Let’s face it, not everyone loves to ski. But that does not mean dreams for a winter wonderland vacation need to melt away into a soggy pool of mush. Rather, there are dogs to mush and ice to climb and books to read by a warm log fire in such fabulous cold spots as Colorado.
The mountain country here that is known for epic skiing and snowboarding amid 25 world-class ski resorts, and now famous fuzz-free toking in public open spaces, also offers visitors the chance to experience the other side of winter season with some creative options for snow heads that do not involve pricey lift tickets.
Following is a sampling of the winter activities that can be enjoyed in the Centennial State.
Snow Biking in Telluride. Home to world-class skiing and snowboarding, Telluride is one of the finest ski resorts in the world. It is also an amazing area for non-skiers looking for fun winter activities. Telluride, known for its amazing mountain biking from spring through fall, now offers snow biking in the winter for the first time. Local area outfitter BootDoctors offers Big Tire Bike Tours on Salsa Mukluk fat bikes starting this winter season, an adventure that can be tailored to various riding abilities. A stop at the Telluride Brewing Company for an après bike libation can be included as part of the half day Big Tire Bike and Brew Tour.
Ice Climbing in Ouray. The tiny southwestern Colorado town of Ouray is known for off-roading and biking in the spring through fall seasons. However, every winter, the town attracts visitors from around the world for its amazing ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park. In January, the ice park hosts the annual Ouray Ice Festival, the premier ice climbing festival in the U.S., which attracts skilled ice climbers and spectators from around the world. The Ouray Ice Park also offers the Kids Climbing College, a free ice climbing clinic for kids ages 8-17, hosted by San Juan Mountain Guides. All equipment is provided and is offered on a first come, first served basis.
Snowshoeing in Vail. The posh resort of Vail is synonymous with world-class skiing. The resort, which celebrates its 50th season in 2013, offers every snow sport visitors can imagine, from skiing and snowboarding to ice climbing and snowmobiling. But the area is also home to amazing snowshoeing on groomed trails, for those who want to explore some backcountry beauty on their own. Pack some snacks and bottled water, strap on your snowshoes and you’re on your way. Many area outfitters offer snowshoes and all necessary equipment to enjoy a day exploring Colorado’s backcountry.
Georgetown Jeep Ice Racing. For the past 37 years, Our Gang Ice Racing has been holding jeep ice races on Georgetown Lake in the charming Victorian town of Georgetown, Colorado. On weekends in January and February, Georgetown is transformed into a racetrack for Jeeps and other four-wheel drive vehicles. Experience levels vary but there is a beginner’s class, which allows anyone with a driver’s license to participate in a race.
Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Iconic Rocky Mountain National Park receives heavy snowfall west of the Continental Divide. But the eastern side of the park receives lighter snowfall, leaving low elevation trails (below 8,700 feet) open for hiking without the need for snowshoes. Trails range anywhere from 1.5 to three miles in length and are rated easy to moderate in terms of difficulty. Along the trails, visitors can see lakes, streams and valleys dotted with evergreens and aspens. Before each outing, check with park rangers for local snow conditions.
Snowmobiling in Aspen. Aspen is known throughout the world as a winter ski destination where celebrities and luminaries flock for some of the best skiing in the country. And yet the region also boasts a plethora of other winter activities, including snowmobiling. Snowmobile cross is an event in the Winter X Games, which take place in Aspen every January. For non-pros, access to amazing snowmobiling is widely available from outfitters such as the Aspen Snowmobile Concierge tours, including the popular Timberline Tour. This guided tour heads through Aspen’s high mountain parks and pristine forests and is suited for ages four and up. Visitors will see spectacular views of Aspen and Snowmass Mountains nestled away from the glitzy resort. All tours have free practice riding time in open meadows so guests can familiarize themselves with the equipment and terrain. Hot beverages are also served.
Dog Sledding in Durango. Southwest Colorado is home to the popular ski resort Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. The skiing and riding is top-notch but Durango is also home to the Durango Dog Ranch, which offers amazing dog sledding tours on groomed backcountry trails. The ranch’s season runs from mid November until mid April, weather permitting. There is a guide on every sled and all participants will get a chance to drive the sled. Snacks are included.
For more information visit www.colorado.com.