Being the gateway to the Rockies, Colorado has always been known as a winter wonderland. With mountain towns like Vail, Aspen and Telluride offering picturesque winter scenery like that from a Christmas movie, it’s no wonder why. No less than 26 ski resorts in the state offer some of the best mountain and cross country skiing in the country, attracting millions of tourists from around the world.
But skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only winter activities Colorado has to offer, not by a long shot. From winter hiking and camping to ice skating, there are dozens of ways to have fun during the cold season. Here are just a few of the best winter activities for Colorado residents and visitors.
SKIING / SNOWBOARDING
Colorado remains the most popular destination for skiing in all of North America. Ski and snowboard enthusiasts come from far and wide to experience Colorado’s mountain resorts. In fact, over 12 million people visit these resorts annually, generating billions of dollars in revenue. With record profits being recorded, corporate giants like Ikon and Epic are pouring more money into expanding and developing these resorts even more.
For a day trip, resorts like Keystone and Arapahoe Basin are a safe bet, as they are the closest resorts to Denver and aren’t as touristy as other mountains. For the full Colorado ski experience, however, you’ll need to go deeper into the mountains. Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Crested Butte are just a few examples of the larger and more luxurious resorts, but you can expect higher prices and larger crowds as a result. For the best possible ski experience, it’s highly recommended that you go on a weekday, as weekend crowds can make the heavy traffic and lift lines nearly unbearable.
While peak hiking season in Colorado is generally somewhere from May to October, many trails offer fantastic views with less of a crowd during the winter months. With the proper gear, winter hiking can be just as rewarding as in the Spring or Summer.
Staunton State Park is a great option for winter hiking. As Colorado’s newest state park, it offers a sprawling landscape of nearly 3,800 acres with dozens of trails to choose from. Many trails are handicap-accessible, and the park itself is only a short 40 miles from Denver. Dogs are allowed on leash, and the park even offers special events such as introductory ice fishing.
Saint Mary’s Glacier is also a great winter hike. This ever-popular trail is less crowded during the winter while still offering the same breathtaking views with minimal physical exertion required. An added bonus for the winter months is the option to ski or board down the mountain, but you’ll have to hike up it first.
Colorado’s cold winters make it a great destination for ice skating. For Denverites who prefer to stay in the city, the Southwest Rink at Skyline Park operates from November to February on the 16th street mall in the heart of downtown. You can even ice skate at DIA if you find yourself with a cancelled or delayed fight—and it’s free!
Colorado’s mountain towns also offer skating rinks with their own sense of charm, and nearly every one of them has an ice skating rink. The YMCA of the Rockies outside Estes Park boasts incredible mountain views, while Winter Park’s Village Ice Rink has a charming view of the downtown village.
For sports lovers looking for a wintery game to watch, this year’s Colorado Avalanche schedule runs through April 4. The games are held at the Pepsi Center, which also hosts Nuggets games throughout the winter season.
VISIT A MUSEUM
Winter can be a great time to visit one of Denver’s several museums. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science comes to mind, as well as the Denver Art Museum or the Museum of Contemporary Art. Shelter yourself from the cold whilst also gaining some culture! If you’re a parent, consider taking your kids to the Children’s Museum.
These are just a few of the many winter activities Denver has to offer. Although winters last a little longer here and can be frigid, with a little preparation and cold weather gear, anyone can enjoy the beautiful outdoors despite low temperatures. Or, if you’re just not a fan of cold in any capacity, the city’s nightlife and museums offer a more comfortable way to spend your time.