Activities to Check Off Your Colorado Winter Bucket List
By Emily Krempholtz
The holidays are over, and now begins the long slog of winter. While we wait for a COVID vaccine to be widely distributed, many of us are still in quarantine, but that doesn’t mean we need to spend the entire winter season cooped up in the house. In a state known for its great outdoors, there is more than enough activity to keep you busy in Colorado all season long, with plenty left on the to-do list for next year, too!
Here are a few fun activities you can try out this winter to keep you moving and get you out of the house:
This one feels like a freebie, but for those of you who have never checked skiing or snowboarding off your bucket list, there is no better place to do it than here in Colorado! We are home to more than 40,000 acres of skiable terrain here in the Centennial State, and dozens of ski areas and resorts that would be happy to help show you how it’s done.
✓ Snowshoeing/Cross Country Skiing
If you want to see the mountains in wintertime from a little slower perspective, rent yourself a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis and start exploring! Anywhere you can hike, you can snowshoe in the winter. It’s a great form of exercise, and it will allow you to get up close and personal with our winter landscapes. Even if you’ve hiked that trail a hundred times in the summer, seeing it covered in a thick blanket of snow will make it seem 100% new again. Don’t believe us? Try it for yourself.
There’s nothing quite like the simple joy of racing down a hill at top speed on little more than a tray. For an idea of where to get your sledding on this winter, check out our other piece this week on the best sledding hills in Colorado.
✓ Go Out at Night
Many of the items on this list can be done when the sun goes down, especially if there’s a full or particularly bright moon out. Snow reflects light a lot more than the bare ground does, so going on a nighttime snowshoeing adventure, or sledding down a hill with only the moon to watch you, can be a spectacular way to mix up your routine and try something new. Many resorts offer these activities at night, but if you go out on your own, always be prepared for cold temperatures and emergencies, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, and make sure someone knows where you are.
✓ Dog Sledding
Maybe you’re looking for something a little more thrilling than regular old sledding, or maybe you want to live out your Alaskan fantasies without having to actually travel that far north, but there are several Colorado dog sled companies throughout the state—in places like Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, and other hubs of winter activity, of course—where you can have a once in a lifetime experience with a team of adorable dogs.
✓ Ice Fishing
If a bit of solitude and quiet is what you’re after, ice fishing might be just the thing to get you out of the house and into nature this winter. There are many tour and rental companies that will help you get set up with everything you need so you can try it out to see if you like it before you invest in all the equipment. For a more detailed idea of what to expect, check out our guide to ice fishing in Colorado! (Link to blog piece from last week?)
✓ Sleigh Ride
Sleigh rides or wagon rides are one of the most versatile activities out there depending on your situation. Do you want to cuddle up under a blanket with your one and only? Or get the whole family together for a fun ride while you sing songs, hear stories, and see the world from a different viewpoint while being pulled along by giant Clydesdale and Percheron draft horses? Many sleigh rides, like Golden Horseshoe Tour Company in Breckenridge, offer hot cocoa and blankets, and other companies offer wine and dinner when you reach your destination.
✓ Hot Springs
If you’ve never soaked in a natural hot spring while snow falls all around you, melting in the steam that rises from the water, then you’re seriously missing out. Colorado is home to many geothermal springs, and though many of them have reduced capacity limits or heightened restrictions due to COVID, it’s still possible to enjoy a relaxing soak this winter. Take a dip after a long day on the slopes, or head out for a special trip all on its own.
✓ Off-Season National Parks
Winter is the best time of year to avoid a crowd in all four of Colorado’s national parks. You’ll find serene, untouched wilderness, views that are drastically different from what you’d see in the summer, and possibly even some more wildlife than usual. Some attractions, like the famous Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, are closed in the winter, it’s true, but you’ll more than make up for it when you try your hand at snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, sledding, or even ice climbing in the park instead. Great Sand Dunes National Park is stunningly beautiful when the dunes are covered in a blanket of snow, and though the South Rim Road at Black Canyon of the Gunnison isn’t plowed for cars in the winter, you might find you prefer this since it leaves the road open for skiing!
Snowshoeing and Nordic skiing aren’t for everyone. Sometimes you want to see the winter landscapes of the Rockies at a faster pace, and without the hassle of skiing. There are over 3,000 miles of snowmobiling trails in Colorado, and plenty of adventure companies that would love to get you started with a rental or a tour! For more information, check out our guide to snowmobiling in Colorado.
✓ Warming Up with a Hot Beverage
When the weather outside is frightful, a hot drink is so delightful… no? That’s not how the song goes? Maybe it should be, because we’ve got options when it comes to drinks here in Colorado. Grab a bottle of whiskey from Stranahan’s or Honey House Distillery and make yourself a hot toddy or an Irish coffee, or support a local business and treat yourself to a cup of hot cocoa or a fancy coffee. It’s a spectacular way to warm up after some of the outdoor activities on this list, but also a great pick-me-up on one of those wintery, blustery days when you just need a treat.
✓ Winter Festivals and Events
Thanks to our good friend coronavirus, many of Colorado’s annual winter festivals and events have been canceled this year. While we can certainly add them to our bucket list for next year (gotta leave something to check off next season, after all!), there are still some events happening, albeit with some changes. At the end of January, the X Games will be held in Aspen, and while they will be closed to spectators, you can still tune in to watch some of the most amazing winter athletes in the world in action. Maybe you can even spectate with one of those hot beverages in hand?
✓ Fat Tire Biking
With their wide tires filled at a low tire pressure, fat tire bikes are specifically designed to be ridden in the snow. The tires are like snowshoes for the bike, allowing you to float on top of the snow where a thinner tire would sink right in, trapping you in a rut. You’ll find fat tire bikes available for rental at most outdoor stores and adventure tour companies throughout the winter season, and some will even take you on a tour to show you the bes trails and give you a taste of what fat tire biking is all about!
✓ Ice Skating
There are some major differences between skating on a rink and on a frozen pond. Natural skating ponds tend to be bumpier and the ice has more sediment, so it can dull your skates faster than a rink that’s been specially constructed and groomed for ice skating. There’s something so wonderfully beautiful about skating on a pond or a lake, under that gem-blue Colorado sky, but Colorado has plenty of outdoor skating rinks as well. From 40-acre Evergreen Lake Silver Circle Ice Rink in Aspen, find somewhere to rent a pair of skates and hold hands with a loved one as you show off your moves or get your footing on the ice.
✓ Hot Air Balloon
What’s better than seeing the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the winter? Seeing them from above, of course! Hot air balloon tours operate all over the state, and they’re an unforgettable way to see Colorado’s incredible landscape while it’s blanketed in pristine white snow.
Winter in Colorado
Winters in Colorado can be long, especially if you live at a higher elevation. Especially during a pandemic, when many businesses are temporarily closed and you may not feel safe gathering with friends the way you used to, it’s important to keep yourself busy and get outdoors. The fresh air will do you some good, and trying something new will help you feel exhilarated and accomplished.
How many of these activities can you check off your list this winter?
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