Extraordinary Things to Do During Winter in Colorado
By Beth Buehler
Winter in Colorado is a playground for groups. From attending outdoor concerts in Aspen and Snowmass with parkas on and riding the free Telluride gondola to a tasty dinner at Allred’s Restaurant to something more adventurous like snowmobile tours in Durango or dogsledding in Breckenridge, there is something for all types of attendees.
Here is a sampling of extraordinary things to do during winter in Colorado.
Skiing & Snowboarding – Colorado has 32 ski resorts, so there are plenty of options sprinkled around the state. Some are right in a town, while others require a shuttle ride to access. Some have more meeting and event space (including conference centers like in Keystone and Telluride) than others. Also, make it a point to see what activities are available at what price points, explore the personalities of the ski towns you are considering (they are all very different), and consider what attendees and guests who don’t ski can do while others are occupied on the slopes.
Snowcat Skiing & Heli-Skiing – These are activities for groups that are full of adventure seekers, or they can be on a menu of activities to choose from on incentive trips. For people who are really into skiing and snowboarding, snowcat skiing and heli-sking are often bucket-list items. Some resorts like Monarch Mountain near Buena Vista has snowcat skiing on-site, while Crested Butte has an outfitter that provides a luxury snowcat ride from downtown to Lake Irwin for outstanding powder stashes.
Nordic Skiing – Also known as cross-country skiing, this type of skiing can be more appealing to attendees who are a little frightened at the prospect of skiing down mountains and riding chairlifts. Plus, it’s fun and terrific exercise. Two of the best options for Nordic skiing, lodging and meeting space are Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa and Snow Mountain Ranch. There are easy-to-follow trails, instructors, and shops with ski rentals and all sorts of gear and clothing. Many Colorado mountain towns such as Frisco and Breckenridge have quality Nordic centers that can assist with lessons and guided outings.
Dogsledding – If there are snowy mountains, it’s likely you will find dogsledding options nearby. When talking to outfitters, see if they have the capacity to work with groups and what length of rides are offered. Will participants get the chance to try out mushing and interact with the dogs? For a nice dogsledding/dining combination, try Krabloonik in Snowmass Village.
Snow Tubing – This is an activity that nearly anyone can enjoy, making it especially appealing option if families are along for the meeting. Grand County has a wealth of tubing choices with two ski resorts, two independent tubing operations and YMCA of the Rockies’ Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby. The bonus is that nearly all of these places have a wide variety of other winter activities available, making it easy to spend several hours or even days here.
Snowshoeing – Snowshoeing is another one of those activities that most anyone can try and have success, just make sure to have a few different levels for those who want to go slow and those who want to cover some territory. Various ski resorts offer snowshoe tours, and Walking Mountains Science Center provides free snowshoe tours from two locations in the Vail area, including Vail Mountain. Learn about winter ecology and wildlife while breathing in the fresh mountain air when heading out with Walking Mountains Science Center.
Sleigh-Ride Dinners – Check to see if the sleighs are pulled by horses or snowcats. Horses are typically the mode of transportation at ranches, while snowcats are the norm at ski resorts. Both are truly memorable since riding to dinner is under starry, moonlit skies. In the Vail Valley, 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott and Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek are great options and offer completely different vibes.
Horseback Riding & Ranch Activities – There’s nothing more magical than getting on the back of a horse and riding through forests dappled with fresh snow. One of my favorite memories is trying out a winter horseback ride with my family and other guests at C Lazy U Ranch near Granby. Ranches aren’t just for summer and fall, they also offer a wealth of winter activities with a western twist.
Yurt Dinners – Like sleigh-ride dinners, getting to a yurt for a tasty meal is half the experience and usually involves snowshoeing and Nordic skiing. In the evening, headlamps, tiki torches or solar lights illuminate the path back. Two of the best-known yurt dinners are offered by Crested Butte Nordic Center and Tennessee Pass Cookhouse near Leadville. These book up fast, and private events are an option. Tennessee Pass Cookhouse also is open on weekends for lunch.
Hot Springs – Colorado is a year-round hot springs mecca. While soaking in natural hot springs holds allure any time of year, it’s especially soothing in the winter surrounded by snowcapped peaks and with snowflakes gently falling. What better way to relax during or after a day of meetings? There are multiple hot springs choices in communities like Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs, and Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort near Buena Vista offers the convenience of meeting space, lodging and hot springs all in one place.
While any time of year is a great time to gather in the Centennial State, there are truly extraordinary things to do during winter in Colorado.
Top Photo: Skiing a freshly groomed run at Vail Mountain, courtesy Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts
Colorado native Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 17 years, helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine, and is on the team introducing Southwest Meetings + Events in the near future. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.