From the old-timey to the new-agey, these snow sports beckon you to make the most of the season.
If you live here, you know springtime in Colorado is a sun-and-snow wonderland calling you to “come out and play.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hit the ski slopes. Here are a few alternatives, ideal whether you’re looking to combat cabin fever for a couple of hours or craving an all-day adventure.
Anything that’s remained virtually unchanged but universally loved for centuries must be good. What started as a means of conveyance became wintertime entertainment, and ever since, families have delighted in the simple pleasure of careering down snowy hillsides.
Why try it: Sledding fits every budget, age and skill level. Jumping on a sled and racing down a snowy slope requires no training and little preparation. Each exhilarating run is followed by a journey back up the hill, so be prepared for some cardio exercise.
Where to try it: Around-the-corner options include local schools and parks, such as Ruby Hill in Denver (near W. Florida Avenue and S. Platte River Drive) or Westminster’s City Park Recreation Center. Willing to travel a little farther? Try Toboggan Hill in Monument or Meyer Ranch Park in Morrison. High-country options include Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park (a former ski slope), Carter Park in Breckenridge and Hideaway Park in Winter Park (where they even provide sleds at no charge).
Top tips: Choose sledding hills with a large, flat run-out free of obstacles, such as trees, fences or streets.
Find out more: Colorado’s top hills, plus tips on choosing the best sled.
This adrenaline-packed sport combines skiing or snowboarding with parasailing, and harnesses wind power to propel you. Speed competitions have clocked kiters up to 70 mph. Optimum wind conditions paired with knowledge of the “wind window” may even send you skiing uphill!
Why try it: Thanks to advances in equipment and safety systems, it’s becoming more accessible to beginners. Plus, there’s no need for a lift ticket and no lift lines. Snowkiting can be done almost anywhere there’s a large, open area covered with snow (think: soccer field).
Where to try it: Colorado Kite Force (CKF) provides kites, harnesses and instruction on the Dillon Reservoir. Lessons begin in the classroom, where you’ll learn the basics of kite control, plus de-powering—likened to taking your foot off the gas—and relaunch techniques. After completing a four-hour beginner’s course, most people have enough skill to continue
snowkiting on their own.
Top tips: Take a lesson. A harness limits the need for herculean upper body strength but calls for serious core work.
Find out more: coloradokiteforce.com, kitemare.com
In 1987, winter trail riding was revolutionized when bike companies introduced specialized rims and extra fat tires. Now, fat-tire, cold-weather-loving bikes are one of the hottest trends in the cycling industry, according to Jon Cariveau, marketing manager for Moots, a custom-bike manufacturer in Steamboat Springs.
Why try it: If you can ride a mountain bike, you can ride a fat bike. The snow creates more resistance, which requires more effort and slower speeds. That doesn’t mean you’re limited in where you can go. Fat bikes are permitted on any trail in the winter that a standard bicycle is allowed on in the summer. Enthusiasts recommend taking a seat, spinning at a
comfortable cadence and just enjoying the adventure.
Where to try it: Sterling Mudge with Leadville’s Cloud City Wheelers, asserts that Lake County is one of Colorado’s best areas for snow biking, with more than 50 miles of groomed trails. Cariveau suggests Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs, which boasts an extensive network of snowshoe trails that are also ideal for biking.
Top tips: Fat bikes range from $1,000 to $8,400. If you’re not ready to take that plunge, many bike shops offer fat bikes as part of their demo fleet (rates average about $50 per day).
Find out more: cloudcitywheelers.com, steamboat-chamber.com for routes, as well as 303cycling.com for a list of popular Boulder-area trails.
ICE ICE, BABY
If the idea of defying gravity while clinging to the surface of a frozen waterfall seems daunting, don’t sweat the cold stuff. Thanks to advances in safety equipment and some brilliant redesigns of traditional mountaineering tools, ice climbing is a sport almost anybody can try.
“I like to think of it as vertical yoga,” says longtime mountaineering guide Kevin Koprek, manager of the Ouray Ice Park. Unlike rock climbing, ascending ice is more about balance and technique than it is about strength. If you and your kids are fit enough to do a two-mile hike, then the entire family can try ice climbing, says Koprek.
The best news? In Colorado we have one of the most popular ice climbing destinations right in our backyard. The Ouray Ice Park not only offers gallons of frozen ice climbing pleasure, but has multiple outfitters offering equipment rentals, lessons and guided tours. Visit the ice park’s website for recommendations.