Colorado is renowned worldwide as a downhill skier’s paradise, but not everyone who visits the state wants to shred the slopes. Not to worry, non-skiers: There are plenty of snowy alternatives for you, too. From ice climbing to skijoring to snowkiting —yes, you read that right—check out some of the best, family-friendly wintertime activities even non-skiers can enjoy throughout the Centennial State.
Skijore at Devil’s Thumb Ranch
Considered one of the best cross-country resorts in the country—specifically third-best, according to the 2017 USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards—Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, located about 65 miles west of Denver, is a winter adventurer’s dream. Nordic skiers not only have access to 50 miles of groomed trails, but they can also opt to go with even the youngest kiddos, renting a sled to pull behind. Or rent skijoring gear and let Fido lead you along the resort’s dog-friendly trails. Not a cross-country skier? Guests can also try snowshoeing, tubing, fat-biking or ice skating on an outdoor ice rink. And little kids will especially love experiencing stargazing parties with a guest astronomer; feeding horses before a snowy sleigh ride; or joining a half-day cowpoke camp (ages 5-12) while Mom and Dad go exploring.
Snowkite on Lake Dillon
Thrill-seekers of all ages will find plenty while taking a snowkiting lesson on frozen Lake Dillon with Colorado Kite Force. Located approximately 68 miles west of Denver in Dillon, try a two-hour lesson to master kite-flying skills, learning to negotiate across the lake sans skis or boards. Then advance to skis or snowboards for extra adrenaline rushes. Ideal for kids 12 and older but varies by child. Classes range from two-hour to three-day lessons, and the season runs approximately December to March. For more information or custom group rates, call (970) 485-3300 or visit coloradokiteforce.com.
Ice Climb in Ouray
The charming hamlet of Ouray located roughly 300 miles southwest of Denver in the San Juan Mountains is known famously as “The Switzerland of America,” as much for its stunning, snow-capped peaks as what’s tucked inside them: the Ouray Ice Park, considered one of the world’s largest, most accessible ice-climbing playgrounds. Man-made and built in a natural gorge set within walking distance of downtown, guests of all levels have access to some 200 climbs. Beginners can learn the basics any time with a half-day lesson with Peak Mountain Guides, from swinging the ice tools to kicking the crampons. Or visit during the town’s annual Ouray Ice Festival Jan. 24-27, 2019, featuring more than 100 clinics and seminars for all skill levels. Contact San Juan Mountain Guides for Festival Clinics. And be sure to take a soak in the town’s historic, sulfur-free Ouray Hot Springs Pool, which, in 2017, unveiled a multi-million-dollar renovation in time for its 90th anniversary.
Dog-sled with the Stars of Snow Mountain Ranch
Among the numerous dog-sledding kennels throughout Colorado’s mountains is a family favorite: the dog-sledding program at YMCA’s Snow Mountain Ranch (SMR)—located in Granby, roughly 87 miles northwest of Denver (and about 20 miles northwest of popular ski resort Winter Park)—which is free to guests. Of course, the property offers the usual array of winter activities: ice skating, tubing, fat-biking, Nordic-skiing and more. But the most popular snowy fun here is the dog sledding. Held Mondays and Saturdays beginning at 8:30 a.m. throughout the dog-sledding season, guests can pay for short rides—a 2-mile loop through open meadows and snow-bedazzled peaks ($30 per person for guests)—while non-riders can enjoy a craft, movie and hot cocoas at no additional cost. And all participants can meet the canine athletes when they’re not running. Even better? This year, there are PUPPIES! Reservations for rides are required. For more information, call (970) 887-2152 x4135.
Climb Colorado’s Tallest Wall in Snowmass
You won’t just get to go indoor rock climbing in Snowmass—located so close to Aspen it’s often mentioned in the same breath—you’ll be climbing Colorado’s largest one: a 54-foot, rock-realistic climbing wall encased in a five-story glass tower in the new Limelight Hotel Snowmass, set for completion in December. Part of a $600 million Snowmass Base Village project, the wall’s granite-like surface resembles some of the area’s popular climbs, including the Grotto on Independence Pass, and will be open to the public.
Reign in a Dreamy Ice Castle
Make like a character from Disney’s “Frozen” with a tour through a dazzling, snowy, life-size ice castle this winter in Dillon’s Town Park. Debuting in 2017 by Utah-based company Ice Castles, the attraction features ice-carved tunnels, fountains, slides, frozen thrones, and spiraling towers complete with color-changing, LED lights that twinkle to music at night. Crafted from up to 12,000 hand-harvested icicles per day, spawning a structure made from hundreds of thousands of them constructed by some 30 “ice artisans,” the sprawling castle represents 25,000 tons of ice and unlimited fun for kids and adults alike. One of six locations—including locations in Utah, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Alberta, Canada—the Colorado locale plans to open December 2018. For schedule and more info, visit http://icecastles.com/dillon/.
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Keywords: family vacation, family travel, travel with kids