Winter at Colorado ski areas doesn't have to mean skiing or snowboarding. Plenty of activities are available inside and out for snow enthusiasts and for those who prefer to experience the white stuff from afar — or not at all.
There are several opportunities for ice skating in the Aspen area, from the small, winter-only SK8 ice rink outside (aka Silver Circle, 433 E. Durant Ave., 970-925-3056) at the base of Aspen Mountain to the laidback indoor Aspen Ice Garden downtown (233 W. Hyman Ave., 970-920-5141, aspenpitkin.com) to the NHL-size Lewis Ice Arena (0861 Maroon Creek Road, 970-544-4117, aspenrecreation.com). All offer skate rentals.
Mountain Musher takes two-person teams (ages 4 and up) on dog sled tours out of Wolcott (10 miles west of Beaver Creek, 970-653-7877, mountainmusher.com), with a break for pumpkin bread and hot chocolate, twice daily. Want to do less work? Try a sleigh ride, with or without dinner ( 4eagleranch.com, bearcatstables.com).
Breckenridge Ski Resort
Dog sledding and snowmobiling are options at Good Times Adventures (6061 Tiger Road, 970-453-7604, snowmobilecolorado.com), a few miles from downtown Breckenridge. Tour times vary, and children under 5 snowmobile free (dog sledding over 3 only). For something indoors, the Stephen C. West Ice Arena (0189 Boreas Pass Road, 970-547-9974, townofbreckenridge.com), opens daily for public skating and has rentals.
Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort
Santa stops in each car on the Polar Express train ride, which runs on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Nov. 23-Jan. 4 (888-872-4607, durangotrain.com). Everyone gets to indulge in hot chocolate and cookies as the book "The Polar Express" is read out loud along the route, which takes about an hour and a half. Warm up in the hot springs at Trimble Spa & Natural Hot Springs (6475 County Road 203, 877-811-7111, trimblehotsprings.com), which sits 6 miles north of Durango, and features an Olympic-sized pool for kids to splash around in along with two therapy pools of mineral water for the big kids, all outdoors. Spa, too.
Dog sled rides at Krabloonik (4250 Divide Road, 970-923-3953, krabloonik.com) include a four-course meal and time with the "go puppies," as they call them. Ages 3 and up can ride.
A sleigh ride around the Yampa Valley comes with a three-course dinner (970-871-5150, steamboat.com), but Steamboat is more famous for the hot springs, of course. Get toasty at Old Town (136 Lincoln Ave., 970-879-1828, oldtownhotsprings.org), with its high kid appeal courtesy of slides and other water attractions, or Strawberry Park (44200 County Road 36, 970-879-0342, strawberryhotsprings.com), a more relaxing, off-the-beaten-path and natural setting.
Dobson Ice Arena (321 E. Lionshead Circle, 970-479-2271, vailrec.com) hosts public ice skating sessions between concerts and other events, including Story Time Skate in conjunction with one of the best public libraries in the state, the well-stocked Vail Library (292 W. Meadow Dr., 970-479-2185, vaillibrary.com). You have to be a member to check out books, but anyone can stop in to browse in the cozy fireplace area, listen in during one of the story times or check out the rotating art exhibits. Want something more adventurous? Vail Valley Tours (2111 N. Frontage Road W., 970-476-7749, vailvalleytours.com) will let you drive a snowmobile if you're 15 or over (with a learner's permit or driver's license) or be a passenger at age 6 and up; morning and afternoon tours come with a hot beverage and snack.
The tubing hill is located in Fraser, a 10-minute drive (566 County Road 721, 970-726-5779, coloradoadventurepark.com) and gives kids of all ages the chance to fling themselves down on single and double tubes, as well as zoom around on Snowscoots, mini snowmobiles for ages 6 and up. If the weather is bad and the kids have any interest in history, Cozens Ranch House museum (77849 U.S. 40, 970-726-5488) is surprisingly appealing, a homestead and stagecoach stop with period dress-up costumes, a "history hunt" and other interactive exhibits.
Kyle Wagner: 303-954-1599, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/kylewagnerworld