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Photo courtesy Snow Mountain Ranch

7 Fun Off-the-Slopes Winter Activities to Try in Colorado

For those who aren’t into skiing, here are some fun activities for families to try this winter.

Editor’s note, 1/14/20: This story has been updated with 2020 fares and information.

It’s no secret that Colorado is filled with endless powder playgrounds that draw skiers and snowboarders from around the world. But for those who aren’t into schussing the slopes, there are plenty of winter-activity alternatives. From snowshoeing to snowkiting—yes, it’s a thing—and more, here are some activities the whole family can enjoy this winter.

1. Climb Colorado’s Tallest Indoor Climbing Wall

As part of a $600 million Snowmass Base Village project, Snowmass is home to Colorado’s largest indoor, rock-realistic climbing wall. Towering at 54 feet and encased in a five-story glass tower in the Limelight Hotel Snowmass, the climbing wall’s granite-like surface mimics popular climbs in the area like the Grotto on Independence Pass. The climbing wall features an auto-belay system with three different lanes and six routes.

2. Meet the Sled Dogs at Snow Mountain Ranch

If you’ve ever dreamed of heeding your own “call of the wild,” there are plenty of dog-sled tours throughout Colorado to help fulfill the dream. But YMCA’s Snow Mountain Ranch dog-sled presentations don’t cost a thing for guests with a day pass or lodging reservations. 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 cocoa at no additional cost. All participants get to meet the furry athletes.

3. Explore Snow Activities on the Ranch

Named the #3 Best Cross-Country Ski Resort in the USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards 2017, Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash (65 miles west of Denver) offers families plenty of winter-sports fun. Nordic-skiing enthusiasts can rent a sled to pull the kids behind them or use skijoring gear to allow Fido to ski along the resort’s dog-friendly trails. In addition to cross-country skiing, guests can snowshoe, ice skate on an authentic outdoor ice rink, or go tubing or fat-biking. Kids will especially love stargazing parties at the on-site Heck’s Tavern patio with the help of a guest astronomer; feeding the herd of horses before enjoying a sleigh ride; or heading to half-day cowpoke camp (ages five to 12) while Mom and Dad go exploring.

4. Enjoy Icy Adventures in Ouray

Located some 300+ miles southwest of Denver in the San Juan Mountains and surrounded by dramatic, 13,000-foot peaks, Ouray is aptly nicknamed “The Switzerland of America.” Boasting one of the largest, most accessible ice parks in the world, this charming mountain town is also understandably recognized as an ice-climbers dream. Offering more than 200 climbs within walking distance from town, the man-made Ouray Ice Park is tucked in a natural gorge.

Don’t worry if you aren’t an ice-climbing expert; the ice park also welcomes beginners, including kids. Sign up for a half-day lesson with Peak Mountain Guides and learn how to swing the ice tools, kick the crampons, and make smooth progress up the ice in a safety-oriented, fun-focused atmosphere. Or visit during the town’s annual Ouray Ice Festival, January 23-26, 2020, which offers more than 100 clinics and seminars for all skill levels in partnership with San Juan Mountain Guides (SJMG).

For kids ages seven to 17, show up the first Saturday of January, February, or March from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to attend the 2019 Kids Climbing College, a free, first-come, first-served event led by SJMG and held annually at the Ouray Ice Park Kids Wall, allowing kids to get a taste of this icy, wintertime fun. For information pertaining to Festival Clinics, contact San Juan Mountain Guides: 970-325-4925 or 800-642-5389, or visit them online.

5. Learn to Snowkite on Lake Dillon

You’ve probably heard of flying a kite on a beach, but how about flying one on a frozen lake using skis or a snowboard? Colorado Kite Force, based in Dillon, specializes in teaching kids and adults of all ages snowkiting, kite skiing, or kite snowboarding. “This is a great option for families who want to do something unique together this winter,” says the company’s owner, Anton Rainold.

The idea is to master kite skills first, particularly if guests neither ski nor snowboard. “Test the waters first with a two-hour lesson,” says Rainold. “[Snowkiting] usually puts a pretty big grin on faces without having to do the ski thing.” Graduate to skis or snowboards if skill and time allow. “Adding skis and a snowboard, that’s just a whole other element,” says Rainold.

In general, kids age 12 and older are ideal for lessons, but cases vary by child. The season runs approximately December to March and classes range from two-hour to three-day lessons.

6. Snowshoe with a Saint Bernard in Bachelor Gulch

Guests of the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek have an opportunity to explore the mountain in an early morning First Prints snowshoe adventure with Bachelor the Saint Bernard, the adorable official canine ambassador and pack leader of the pet-friendly resort. Offered three mornings a week starting in December, the First Prints Program is complimentary for guests.

7. Curling with the Club

While young Winter Olympics enthusiasts wait for Beijing 2022, they can try out the sport of curling for themselves through the Denver Curling Club. The club offers curling lessons for kids in elementary school up to age 18, taught by certified U.S. Curling Association instructors. Little Rockers (grades 1-5) and Middle/High School (grades 6-12) classes meet for six Saturdays starting January 4, 2020. If classes are full, get your name on the waitlist for the next session.

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