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Lifestyle, Outdoor Adventures, Travel

Winter Activities Beyond the Ski Slopes

Skiing at one of the world-class resorts is one of the more obvious choices for winter fun, but for those who don’t ski, don’t worry! There are plenty of winter activities in Colorado to keep you busy all season long. From strapping on a pair of snowshoes and wandering in the serene forest to relaxing in front of a warm fire in a wintery cabin to learning how to climb up frozen waterfalls, there’s a lot to discover in Colorado beyond the ski slopes.

Ice Skating is a favorite winter activity amongst locals!

Ice Skating

Colorado is home to abundant ice skating opportunities, from maintained ice rinks to skating on frozen lakes in the wilderness! Ice skating doesn’t get wilder than hiking or snowshoeing to a frozen lake in the middle of the forest surrounded by mountain peaks. If you plan to go the wild ice route, watch the weather conditions in the area and ensure the ice is frozen enough to skate on. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, ice should be at least 4 inches thick (or more) before skating.

Evergreen is home to the world’s largest Zamboni maintained outdoor ice skating rink and is our top choice for family-friendly winter fun. The 8.5-acre Evergreen Lake is located in the foothills close to Denver, making it a convenient stop for visitors. There is plenty of space for public skating and several rinks for hockey. Pack a tumbler with delicious hot chocolate for the kids and enjoy hours on the ice! 

If you’re looking to make an adventurous day trip out of it, plenty of options are available in the mountains. Keystone is home to the second-largest maintained outdoor ice rink in Colorado. The massive 5-acre Keystone Lake comes with the perks of being able to warm up by a cozy fire and order food and drinks for the whole family. You can also skate at the Village Pond in the heart of Winter Park. Both mountain towns have excellent restaurants and breweries to enjoy after the fun on the ice.

Snowy cabin tucked away in a wintery Colorado forest.

Stay in a Backcountry Hut or Cozy Yurt

Most people think that backpacking season is over once the high peaks are dusted with snow, but the adventurous few know that they only have to switch from hiking boots to snowshoes! We’re not talking about winter backpacking in a cold tent. There’s a unique experience in Colorado where you can snowshoe or cross-country ski to a warm rustic backcountry hut or secluded yurt.  

There’s a plethora of huts and yurts scattered across the Colorado wilderness that are not accessible by road in the winter, and many of these don’t allow snowmobile access, so the only way to get there is traveling by snowshoes or skis while bringing all your food and supplies with you. 

While the backcountry hut experience is typically a very rustic setting with no running water or electricity, yurts can range from rustic to luxury (some will even cook meals for you!) Either way, you’ll be inside cozy and warm and be able to explore pristine winter wilderness right outside your door.

The 10th Mountain Division and Summit Huts Association run two of Colorado’s most prominent backcountry hut systems. All of their huts require reservations and are open in the winter from November through May. Each hut has a wood-burning stove; some are even equipped with wood-burning saunas!

Some of the best winter yurt experiences can be found at Never Summer Nordic Yurts near Gould, Tennessee Pass Yurts near Leadville, Yurts at YMCA of the Rockies near Winter Park, or Phoenix Ridge Yurts near Creede.

Snowshoeing Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the best locations for winter hiking.

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is one of the best winter activities in Colorado to get out and explore the mountains while staying active during the winter. Minimal equipment is involved. Snowshoes and trekking poles are all you need to get started (besides your standard hiking essentials of snacks, water, extra layers, etc.) 

The great thing about snowshoeing is once there is enough fluffy snow covering the trails, you can go anywhere you’d typically hike, which opens up endless possibilities for exploring! In Colorado, you’ll find a wide range of snowshoe trails throughout the state, from easy-going, well-groomed trails to strenuous backcountry treks. 

Some of our favorite locations for snowshoeing adventures include Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Vail, Steamboat Springs, Grand Lake, and Nederland. Each of these areas has a wide variety of trails that meander through stunning forests and offer outstanding views of the surrounding mountain peaks, not to mention you’ll find great food and drinks in town afterward! 

If you’re interested in more snowshoe trail ideas, check out our blog on the Five Most Beautiful Snowshoe Trails in Colorado, where we go over the distance of each trail, elevation gain, and local’s tips.

Join a snowmobiling tour to get some of the best winter mountain views!

Snowmobiling

The same winter conditions that make Colorado a great place to ski also make it popular for another winter activity: snowmobiling! Loads of fresh powder and days of sunshine entice locals and tourists alike to get out and explore in winter, and snowmobiling is a great way to cover many miles in a day. The season usually lasts from November through April, but the snowiest months of February, March, and April are the best times to ride.

If you’re starting out, doing a guided tour is the way to go! Snowmobiling tours can go for a half-day or full-day excursion, and some tours top out at nearly 12,000 feet of elevation. Another great option for beginners is a self-guided tour, where you rent a snowmobile with preloaded maps. It takes the guesswork out of where to travel, so all you have to do is ride and enjoy the views along the way.

Areas in Colorado that consistently get a lot of snow tend to be the best for snowmobiling (and ski resorts). Steamboat Springs, Vail, Breckenridge, and Winter Park provide plenty of access to rentals and trails. But if you’re looking to get away from the crowds that often come with ski towns, head to Grand Lake, Buena Vista, Salida, or Leadville. Grand Lake caters to snowmobilers. All winter, you’ll see the main street of town lined with them. It’s known as the snowmobiling capital of Colorado!

Try an ice climbing course and see what this exhilarating winter activity is all about.

Ice Climbing

Ice climbing has become increasingly popular with adventure enthusiasts who want an adrenaline rush without racing down a mountain on a board. Ice climbing locations come in different forms, including icefalls, frozen waterfalls, rock slabs covered in ice, and cliff sides frozen with water (these can be natural or man-made). You don’t need to be a traditional climber to try this sport, just a willingness to learn!

Ouray Ice Park and the Colorado Mountain School offer world-class ice climbing opportunities whether you’re a beginner looking to try it for the first time or an experienced climber looking to expand your skills. By having a guided lesson, you’ll get all the right equipment for a safe and memorable experience, and under the guidance of a pro, you’ll quickly be able to grow your skills. 

Ouray is Colorado’s ice climbing capital and boasts the world’s first official ice park. If you’re visiting Colorado specifically for ice climbing, Ouray is where you want to be. Once you’ve had your fill of climbing, you can soak your sore muscles at Ouray Hot Springs before heading downtown for a satisfying meal!


We hope this list of winter activities beyond the ski slopes has inspired you to get out and explore the rugged beauty of Colorado this winter! While this state is a fantastic place to visit year-round, winter presents a few extra challenges you’ll need to be prepared for. Read our 10 Tips for Your Winter Adventures or 6 Winter Hike Essentials blog for more helpful tips to get you ready!

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