Top Ways To Enjoy Winter In Colorado
Since winter in Colorado is rich in fluffy snow and ice this state is just ideal destination for skiers and snowboarders of all sorts. However, in addition to a plethora of classic winter fun Colorado also offers some offbeat ways to experience everything that this winter wonderland has to offer.
For the adventure of a lifetime consider going heli-skiing to experience skiing beyond the boundaries of traditional terrain that can be reached by lifts. In Colorado there are two heli-skiing providers that offer outdoor enthusiasts the chance to hit the purest untracked snow covering the alpine basins and summits: Telluride Helitrax and Silverton Heliskiing. Located right in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, Telluride Helitrax will get you to a vast territory of over 200 square miles and numerous landing-zone options. A single day of your heli-skiing trip will include six runs that cover from 10,000 to 14,000 vertical feet. Silverton Heliskiing at Silverton Mountain offers not only all-day tours but also single drops. The area is popular among the risky adventurers who are looking for the steepest heli-skiing and the thrilling skiing experience. The skiing season starts in December and lasts through March or April depending on the weather conditions.
Ski mountaineering is a winter kind of sports that is a unique combination of uphill and downhill skiing, mountaineering and orienteering. By the way, orienteering requires the skills of reading the paper map and understanding the compass. If it sounds interesting for you we recommend joining the gO SkiMo Academy held in January. During a three-day program run in Crested Butte you will learn how to navigate the wilderness, get useful tips on nutrition and gear as well as experience uphill and skate skiing. In March Grand Traverse, a 40-mile skimo race from Crested Butte to Aspen, is held. The race begins at midnight and not only experienced skiers but beginners are also welcome.
Snowkiting is just like kiteboarding on water, the only difference is that instead of a surfboard you will use skis or a snowboard. By the way, snowkiting is easier than kiteboarding as snow supplies less friction than water. Experienced instructors at Colorado Kite Force give classes on Dillon Reservoir near Dillon and Frisco and provide all the necessary gear, including kites, harnesses, plus BYO skiing or boarding gear. Snowkiting will let you enjoy skiing across the vast sparkling snow-covered wonderland at an exhilarating speed. Plus the newly acquired skills will turn out helpful in summer when you decide to kiteboard on water.
Cat skiing is a relatively new way to experience unspoiled natural terrain in a heated snowcat. Riding a luxury snowcat you can reach pristine areas of untracked glades, runs and open bowls. Consider going on excursions with Aspen Mountain Powder Tours or Eleven Experience not far from Crested Butte. These companies will provide you the right gear so you could experience some of the best skiing on the area's dry powder across open alpine bowls, steep chutes. Or you can spend a day doing tight tree skiing. Among other companies that offer cat-skiing trips are: Keystone Adventure Tours, Powder Addiction in Winter Park, Vail Powder Guides and Steamboat Powdercats, to name just a few.
Colorado Hut Trips
To feel the true spirit of the state's high-country winter we recommend taking a hut trip. There are over 160 huts and yurts throughout the state where you can stay while having cross-country skiing or snowshoeing adventures. These homes feature multiple beds and basic conveniences like wood stoves, firewood, kitchen utensils, outhouses or bathrooms.
Visit Broome Hut recently opened by the Grand Huts Association to enjoy breathtakingly beautiful snowy panoramas from the summit of 11,350-foot Berthoud Pass. The Hinsdale Haute Route is the state's highest hut system which is located along the Continental Divide in the vicinity of Lake City at more than 12,000 feet. If you are new at this recreational activity opt for the route's Wilson Yurt located in the close proximity to a trailhead and a groomed trail off Hwy 149.
Another popular spot for hut trips is the 10th Mountain Division Hut System, named for the U.S. military division that trained for combat in the area during WWII. Located between Aspen, Leadville and Vail, it consists of 30 huts that are connected by over 350 miles of trails. Make sure you book your vacation in advance as the huts are very popular and space fills up fast.
If you love paddling rapid streams or pristine waters, in winter you can have tons of fun snow kayaking. This winter sport will allow you to launch yourself into snowy banks and bumps. You can experience the best of snow kayaking at Kayaks on Snow at Monarch Mountain near Salida in April. Here, securely strapped in kayaks you will zoom through a specially designed field complete with berms, banks and bumps, and finally splash into an icy pond.
Ice Fishing And Climbing
These days a number of companies offer ice-fishing trips that provide the adventurers with all the necessary gear and essentials for comfortable and enjoyable winter angling. These include rods and reels, snowmobiles, drills, huts, heaters, kneepads, and more. Ice Fish Colorado offers ice-fishing trips on Blue Mesa Reservoir near Montrose and Gunnison where anglers can fish yellow perch, kokanee salmon and lake trout. The company also offers fishing tours to numerous lakes located not far from Denver and Colorado Springs. Or consider getting all the necessary supplies at a local bait shop before you head to one of the many other ice-fishing destinations southeast Colorado is rich in.
Colorado is a real Mecca for ice climbers as well. Each year, over 10,000 climbers visit Ouray Ice Park located in the town of Ouray. Known as the state's cold-climbing capital, the town will offer you the opportunity to climb over 200 routes. If you lack experience we recommend joining Apex Mountain School that offers ice-climbing classes in Vail, Leadville and Lake City.
Winter Horseback Riding
Colorado boasts a variety of ranches where travelers can have trail rides across snow-shrouded forests and peaceful plains. One of them is Saddleback Ranch in Steamboat Springs that offers trail rides through picturesque terrain and jaw-dropping views of lumpy-topped Sleeping Giant and 10,570-foot Mount Werner. Or have a horseback ride with Sombrero Stables at Snow Mountain Ranch near Granby to see the magnificent Rocky Mountains. Approximately 20 miles from Vail is 4 Eagle Ranchin Wolcott, where you can have a horseback ride through snow-packed hay and alfalfa fields, along the creek and up to a scenic summit.
Giant Snowmobile Tours
Purgatory Resort offers exciting snowmobile adventures in giant snow chariots that seat about a dozen passengers. You can take a tour of the Durango area to spot the stunningly beautiful views and sip a steamy cup of tea in a hut at 12,000 feet. If you would rather be in the driver's seat, venture in a two- to four-hour guided foray in the San Juan Mountains. Offering about 100 miles of trails and 35,000 acres of pristine terrain the area features scenic open meadows, stagecoach trails, old mine sites, and high mountain passes.