There’s more than one way to enjoy fresh powder in Colorado! Ditch the skis and snowboard, and try one of these activities instead.
by Jamie Siebrase
Pop a Wheelie
The outdoor world is obsessed with fat biking — aka snow biking — aka riding a mountain bike with oversized tires and wide rims across undulating terrain blanketed in packed snow. For fat bike rentals, lessons and tours, the Vail Golf & Nordic Clubhouse is a great place to start. If you’re thirsty, check out Ridden Breckenridge, hosting beginner-friendly fat bike beer and distillery tours that take riders on a four-mile downhill ride with mouthwatering stop-offs at Breckenridge Distillery and Broken Compass Brewing. (Return transportation provided.) At YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch, overnight guests and day visitors have access to 40 kilometers of groomed bike trails, and fat bike rentals are available at the onsite Nordic Center, starting at $20. Devil’s Thumb Ranch has an impressive winter trail system welcoming fat bikers (fullday bike rentals are $40) — plus a spa, acclaimed restaurants and plush accommodations. On the Front Range, Front Range Ride Guides plans custom-tailored fat biking tours for all ages and ability levels; bikes, helmets and packs are included with the cost of every half-day adventure. If you’re already an old pro, rent a bike at Mojo Wheels, and hop on a trail at Elk Meadow or Three Sisters parks in Evergreen
Skate through the Season
If you crave adventure, try wild ice skating in the Gunnison Valley, where high altitude, cold temperatures and minimal early-season snow create the perfect conditions for skating on natural terrain such as frozen lakes and reservoirs. In addition to speed or hockey skates, you’ll need a life jacket, rescue throw bag, picks and an experienced accomplice to glide across wild ice. The rink at Evergreen Lake provides a tamer outdoor skating experience with a Zamboni-groomed ice rink devised of 8.5 acres of frozen-solid lake. Pay admission ($7 for adults), rent skates (also $7) and glug hot cider at Evergreen Lake House before taking a few leisurely laps around the main public rink. You can bring sticks and pucks for a game of broomball on one of the site’s 11 hockey courts. Alternatively, lace up at a man-made rink like WinterSkate, the old-fashioned outdoor ice skating arena in historic downtown Louisville, or the Downtown Denver Rink at Skyline Park, offering free ice skating and low-cost skate rentals through February 3.
Kick Your Crampons
Unlike downhill skiing, which can take years to master, just about anyone can ice climb. But first you’ll need a little instruction. While experienced climbers might delight in icy waterfalls from Grand Junction to Boulder, the rest of us head to Ouray – “The Switzerland of America” – where Ouray Ice Park is heralded as being one of the most accessible ice parks in the world. Built into a picturesque gorge, the manmade venue has more than 200 named ice and mixed climbs, including plenty of beginner-friendly routes. If you’re new to ice climbing, book a full or half-day lesson with Peak Mountain Guides, so you can learn to swing your ice axe with the rest of them. Your guide will bring all required equipment, and will teach basic climbing skills and ice climbing movements before getting you on the ice. On the south side of the Rio Grande National Forest, Kling Mountain Guides in Durango offers full- and half-day ice climbing excursions to Cascade Canyon, a not-too-crowded frozen waterfall paradise welcoming amateur climbers. You don’t have to travel to the Western Slope for good ice. The gurus at Golden Mountain Guides curate custom climbing adventures, too, at Clear Creek Canyon.
A Walk in the Woods
If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Test your footing at the Eldora Nordic Center (located at Eldora Mountain Resort) or Breckenridge Nordic Center: both sites offer gear rentals, warming huts and miles of peaceful, scenic trail. Through February, REI runs two-hour introductory snowshoe classes at Echo Lake in Evergreen; snowshoes and snowshoe poles, along with instruction from professional guides, are included in the cost of the course ($89 for non-members). The outdoor retailer also leads guests on moonlight snowshoe tours ($119 for non-members), Sunday, January 20, Saturday, February 16, and Friday, March 22, across Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Forest. Animal lovers might prefer the First Prints Program at the Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, where hotel guests explore the mountain during a complimentary early-morning snowshoe adventure led by Bachelor the Saint Bernard, the pet-friendly resort’s canine ambassador. Wherever you trek, remember to dress warm and wear a moisture-wicking base layer. In addition to snowshoes, you’ll need waterproof boots, SmartWool socks, insulated snow pants, a waterproof shell, mittens and plenty of water.
Get Your Thrills
Elitch Gardens might be closed for the season, but plenty of ice-cold thrills await at Colorado mountain resorts. Open daily at 11 a.m., Colorado’s longest rollercoaster – the Outlaw Mountain Coaster in Steamboat Springs – starts with a relaxing ascent followed by a 400-vertical-foot plunge with dips, waves and turns. The Inferno Mountain Coaster at Purgatory Resort exposes Durango’s breathtaking terrain daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with 4,000 feet of winding track blending quick descents and ample switchbacks. At Cave of the Winds, an adventure park in Manitou Springs, you’ll get a one-of-a-kind rush on the Terror-dactyl, featuring a 200-foot cliff dive that sends patrons into a gut-wrenching 100-mile-per-hour free-fall. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Gold Runner Coaster – departing from Peak 8, accessible via the free BreckConnect Gondola – sends patrons gliding through a snowy forest at speeds of 25 miles per hour.
Lead the Pack
For an unforgettable, exhilarating experience, try mushing a team of adorable dogs through the Rockies. Book a half-day adventure with Grizzle-T Dog Sledding in Steamboat Springs, and you’ll learn to mush your own team of Alaskan huskies along a scenic 12.5-mile groomed backcountry trail carved through a private ranch. Starting at $200 per adult, this West Trail Dog Sledding Tour delivers two hours of sled time, plus instruction. An 8-mile-long South Trail Tour winds around the shores of Stagecoach Reservoir, and participants can choose to drive their own team, or sit back while a guide operates the sled. Daily tours depart in the morning, at 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m., and at 1 p.m. YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch makes it easy for first-timers to try dogsledding, with two-mile introductory rides through meadows opening to picturesque mountainside landscapes. Offered Monday and Saturday mornings, the property’s short rides begin at 8:30 a.m. with a presentation. $30 per person for lodging guests; $50 for day visitors. On Friday mornings, a longer dog sledding experience is available for guests boarding onsite. Make reservations in advance with the Programs Department.