Fresh Fun: Novel Ways to Enjoy New Snowfall
Given Colorado’s captivating mountain terrain and abundance of dry snow every year, it’s no surprise tourists flock to the Rocky Mountains during the cold months to enjoy the powdery playground. Visitors and residents alike pull out their ski gear and zip down the slopes, taking in the fresh mountain air and generous sunshine. Adventures are endless; while people gravitate toward classic activities such as sledding, snowboarding, and skiing, there are many other options to explore. This winter, consider taking your favorite summer activities onto the ice!
If you are searching for an enchanting winter excursion that will take you back in time alongside man’s best friend, a dog sled tour may be the perfect cold weather experience for you and your family. With a handful of operators easily accessible in the high areas of Breckenridge, Frisco, and Leadville, you can experience the sport of mushing just a couple of hours from home. From November to April visitors interact with affectionate and athletic canines as they whisk past magnificent aspens and pines.
Caleb Hathaway, owner of Monarch Dog Sled Rides, has been offering tours through the San Isabel National Forest for six years. He describes dog sledding as a magical way to explore Colorado’s backcountry while taking a break from skiing. “A big part of what we do is educating people about the dogs,” he said. “We really want people to understand the history behind this working breed and how they’ve been designed since the gold rush. Back then, it was mainly about survival, people in the north needing animals to help them get around.”
Riders get hands-on experience with the Alaskan huskies, helping harness them and drive the sled. “Once you’re around the dogs, they’re very contagious,” Hathaway said. “They have a lot of energy and on average pull 8 to 12 miles an hour and love it. It’s a very peaceful experience—the dogs become focused and quiet when they get to work.”
With a wide array of fishable lakes and reservoirs in Colorado, ice fishing allows you to be out on the water, even when the temperature drops. Once a tactic for winter survival, ice fishing has become a straightforward, recreational, and social activity to enjoy from December through February, especially with easy access to hooks, poles, augers, and bait. Popular areas for Colorado’s winter anglers include Lake Granby, Chatfield Reservoir, and Eleven Mile Reservoir—the latter less than two hours from Colorado Springs.
“Most areas don’t have the fish like we do, where you can catch 5- to 10-pound trout,” said Jim Collins, owner of Eleven Mile General Store, the area’s oldest shop (established in 1961). Collins has ice fished for the last 11 years and describes it as an activity anyone can do if they obtain the proper gear and put in the time. “It’s a unique winter experience because it’s beautiful and you can see the fish underneath the ice,” he said. “Instead of being confined indoors, it’s an opportunity to be outside and enjoy Colorado’s blue skies and open landscape.” Visitors pay a $7 vehicle fee into Eleven Mile State Park and must have a fishing license; participants 16 years old and under must be accompanied by an adult with a license. “Bring a power or hand auger if the ice is more than two feet deep and pack a nice tent to block the wind,” Collins said. “Any local bait shop can help get you geared up and tell you more on the conditions.”
Take zip lining to a new level by soaring past snow-dusted trees and hills in 20-degree weather. Adventures Out West in Manitou Springs offers zip lining year round with tours beginning at the base of Pikes Peak. The company’s longest line, Long Johns, takes participants 650 feet from one natural cliff to another. It’s a thrilling experience for kids and adults less than 15 minutes from Colorado Springs. Take Highway 24 and head toward the far west end of Manitou to get there.
Fat biking offers an excellent workout couched in an adventure, and you don’t have to be an avid biker to give it a try. Fat bikes are named for their oversized mountain bike tires and serious treads, which make them capable in any terrain and an excellent choice for anyone wanting to experience cold weather biking for the first time. Explore on your own after renting from The Hub in Colorado Springs or join a fat bike tour. Absolute Bikes Adventure leads tours near Salida and Front Range Guides offers routes in Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins. In Colorado Springs, Palmer Park offers excellent trails. In Leadville, try Turquoise Lake Loop. If you’re willing to drive even further west, check out the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System’s extensive offerings.
No matter your experience, Colorado furnishes abundant winter opportunities if you’re willing to try something new and brave the chill. As always, Colorado.com is a great place to start your search and find the resources you need to venture in a different way.