Ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Festival. // © 2012 Ouray Ice Festival
Colorado is known for its skiing and snowboarding as well as its world-class ski resorts. Yet, visitors who are looking to experience the other side of Colorado’s winter season will find countless activities, from ice climbing and snowmobiling to snow biking and dog sledding.
The following is a sampling of winter sports activities that can be enjoyed in Colorado:
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 apres 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 the fall seasons. However, every winter, the town attracts visitors from around the world for its ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park. In January, the ice park hosts the annual Ouray Ice Festival, one of 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
Vail Resort 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 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.