It seems to be that if you don't ski or snowboard, you're marginalized from the "real" winter sports that dominate the Rockies. Sound familiar? Person after person, in a snarky tone, asking you, "so, what are you doing if you don't hit the mountains — you live in Colorado?"
Well, we say "boo" to that and "woo!" to the endless possibilities during the colder months in colorful Colorado. Try these options. Just because it's cold and you don't ride doesn't mean you should stay inside and drown the winter blues with whiskey ciders. So here are a few alternatives to being on the slopes.
Snowshoeing, Indian Peaks Wilderness
Above Ward, in the Arapaho National Forest's Indian Peaks Wilderness, is a snowshoe enthusiast's winter wonderland. From the wind-whipped parking lot at the Red Rock Trailhead (the winter closure for Brainard Lake), suit up in the warming hut if you like, then head out on showshoe-only trails toward the frozen lake itself (the backcountry skiers have their own trails, and you'll have yours, just follow the signs).
Once there, you'll hopefully spy gray 12,000-foot crags scratching at the winter sky. Pop into the Colorado Mountain Club's cabin on the north side of the lake for a quick warm up before you hike back, or go beyond to Long Lake. Check out http://cmcboulder.org/resources/brainardskimap.pdf for a map of the area and fs.usda.gov/activity/arp/recreation/wintersports or http://fs.usda.gov/goto/arp/brainard for more info.
Ice Skating at Southwest Rink, Denver
Sadly, the One Boulder Plaza rink downtown is closed this winter. But no biggie, grab friends, a pair of skates (or rent for $2) and glide to the smooth sounds of live music on Saturday nights at the Southwest Rink in Skyline Park for a little adventure in Denver. It's a perfect date or great way to spend the day floating on ice. Just say "on ice" along with your name and it's bound to be a glorious event. More info at http://downtowndenver.com/events/southwest-rink-at-skyline-park/.
Don't want to leave Boulder? You can still ice skate here, at Twentyninth Street Mall during Winterskate, which is scheduled through March 31. Students skate for $3; $5 rental. More info at twentyninthstreet.com or call the skate shop at 303-449-0540.
Wildlife Watching, Rocky Mountain National Park
Winter — when the leaves aren't on the trees — is one of the best times for viewing large animals in the park. Elk, mule deer and moose are active in the park this time of year. Dusk and dawn are best for seeing full herds of elk in the meadows. Bring your binoculars and a bag of trail mix for feeding yourself while you're watching at the wild zoo. Keep an eye on the birds, though: they're also active in the winter, and some of them are gutsy enough to try to steal your snacks.
Seeing the Flatirons glistening in the morning sun after a frigid night is nothing short of amazing. Time after time, it doesn't get old. So grab your camera and head into the mountains to see what else needs to be seen. Green Mountain in a blanket of white? Frozen Boulder Falls? Big Thompson River swallowed by the ice-covered canyons? The places and pictures are endless, so be creative and discover cool spots waiting for the fame you'll bring them with your camera.
Colorado is overflowing with hot springs to satisfy anyone looking to warm up in the winter with a hot soak. Why not make a road trip out of it?
Perhaps you've seen steam rising off Glenwood Hot Springs driving by on Interstate 70. It's only $15 to soak in (what they claim is) the "world's largest spring pools." Info: hotspringspool.com. Outside of Steamboat, a large mineral springs spills from the ground at 104 degrees at Strawberry Park Hot Springs. $10, info: strawberryhotsprings.com. In Ouray, soak in the sulfur-free waters of the Ouray Hot Springs pool for $12 after a long day of snowshoeing in the San Juans (info: ouraycolorado.com) or check out Orvis Hot Springs just up the road in Ridgway (but be warned that clothing is optional here) where you can take a quick dip in the rocky pools for $10.
For a hot springs adventure, check out Conundrum Hot Springs, outside of Aspen. The 8 ½-mile hike will be a workout, but the pools are always warm and welcome at a steady 00 degrees to offset any pending soreness. For info about Trail 1981 to the springs, go to fs.usda.gov/main/whiteriver/home.
Contact Gavin B. Griffin at email@example.com.