The novel mountain town
For wanting to be near the mountains, it still baffles some of the transplants about how long it takes to get to the mountains.
On I-70, there is a moment right at Genesee parkway that *feels* like you are in the mountains. After all, there they are laid out in front of you with the year-round snow-cappedness of it all. There are mountains, as big as they talk about in the books. But to see them is still probably not to be in them.
The second climb out of Georgetown might be where the mountains might begin. Definitely after Idaho Springs. Racing the road with white knuckles after the tunnel will give you the thrill you might have been waiting for. There, back there, that can be the mountains you are probably looking for.
What you might be looking for is the novel mountain town. What used to be the principal main street has become the tourist center. What was full of necessity is now full of the composition of a nice afternoon. Paint jobs are kept up, parking is monitored, the patio is probably full.