Editor’s note, 1/5/20: This article has been updated with 2020 dates and information.
After a stressful morning of trying to get my preschooler and kindergartner to behave during family yoga, I was a little apprehensive about a 3.3-mile snowshoe trek through Rocky Mountain National Park. But as we hiked over a snowy bridge into Moraine Park, my boys were awestruck by a frozen stream beneath us. Sunlight glistened off the glassy ice; nearby a magpie landed softly on a snow-covered pine. I reveled in the sound of silence coming not just from the winter wonderland around us, but from my kids, too. Nature has a way of quieting even restless little ones.
Which makes it even harder to stay away from Colorado’s natural wonders during the winter months. I admit, winter adventures can be intimidating when you have young children in tow, but I’ve learned that you don’t have to be an extreme athlete to explore Colorado’s snow-covered backcountry. Each year, YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center hosts Mountaineering Weekend giving families a glimpse of cold-weather activities during days filled with workshops, excursions, and events for families of all ages and skill levels.
From lessons in winter survival tips and mountaineering skills to ice anchoring and even snow cave building, the schedule features a lineup of skills-based offerings. Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to get out into nature and try it, so weekend festivities also include hands-on experiences: kid-friendly guided snowshoe hikes, a dog sled presentation, and ice climbing, along with demos by popular mountaineering equipment brands.
“These days, kids and families are consumed by screen time and structured activities and sports,” says Kellen Toulouse, brand manager for YMCA of the Rockies. “We strive to give families the opportunity to slow down and reconnect.”
During the weekend, families connect and warm up by the fireplace roasting s’mores, or participate in activities including cosmic climbing, sledding, games, ice skating, and yoga. There’s even a high-intensity Morning Bootcamp for parents on Saturday morning, at 8 a.m. at the Longhouse Gym. On Saturday and Sunday night, starting at 7 p.m., the whole clan will feel inspired listening to keynote speakers Tommy Caldwell (Saturday), professional rock climber from Estes Park who is widely recognized for his record-breaking ascents on the granite walls of Yosemite Valley, and Quinn Brett (Sunday), an athlete—who experienced a T11 spinal cord injury while rock climbing in Yosemite National Park—and advocate for public lands and differently-abled accessibility.
Families can also explore the YMCA of the Rockies property, which is full of gems, such as a modern playground, an arts and crafts center, a miniature golf course, and an indoor pool. Then hop onto that snowy trailhead located just past the corral and livery, and head straight into Rocky Mountain National Park for that rigorous-but-rewarding 3.3-mile hike into the possibility of adventure, wonder, and, just maybe, a little quiet.
- Check it Out:
- YMCA of the Rockies, 2515 Tunnel Road, Estes Park
- Need to Know:
- This year’s event is being held Friday, February 14, through Monday, February 17.
- The majority of weekend activities are free for lodging guests; day passes are available for $25 per person.
- Insider Secret:
- Don’t forget to bring a swimsuit. In addition to an itinerary of winter-themed activities, guests will have access to the standard YMCA of the Rockies offerings, including ice skating, arts and crafts, games, and swimming at the heated indoor pool.