Even if youre not riding lifts, there are many things to do in the mountains in the winter.
By Rachel Walker
I grew up in Colorado Springs, the daughter of a single mother who didnt ski and whose extremities got uncomfortably cold in the snow. If it hadnt been for a family down the street that took me under their wing and brought me to the mountains with them weekend after weekend (in exchange for babysitting their growing family), I might never have fallen in love with the mountains of my native state.
These days, a winter not in the mountains is impossible for me to imagine. But I realize there are many people not like me. There are people who never learned to ski or snowboard and have no desire to. There are people who, like my mom, get really cold and are afraid that a weekend in the mountains might lead to frostbite (it wont, so long as you bundle up). And there are people who wonder what they would do to kill time while the rest of the group heads to the slopes.
Those people are missing out on some of Colorados most stunning, sublime scenery and invigorating communities. Winter in the Rockies is beautiful. Because so many of the states peaks rise above tree level, snow-capped peaks tower in every direction. People in ski towns are friendly and downright giddy at the frosty weather. And its not impossible to stay warm with a little prep.
If youre interested in heading to the mountains even if you dont ski or ride, rent a room or a house with a hot tub. Relaxing in hot water in the winter is a delightfully incongruous experience, and is a great way to spend some time outside.
Next: procure snowshoes. You can rent them at local gear shops or REI, borrow them from friends, or find them at used gear shops. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Better yet, snowshoes keep your feet from plunging through the snow, which means you can walk further in the white and frozen winter wonderland.
Suit up. You dont have to break the bank with name-brand warm winter gear. Many towns have ski swaps (a quick internet search of your town + ski swap should let you know if/when yours is) where you can find quality second hand gear for a fraction of retail price. Costco is a treasure trove for warm clothesI recently bought a down jacket for my preschooler there for $30. The gear youll need is: insulated pants and jackets, wool or synthetic long underwear, wool socks, warm gloves or mittens, an insulated hat, insulated boots.
Slow down. Just because youre in the mountains doesn’t mean you have to climb them or run many miles or work up a sweat on an epic adventure. Bring a book, some tea or coffee, and curl up. Without the distractions of home and with the peaceful scenery to inspire, sometimes doing nothing in the mountains is the best thing to do.
Look around. Ski townsespecially Colorado ski townsare charming. Equal parts cowboy culture and Victorian mining legacy, theyre full of boutiques, great restaurants, and coffee shops. Stroll around. Youll be surprised at what you find.