5 Best Colorado Winter Adventures
February is coming, people. Which means we’re looking at 28 more dark, cold, and (maybe) snowy days. That’s why, for some residents, February is prime time for an escape to Maui—or at the very least, into a lush gardening magazine. But we live in Colorado, right? One of the very best places on earth to relish the cold and snow. (And some of us even live in Stepping Stone™, with its handy, four-season bounty of parks, trails, and wilderness to explore.) All we need to do is take time to make the most of our state. Instead of wishing away the remainder of winter, celebrate it with one or more of these five Colorado adventures, carefully selected to expand horizons beyond our beloved skiing and snowboarding.
- Ice climbing
Before skipping past this one, consider the fact that even kids can be found crawling like Spiderman up Colorado’s icy walls. But where to begin? Known to climbers around the world is the free, non-profit Ouray Ice Park, a human-made venue of 200+ climbs a mere 15-minute walk from the city of Ouray. Volunteer “ice farmers” spray water and transform the Uncompahgre Gorge into spectacular climbing walls—cool to see, even if you don’t climb. No equipment or guides on-site, but see their website for suggestions. Other options include the frozen waterfalls of Vail, Chalk Creek Falls in Leadville, and Rifle Mountain Park. Beginners will want some guidance from an outfit like Apex Mountain Guides, which can tailor an experience to individuals and families with children as young as eight.
- Horse-drawn sleigh rides
Letting draft horses do the work means you get to enjoy peacefully snowy, evergreen-canopied moments while staying warm and comfortable under a cozy blanket. But there’s often much more to the experience. Nordic Sleigh Rides in Breckenridge offers an evening ride that also includes dinner theater at a recreated mining camp. A sleigh ride at Elk River Guest Ranch near Steamboat Springs ends up at warm, furnished teepees, where guests tuck into four-star entrees such as teriyaki salmon or roasted duck. Learn about these and many more inventive sleigh rides here.
- Ice fishing
Although typically associated with more frigid climes like Michigan and Minnesota, ice fishing is also gaining popularity in Colorado. It’s a fun yet purposeful way to hang out with friends and family outdoors. And with a cozy ice hut, toasty clothing, and warm food and drink, it can be downright pleasant to idle away an afternoon atop a frozen body of water. Check out these 8 Ice Fishing Lakes in Colorado, which include 3,400-acre Eleven Mile Reservoir, known for rainbow trout measuring in the 14-20” range. Or even nearby Chatfield Reservoir, which is restocked throughout the season. Especially at elevations below 8,000 feet, make sure the ice is stable, though. Check with the rangers of each site, and get helpful advice at local bait shops. For expert guidance, engage a professional outfit like Ice Fish Colorado, which can take you on a guided trip or rent do-it-yourselfers the proper equipment.
- Tubing and sledding
Perfect for families with young children or ski-shy out-of-state guests, these pastimes partner fresh air and scenery with a soupçon of adrenaline. Copper Mountain offers four tubing lanes where staff members will happily give you (or your family’s cluster of tubes) an extra giggle-inducing spin. Nighttime tubing is an option there, as well as at Snowmass.
If Telluride is your destination, make time for a sled down Firecracker Hill at the south end of Town Park. Bring your own sled or rent one from the Nordic Center. You can sled or tube at popular Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park, too.
Think of this as a sleigh ride, but with a lot more horsepower. Snowmobiling pleases the whole family, from little ones to thrill-seeking teens and scenery-loving adults. With more than 3,000 miles of snowmobiling trails throughout the state, your options abound. Of course, gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park is always a winner, as is the adjacent Arapahoe National Forest, which offers 300 miles of groomed trails around Grand Lake. (Rent your snowmobile there.) If you’re a first-timer, consider a guided tour with High Country Tours, Grand Adventures, or any other outfitters suggested here.