Andy Cross / The Denver Post
Andy Cross / The Denver Post
Typical Colorado snobbery in the wintertime involves prodding interrogations of the residents and students who don’t ski or snowboard by those who spend their weekends seeking fresh powder and groomed corduroy.
“Why would you live or go to school in Colorado if you aren’t here to ski or ride?” the question is often asked.
But winter fun can be found in Colorado without inducing an adrenaline rush by strapping your feet into planks and trying to stay upright and not die or get seriously injured while sliding at high speeds down a mountain for thousands of vertical feet.
For one, you can do what people in the flatland do for entertainment in the winter time — sledding, which is the almost the same thing as skiing except not as much of a workout and a lot less expensive.
Drinking hot chocolate after building a snowman and launching snowballs at each other in the front yard is also an option.
But here are five nonskiing and nonsnowboarding options for winter recreation in Colorado:
Snowshowing, Indian Peaks Wilderness
Get your breath taken away — both by the high altitude and the amazing views of 12,000-foot peaks and some frozen mountain lakes — above Ward in the Arapaho National Forest’s Indian Peaks Wilderness, a snowshoe enthusiast’s dream. From the 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).
The Colorado Mountain Club’s cabin on the north side of the lake is a good spot to check out for a quick warmup before you hike back, or go beyond to Long Lake. Check out cmcboulder.org/resources/brainardskimap.pdf for a map of the area and fs.usda.gov/activity/arp/recreation/wintersports for more info.
Ice skating in Louisville, Nederland, Denver
No outdoor ice skating rinks in Boulder this year, but grab your skates (or rent some) and drive down to Louisville or farther to Denver, or take a high-altitude trek to Nederland for some nearby ice skating rinks.
Nederland boasts its Ice and Racquet Park at 500 Indian Peaks Drive as the largest outdoor rink in Colorado. Admission is $8 for Ned and Gilpin residents and $11 for nonresidents.
Glide around the Louisville WinterSkate at Steinbaugh Pavillion, 824 Front St., to traditional holiday music for $10 for adults, and $8 for kids age 4 to 12 as well as seniors and college students. You can even take a free horse-drawn carriage ride.
And in Denver, hit Skyline Park on Arapahoe Street between 16th and 17th streets to skate. Admission is $8 for people 13 and older and $6 for kids 12 and younger.
Wildlife watching, Rocky Mountain National Park
Without the cover of leaves on the trees the rest of the year, winter is one of the best times for viewing the park’s large animals. Elk, mule deer and moose are active in the park during the winter season, with dusk and dawn being the best times for seeing full herds of elk in the meadows.
Capturing some still frames hiking the Flatirons — with morning sunlight glittering brightly off a layer of snow — can be rewarding. So grab your camera and trek into the mountains, and see if you can catch a shot that will hit calendars next year of the peaks, a frozen Boulder Falls or some ice-covered canyon walls.
Make sure you have the right equipment and know how to use it before you try, but the Ouray Ice Park in southwestern Colorado is one of the best places in the world to get started climbing ice. If you don’t want to drive across the state, head to the popular Hidden Falls or Loch Vale Gorge, both in Rocky Mountain National Park. The closest ice to Boulder is east of Nederland in the Boulder Canyon.
And seriously, put safety first. Ice climbing can be dangerous, so be sure you know what are you getting into before trying to scale frozen falls.
Sam Lounsberry: twitter.com/samlounz.