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Winter Activities in Colorado

Posted by Sarah Steen on November 29, 2021
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photo of winter mountain landscape with "Winter Activities in Colorado" caption

People definitely think of snow when they imagine Colorado in the winter. Colorado has world class alpine skiing and snowboarding, but what else can you do for recreation in Colorado in the winter? You’d be surprised by the variety of snow sports and activities our beautiful state offers residents and visitors. We’ve listed some of the more popular adventure options below.

Be prepared before heading out:

  • Take a backpack with your essentials: sunscreen, water, hat and/or balaclava, hand/toe warmers, multitool, whistle, small first aid kit, LED headlamp, never, EVER forget your gloves, sunglasses and/or goggles.
  • Dress in layers. Jeans, cotton, leather and fur (even faux fur) are a no go for active outdoor winter activities. Choose water wicking materials, waterproof winter boots, and gaiters if you are wearing (heavy) hiking boots.
  • Check the weather forecast ahead of time and keep an eye on it. Use Myradar for updated weather information
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and use the COTREX app for location and trails.

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Alpine Skiing/Snowboarding

People travel from all over the world to enjoy the world class skiing and snowboarding offered in Colorado. If you live here in Colorado Springs, there are several resorts close enough for day trips. Just be sure to have a good set of snow tires, all-wheel drive, or chains in case weather rolls in during your drive home. Lessons are highly recommended if you’re brand new to the sport since you’re likely to learn faster with an instructor helping you the first few hours. There are many different options for gear: buy your own new or used, season and daily rentals.  Check out our post to save a bit of money gearing up for ski season: Skiing on a Budget.

Dog Sledding 

Dog sledding is not just for Alaska. Colorado has some great dog sled outfitters. This is a fun and relaxed way to explore Colorado’s outdoors and backcountry. Do some research on the dog sled outfitters to make sure they have great reviews and treat their animals well. Here are a few tips:

  • Make reservations. Showing up without a reservation means you might not make it onto a sled.
  • Outfitters sometimes offer gear rentals. This could be a great option if you’re visiting Colorado on vacation with limited winter gear.
  • Most tours occur mid-November through mid-April.
  • Check the details about arrival times on your outfitter’s website. Most require guests to arrive at least 30 minutes before departure.
  • You’ll probably need to provide your weight in order to assign sleds and have enough dog power pulling sleds.
  • These vary among outfitters, but most have weight restrictions, age limits and policies that exclude pregnant women from participating.
  • No need to bring treats — your outfitter might offer some treats for you to give to the dogs.
  • Outfitters that use public trails will need to share trails with snowmobilers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Some outfitters offer rides on private trails so pay attention to these distinctions when researching.
  • You might be asked to “run” the dogs or ride on a support vehicle depending on your dog sled company.
  • Shorter trails are 6 miles. Longer trips vary but are available depending on location.
  • Durango Dog Ranch offers additional sledding adventures like night tours.

Dog Sled Provider Map

 

Ice Skating

Like many cities, Colorado Springs offers ice skating rinks where you can rent your skates right there and get going:

    • Sertich Ice Center
    • World Arena Ice Hall
    • Honnen Ice Arena
    • Monument Ice Rinks
    • If you’d like a unique outdoor experience, then considering skating at the popup ice rink at Acacia Park. This fun option is offered annually November-January. You can stroll along downtown Colorado Springs’ shops, skate for a bit, and then grab some hot chocolate or lunch at one of the great dining options in the area. Skates can be rented onsite.
    • Resort towns around Colorado usually offer ice skating and can be a nice break from skiing or an activity for the non-skiers in your group.
    • Several lakes and Colorado State Parks offer ice skating. Make sure to look at location websites for updates on equipment rental and ice condition. If you choose to skate on one of Colorado’s lakes, you do so at your own risk and you should research rules before going.

Map of Colorado Ice Skating Rinks

Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides

Is there anything more romantic than a sleigh ride? Many mountain towns in Colorado offer sleigh rides through the streets, while several businesses offer more remote experiences. Reservations are usually required. Many businesses will tuck passengers in with warm blankets and serve hot chocolate and cookies while they are whisked away on an anything but ordinary experience. Some packages include full meals and even bonfires at remote homestead cabins.

Map of Horse Drawn Sleigh Providers

Snowmobiling

This an amazing experience that you don’t want to miss. Try and squeeze this into your vacation plans if you have enough time during your Colorado visit. If you are not sure about going out on a snowmobile, head over to this blog post to learn more: First timers guide to snowmobiling 

It’s important to decide if you’d like to ride a snowmobile by yourself or if you’d like to be a passenger. Outfitters vary on their rules regarding guests driving or being passengers. Most will not allow children under 10 to operate a snowmobile. Beginner snowmobilers should stay with a guided tour. The tours know great paths with lots of views. They will also take you to an area where you can free ride and try out your newly acquired snowmobiling skills. If you own a snowmobile and venture out on your own, please be aware of all avalanche warnings and weather conditions.

Make sure to dress and pack appropriately (see tips above). Your snowmobiling outfitter will provide you with helmets, specialty gloves and a primer on snowmobiling. As always, check Reddit and Google for reviews. Here is a list of outfitters to start your research.

Related Reading: Winter Home Maintenance 

Fat Biking

The bike isn’t fat but the tires are REALLY fat to make it easier to ride in the snow. Fat biking is a fairly young sport that started becoming more mainstream around 2014. The fat bike or “Fatty” is for mountain bikers who desperately want to extend the mountain biking season and enjoy Colorado trails through the winter months when they are mostly empty.

You can rent fat bikes in most mountain towns. Tours are a great idea if you don’t know the area but want a great introduction to this sport on the best trails. Want to head out on the trails on your own? Make sure you are properly prepared by talking to the locals at the information desk in the town or park you are visiting to ask about trail conditions. The guides at the front desk are usually avid riders themselves and will have great input for you.

The above-mentioned weather and trails apps and a well packed backpack are a must. Consider adding an avalanche shovel and maybe an avalanche alert system to your pack. Important: don’t go out by yourself. Take a couple of friends and tell someone where you are heading and when you expect to be back (even if you are in a small group). Aim to be back and sitting at a warm fire no later than 4pm.

TIPS:

  • There is a learning curve! Even if you’re an experienced rider it could take some time to get the hang of it.
  • Powder is tough snow to ride so it’s best to wait until the snow is packed down a little by hikers or backcountry skiers.
  • If you rent a bike, consider how you’ll get to your biking destination. The bike might not fit inside your car.
  • Many tours offer designated women’s’ rides.
  • A local “Fatty’s” Facebook group can provide more in depth and localized information.

Related Reading: Top 10 Christmas Activities in Colorado Springs

Ski Bike 

We mentioned that fat biking is a way for dedicated bikers to extend the mountain biking season, and another option is ski bikes. Ski biking is a fairly new sport, but it is spreading quickly with rentals available and ski bikes allowed in almost every ski resort.

Backcountry skiing

Backcountry skiing is a unique experience that allows you to explore all parts and corners of the mountains. This is not to be confused with cross country skiing. Backcountry skis are wide and unhook in the heel in order to allow for easy “hiking”. When you want to climb up a mountain, you can attach climbing skins to the bottom of the skis to prevent backsliding. When you head downhill, you can remove the skins and ski down.

Backcountry skiing itself is fairly easy to learn, but there is important additional knowledge needed before you head out. It’s good to go with friends who have experience in backcountry skiing or you can take a class at REI or a local gear store.

Snowshoeing

This is one of the simplest snow sports. It’s easy to learn – if you can walk you can snowshoe.

You can buy an average set of snowshoes for around $70 at Costco, or buy them used at a ski swap or a yard sale. There are some recommendations for body height and snowshoe length. As always, dress in layers once you are in the mountains. Be prepared to work up a sweat while enjoying the great outdoors. Groomed trails are not necessary and it’s actually more fun without.

There are some techniques that are definitely good to know about how to find trails, how to use apps, etc. Make sure to take a class before heading into the backcountry or go out with knowledgeable friends. Click here for snowshoeing tips.

Cross country skiing

Traditional cross country skiing needs skinny specialty skis and groomed trails. You can rent cross country skis nearly anywhere. Most ski resorts have a Nordic center nearby or you can ski at most state and local county parks.

Related Reading:
State Parks Close to Home Offer Winter Fun
Parks in Colorado Springs

Ice Fishing

Many lakes throughout Colorado allow ice fishing but be sure to check regulations before heading out. This winter activity requires a few specialty tools like an ice fishing rod and auger to drill a hole in the think ice to reach the water (and fish) below. Be sure to bundle up as this is one of the few winter activities on our list where you won’t be moving around much once you get settled.

Related Reading: Fishing in Colorado Springs

Snow Tubing

Of course, you can grab your own sled or snow tube and slide down a nearby hill nearly anywhere in Colorado. If you feel like experiencing looooong downhills and a big tube then head to a tube, adventure or snow park to get your tubing grove on.

  • Most parks offer a conveyor belt or magic carpet to assist in getting everyone back up the hill.
  • Some locations like Winter Park require a helmet.
  • Age and weight restrictions may apply.
  • Parks like Keystone offer basically everything: day tubing, night tubing, even summer tubing. Note: The tubing area is on the mountain top. If you are not a skier and do not have a ski pass, obtain a gondola pass just to get you up the mountain.
  • When you Google “Colorado Snow Tubing”, make sure to go to Google Maps to get an overview of tubing hills and parks.

Related Reading: Sledding in Colorado Springs

Ice climbing

Scaling a frozen waterfall is a winter adventure sport that is surely not practiced by just anyone. You can take half day beginners classes or full day classes to up your skill. It takes a certain fitness level to experience this adventure.  Ouray, Colorado is home to an ice climbing park that was named one of the top 10 ice climbing destinations in the WORLD! It is the epicenter of ice climbing in the US and we are excited to host a park like that in the state of Colorado.

Hot Springs

Tired of snow and ice and ready for a bit more than just the hot tub at the hotel? Try out one of the many hot springs we have in Colorado. Colorado has 29+ hot springs all over Colorado. If you live in Colorado Springs, then Mt Princeton is one of the most popular springs in our area. There are multiple pools and river access for soaking.

Map of Hot Springs in Colorado

As you can see, there are numerous winter activities available throughout Colorado. Do you have a favorite winter pursuit that we should add? Drop us a comment below! We hope you enjoy whichever activity you choose this winter.

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