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The Christmas-New Year's period is the highest of high seasons in the mountains. Besides beckoning slopes, Colorado resorts proffer a glittering holiday scene with festive illumination, torchlight parades and other special events, most of which are free. Even if you don't have reservations yet, you might be able to score last-minute availability.

Beaver Creek

Visitors can find the sacred and the sparkling at this posh Vail Valley resort. On Christmas Eve. The Beaver Creek Chapel (www.beavercreekchapel.com) hosts Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian services, culminating with Catholic Midnight Mass. Two Masses are scheduled for Christmas Day, and daily Mass through the winter. A torchlight ski-down and fireworks are on for New Year's Eve.

Breckenridge

This historic Summit County town is a Victorian winter wonderland throughout the holidays and beyond. Everything started on December 1, when the annual Lighting of Breckenridge kicked off the festivities. They last straight through Ullrfest honoring the Norse god of winter (Jan. 6-11) and the International Snow Sculpture Championships (Jan. 22-27).

Copper Mountain

En Fuego (Dec. 22 and 24) is a spirited evening celebration with torchlight parade, street entertainers, bonfires, fire performers, and the finale of a brilliant fireworks display viewed from Burning Stones Plaza. Ring out the old year watching performances by the lkikes of the BMX Stunt Team, Spinderella and the Copper Mountain Freeride Team, plus a fireworks finale.

Crested Butte

Instructors from the ski and ride school perform a traditional torchlight parade from the top of the Silver Queen lift, and youngsters participate in their own junior version through Kids World. New Year's Eve is a rollicking party at the resort, highlighted by a fireworks display.

Durango Mountain Resort

Santa visits the mountain on Dec. 22 and 23, and on the 31st, torchlight paraders snake their way down the slopes. On the 24th, luminarias glow along Durango's elegant East Third Avenue. The Polar Express rolls into Durango's historic downtown depot Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 27 with hot chocolate, Christmas carols and up to three rides each evening "to the North Pole" to pick up Santa. The Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad runs a special New Year's Eve train. For both rail events, contact www.durangotrain.com.

Keystone

From Dec. 15 through Jan. 2, pastry chef Ned Archibald's extraordinary Chocolate Village is on display at the Keystone Lodge. He shapes 2,500 pounds of chocolate into a miniature Alpine village complete with a massive chocolate mountain, working chocolate gondola, cascading chocolate waterfall and six-foot white chocolate Christmas tree with hand-blown sugar ornaments. Skating on the frozen surface of Keystone Lake reflecting Christmas trees is like skating in a holiday dream.

Steamboat

Steamboat Springs' Holiday Ice Show (Dec. 27-29) at Howelsen Arena and the Strings in the Mountains (www.stringsinthemountains.com) Holiday Gala Concert Dec. 27) and two Youth Concerts (Dec. 28) add some glossy entertainment and culture to the holidays in the informal, haute-Western town. Festivities wrap up at the mountain with New Year's Eve fireworks.

Telluride

Santa will hang out at Telluride Dec. 21-24. Guests can sit with him, have their pictures taken with him or even ski with him. New Year's Eve festivities start with ski-downs on Telluride Trail toward town and Misty Maiden at Mountain Village, followed by fireworks.

Winter Park

Festive holiday dinners are served on Dec. 24 and 25 at the mountaintop Lodge at Sunspot and down below in the Vintage Hotel's Five Mountain Tavern. Guests can also ring out 2007 at the Lodge at Sunspot, which is offering a festive four-course dinner and a more casual buffet. Also on Dec. 31, 50 of the region's top pro and emerging riders compete for cash at Jingle Rails, a thrilling railjam invitational.

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