Last week, I wrote about how to make the inside of your abode cheerier in the face of these never-ending February gray skies. But to be honest, at every time other than getting up early in the morning for school, I really love winter, gray skies and all. So this week, I thought we could talk about how to make the best of the last months of winter, before it's gone. Skiing is expensive, but there are a bunch of other things that are way cheaper (or free!) that still get you outside enjoying the snow and the wind.
For instance, the town of Lyons maintains an outdoor ice rink every year. It's free to use; if you need skates, day rentals cost $6 (townoflyons.com). To make it even more free, bike up there from Boulder; reward yourself for your stinginess by buying yourself a beer at Oskar Blues before heading back.
Go sledding! We usually only think of sledding right after it's snowed, like that giddy snow day a few weeks ago, but the snow on the ground is still there -- it's just a little harder, and less pleasant to fall on. Sleds are easily found cheap, either by buying a used one or by grabbing a big garbage bag. Make it more fun by building a massive jump, having races, or -- if you're brave -- setting up an obstacle course. Scott Carpenter Park is always a favorite, but it's often crowded, too. Try the ski hill at Chautauqua or make your own track somewhere just outside of town.
Similarly, you can always make snow forts and organize massive snowball wars for free. Commandeer someone's big backyard, send out a massive invite to everyone you know some on sunny but snowy afternoon, and let the day devolve into a snowy mess. This definitely works better with fresh snow too, which we haven't seen in a while, but I think you could just say it's more of a challenge to have to hack your snow bricks out of a quasi-solid mass.
Go snowshoeing; all the trails you've enjoyed in summer are still there, but they're just way harder. Take this time to do the easier, shorter trails you wouldn't deign to set foot on in summer. Snowshoes are way cheaper than any kind of ski; you can rent them at the CU Rec Center (http://colorado.edu/recreation/), or if you want to make an investment, buy them cheap at the Boulder Army Store (boulderarmystore.com) or REI (rei.com). If it hasn't snowed in a while, many trails are probably in good enough condition that you could just boot pack up them without any extra gear. Just a warning, though: leaving big holes in the trails is considered bad form, since it can trip up cross-country skiers on their way down, so if you find yourself post-holing, stop and go get your snowshoes. Here, the biggest expense is gas, so pile in as many friends as you can and go somewhere nearby: Niwot Ridge, Indian Peaks, Eldora, Hall or Heil Ranch, or Eldorado Springs.
Basically, find any excuse to be outside for a long time this weekend. Even if that means walking somewhere in town, the vitamin D will do you some good; nobody wants rickets, you know. And maybe it'll make you a little less resentful of the cold when your heater is broken or you're walking to your 8 am class.
Vivian Underhill is an environmental sciences major at CU and writes about being cheap once a week for the Colorado Daily.