental car companies are represented in the passenger terminal, and most will pick you up at your chosen FBO. It may be less expensive to book a car directly through the company than through the FBO, particularly if using the JetCenter.

The airspace around Colorado Springs is quite busy, due to the numerous military bases in the area. Contact Springs Approach (118.5 north, 124.0 south) as early as possible when arriving. They will help you navigate the maze of alert areas, control zones, MOAs, and restricted areas surrounding the airport. If arriving from the south, beware that Pueblo is also a popular spot for military and civilian jet training. Contact Pueblo Approach (120.1) before venturing into this area, they will hand you off to Springs approach. Once in the COS airport area, be sure to remain at or below the 7000 foot pattern altitude to avoid the high-performance traffic from Peterson AFB (co-located with COS).

Flying Colorado’s Front Range can be tricky, especially in winter and spring when strong mountain wave activity forms. Be wary when there have been several days of good weather, combined with westerly winds aloft. Also, be wary of Colorado Springs’ notoriously good winter weather. The city’s sheltered location protects it from poor weather that may be found only twenty or so miles away. Marginal VFR at the Springs probably means hard IFR all around, don’t be mislead by a promising local weather report.

Colorado Springs
Founded on Tourism

Story and photos by Gerrit Paulsen

Colorado Springs is a great place to visit year round, with scenic and cultural attractions, grand hotels and restaurants, and a rich aviation heritage. The summer climate is pleasant, due to the high (6000’) altitude, but winters are surprisingly mild and clear, thanks to the protection of the surrounding Rocky Mountains. The lower costs and significantly thinner crowds of the late winter and early-spring off season may make this the best time to visit this famous resort town nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak.

Colorado Springs has always been a travel destination. In fact, the town was founded as a resort in 1871 by General William J. Palmer, the builder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway. Palmer was gambling that this location near the mountains and numerous hot springs would attract wealthy tourists riding his railroad. He hit the jackpot. The town’s growth was spurred-on by the discovery of gold at nearby Cripple Creek in 1891, making Colorado Springs a commercial and financial center for the support industries eager to help miners spend their newfound wealth.

Today, in addition to tourism, the area’s economy and population growth is fed by major computer and electronics manufacturers, and by the military. The military arrived in force during World War II and the ensuing Cold War, when the city, looking to increase its economic base, offered land to the military. Peterson AFB, originally established as a civilian airport for Colorado Springs in 1925, is now headquarters of the North American Air Defense Command and the United States Space Command. The Peterson Complex, which includes Peterson AFB, Cheyenne Mountain AFB, and Schriever AFB, collectively perform a number of worldwide missions and activities that support the national security needs of the U.S. and Canada. Also nearby is Fort Carson, a large Army training facility.

Another major military facility near Colorado Springs is the United States Air Force Academy, established in 1954. Located just northwest of town, and beautifully situated at the base of the mountains, the Academy is Colorado’s second most popular tourist attraction (just slightly behind Rocky Mountain National Park). The informative Visitors Center features exhibits on life as a cadet, including a full-scale mockup of a typical dorm room. The Visitors Center also houses a cafeteria and gift shop (with all revenue generated going to support the cadet sports programs, without any assistance from taxpayers). A short, scenic trail leads over a small rise separating the Visitors Center from the campus to the soaring Cadet Chapel. From the chapel, you overlook the parade grounds, known as the “Terrazzo.” With luck, you may see the over 4,200 Cadets who attend the Academy assembled here in formation. Complete your visit to the Academy with a self-guided driving tour of the 18,000 acres Academy complex, which doubles as a large wildlife sanctuary — maps are available at the Visitors Center.

Keep an eye on the skies around the Academy. There are frequent Air Force fly-bys, especially during Falcon football games and other outdoor events. This airspace is also often congested with the Academy’s gliders and primary flight trainers, flying from the busy Academy airfield, introducing cadets to the joys and challenges of flight. The Visitors Center is open seven days a week from 9am to 5 p.m. (6 p.m. in the summer). All attractions are free. For more information call 719-472-2025, or visit

Looming over Colorado Springs is the 14,110-foot Pikes Peak. It is named for Zebulon Pike, an early explorer of the region, and the first white man to attempt to climb the lofty peak (in November 1806). Turned back by heavy snows at the 10,000-foot level, Pike reportedly pronounced the mountain un-climbable. Of course, this prediction turned out to be untrue, and by the mid-1800’s a steady stream of tourist were being hauled to the top by mule. One of theses early visitors was Katharine Lee Bates, who in 1893 was inspired by the sweeping views to write the patriotic anthem “America the Beautiful.” Indeed, the view from Pikes Peak is inspiring, and — in spite of Zeb Pike’s prediction — surprisingly effortless to achieve.

The Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway has been taking passengers to the summit of Pikes Peak since 1891. It is the world’s highest cog railroad, and the highest railroad in the United States. The railway was founded by another believer in Colorado Springs’ potential as a tourist destination, Zalmon Simmons (who also founded the Simmons Mattress Company). The cog railway’s steam engines have long been replaced by modern Swiss diesel rail cars, providing passengers with a comfortable, scenic ride. The route winds past forests and streams, then up above the tree line, where Rocky Mountain big horn sheep are frequently seen grazing near the tracks. The round trip lasts three hours and ten minutes, including 30 to 40 minutes on the summit. Here passengers can marvel at the 100-mile views, shop for souvenirs at the extensive gift shop, or dine at (arguably) the highest lunch counter in the country. Be sure to try the unique high-altitude doughnuts. Beware of the thin air while at the summit, there is no supplemental oxygen system on this trip. Trains depart every few hours from the lower railway station, located in the quaint mountain town of Manitou Springs, seven miles west of downtown Colorado Springs. The cog railway operates seven days a week from late April through early November. Adult fares are around $26 per person round trip, less and in the spring and fall seasons. (

You can also drive to the upper railroad terminal and gift shop. The exceptionally scenic Pikes Peak Highway makes Pikes Peak one of only two Colorado mountains over 14,000 feet accessible by car. The first half of this spectacular 19-mile toll road is paved, then it turns to well-maintained gravel up to the summit. There are numerous pullouts to take in the views. The road is usually open year-round, weather permitting. This highway is the route of the famous “Pikes Peak Auto Hill Climb,” held each year on the Forth of July. The hill climb is the second-oldest auto race in the nation, begun in 1917 by Spencer Penrose to promote his newly enlarged and improved automobile roadbed up the mountain, and his new hotel.
Spencer Penrose was yet another entrepreneur who correctly assessed the touristic value of the Pikes Peak region. Penrose, a Philadelphia industrialist, had a vision of recreating the opulent grand hotels of Europe and the Orient here in the wild American Southwest. On June 29, 1918, he succeeded in taking Colorado hospitality to an unprecedented level of luxury by opening the elegant Broadmoor Hotel. The hotel featured four stylish guestroom wings behind a striking pink stucco facade, fine dining, and an 18-hole golf course (designed by master golf-course architect Donald Rossand).

Known as the “Grande dame of the Rockies,” The Broadmoor continues today as the vacation destination of well-heeled and knowledgeable travelers — including presidents, statesmen, foreign potentates, and celebrities. Over the past 80 years the resort has grown to 700 guest rooms, three golf courses, a world-class spa, several pools (both indoors and out), and a dozen topnotch restaurants and lounges. The Broadmoor is one of the few resorts in the country to have earned the Mobil Five Star and the AAA Five Diamond ratings every year since the awards’ inception.

Winter room rates at The Broadmoor start at $190 for a well-appointed single room. Larger suites, with views of Cheyenne Mountain or the resort’s own Cheyenne Lake, start at $365, and range up to $oh-my-gawd! Rates climb by at least $100 in the summer season. Package plans are available, as are specials during slower times. Call (800) 634-7711 for reservations and information, or visit The Broadmoor offers airport pickup, as do many other, more moderately priced hotels in Colorado Springs. There are several good hotels adjacent to the COS airport.

Just behind The Broadmoor, nestled in the steep foothills of Pikes Peak, is Seven Falls, another of Colorado Springs’ oldest tourist attractions. Seven Falls (actually just one waterfall with seven cascades) is in a deep box canyon eroded into the steeply rising mountains. The scenic one-mile entrance road snakes between vertical granite walls and tall pine trees into the narrow canyon (as tight as 44 feet in places). A short trail leads to the visitors center and gift shop, then continues to the thundering base of the 181-foot falls. Nearby, a recently installed elevator whisks visitors 12 stories up through the mountain to an observation platform at the top of the falls, allowing you to bypass the fun of wheezing up a steep 224-step staircase. I do recommend taking the stairway down though, for the wonderful views of the canyon and its lush vegetation. Seven Falls is open year-round, admission is $7.00. An additional admission fee on summer evenings allows you the see the entire canyon illuminated with multicolor lights. (719-632-0765 or

A few miles north of Seven Falls lie the distinctive red rocks of Garden of the Gods ( This city-owned park offers towering sandstone formations, a wonderful view of Pikes Peak, and paved and unpaved hiking paths. The most enjoyable way to reach the Garden of the Gods from Seven Falls or The Broadmoor is via the steep, picturesque Gold Camp road toward Manitou Springs. Once in the park, a scenic drive winds through the rock formations, as well as past several touristy shops and attractions lurking within the park, eager to lighten your wallet.

Seven Fall and Garden of the Gods can be easily combined into a pleasant day of sightseeing, with the outing anchored at The Broadmoor. There are several excellent restaurants at The Broadmoor to fortify you for your explorations. For a classic breakfast, try the Lake Terrace Dining Room, featuring traditional fare, either by menu or buffet (7:00 to 11:00 a.m.). Try to time your visit to enjoy their famous Sunday Brunch Buffet, complete with ice sculptures, live classical piano music, and more than 70 decadent culinary temptations (9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., reservations suggested). For lunch, try the more casual Tavern, just off the Broadmoor’s lobby. A fun spot for lunch or dinner is the Golden Bee, an authentic 19th-century English pub transported to Colorado Springs from London. Here you can wash down your meal with a yard of ale, and in the evenings join in a lively sing-along (songbooks are provided, just in case you’ve forgotten the words to your favorite English pub songs). Call (719) 577-5733 for more Broadmoor dining information and reservations.

The Broadmoor resort, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, and the Air Force Academy are just a few examples confirming that General Palmer’s hunch was right. This beautiful location at the base of the Rocky Mountains will indeed thrive as a year-round destination for the knowledgeable traveler.

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
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