Colorado has the good fortune of a “perfect storm” of conditions for winter sports enthusiasts. Mountainous terrain coupled with just-the-right-latitude brings us abundant winter snow, and that famed 300 days of sunshine per year make it all the more fun. It’s no surprise that we refer to the stuff as champagne powder — it’s light and sparkly, and some folks declare they get a buzz from it.
All of this is great news if you ski or snowboard. What to do, though, if you are not one of the hundreds of thousands who flock to the Colorado resorts in winter? There are various activities, from mild to wild, to let you play in the snow without strapping on skis.
If you can walk, you can snowshoe. It’s a perfect activity for beginners, with a mellow learning curve. You choose the level of exertion, based on the length of the trip, the terrain and your own pace. Whether you enjoy a jaunt along a trail in the metro area, or enter a race in the high country, snowshoeing is a heart-healthy activity, perfect for almost any age.
· snowshoemag.com has trail and gear reviews, an event calendar, links and more.
· wintertrails.org is the home of Winter Trails, an organization dedicated to getting men, women and children out in the snow.
· The United States Snowshoe Association, snowshoeracing.com, offers a variety of information on the sport.
Whether you are a figure skater, hockey player or somewhere in between, outdoor ice rinks serve up fun across the state. Among the offerings:
· One Boulder Plaza is in the heart of Boulder, one block from the Pearl Street Mall. One Boulder Plaza, downtown Boulder, 303-209-3722; www.bouldericerink.com
· Evergreen Lake. Nestled in the town of Evergreen in the foothills west of Denver, this natural lake also features a boardwalk, 1.3 mile loop and the Evergreen Lake House, with a fireplace and warming hut.
29614 Upper Bear Creek Road, Evergreen. Hours and opening date are subject to change, depending on weather and ice conditions. Call the skating hotline at 303-512-9300 to check conditions. www.evergreenrecreation.com
· Fort Collins. Historic Old Town is home to the outdoor ice rink; it’s at the north end of Old Town Square. www.downtownfortcollins.com
· Beaver Creek. Located at the center of the village plaza at Beaver Creek resort, this rink offers year-round outdoor skating, except during maintenance periods. Beaver Creek Resort, 110 miles west of Denver. 970-845-0438; www.beavercreek.snow.com
· Estes Park. The YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park offers outdoor ice skating to the public. YMCA of the Rockies, 2515 Tunnel Road, Estes Park. 970-586-4444; www.ymcarockies.org
· Keystone Resort. In the heart of Summit County, Keystone Lake boasts North America’s largest Zamboni-maintained outdoor skating rink. Keystone Resort, 90 miles west of Denver. 800-354-4386; www.keystone.snow.com
· Winter Park. Near downtown Winter Park, visit the Cooper Creek Square Rink for free skating. Rent skates at adjacent sports shops. The Grand Valley has a number of ice rinks; visit its website for more information. Winter Park, 67 miles west of Denver. www.grand-county.com
Interested in something a little more exciting? Try snowmobiling. Modern-day machines are 8-cylinder powerhouses, built to carry passengers into the backcountry for a day, or more, of cold-weather fun. Colorado’s national forests and state parks are criss-crossed with snowmobile trails, many of them groomed and ready for action. Snowmobile rentals are available at retail shops in nearly every sizeable mountain community, and for those who want to leave the worrying to others, many shops offer guided tours.
If you are planning to strike out into the Colorado backcountry on your own, be prepared. Visit the Colorado State Parks Snowmobile page at www.parks.state.co.us for a wealth of information on snowmobile safety and regulations, along with ideas on where to ride, snow conditions, a calendar of snowmobile events and more.
Kelly Smith is a freelance writer who lives in Denver.