Skip to main content

Sensi Magazine

Not a Skier?

Dec 12, 2018 05:51PM ● By Leland Rucker
When I first moved here, everybody who called from back home asked how the skiing was. You know, if you live here, you must be hanging on the slopes every weekend. 

The fact is, skiing was never part of my decision to move to Colorado. Sure, I knew the state was known for it. But heading down a hill on a pair of skis at breakneck speeds wasn’t much of an attraction. Even watching a Warren Miller video, which for decades has lured mil-lions to the Colorado slopes, looked more to me like a good excuse for something to go wrong than right.

I did ski, once. It was a couple years after we moved here, and my godfather invited us to join them on his 60th birthday up in Breckinridge. I made it down some runs. Fell down a few times. Watched my godfather slowly follow me down without tumbling. The view was really nice.

But just because your only real ski experience has been watching Lindsey Vonn win medals on television, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do during the winter months without having to buy a new outfit and fight I-70 traffic for a few hours to get to a slope some-where between the Front Range and Utah.

The Most Natural of Hot Springs
There are many fine hot springs scattered throughout the state. But easily my most memorable winter experience happened at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, west of Buena Vista in the shadow of the Collegiate Peak range. The hot springs includes baths, concrete pools, massages and all the conveniences of a modern spa, but the most impressive thing is the chance to sit in Chalk Creek, which flows through the middle of the complex, in a natural hot springs.

High water keep this area closed in the spring and summer months, but during the winter season you can walk out to the edge of the creek, enter the warm water and then use the rocks to control the fl ow of hot and cold water in your own private pool. It’s like all your winter fantasies rolled into one. The day we did it, snowflakes were falling on our heads and shoulders before they disappeared into the creek waters.

The Collegiate Peaks are impressive from any direction, but if you drive in from the east to Buena Vista on Highway 285, don’t miss the mind-boggling vistas as you come down the hill into town. Buena Vista has an active downtown area, and don’t miss the new South Main “oldworld” development down by the Arkansas River.

Mt. Princeton Hot Springs // 15870 Co Rd. 162, Buena Vista
MTPRINCETON.COM // 719-395-2447

Dashing Through on Snowshoes
Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while getting some serious exercise and reaching places you might not otherwise. Colorado is particularly accommodating to snowshoeing, whether you’re just trying to get up to speed or looking for a serious adventure in the high country.

A good place for the former is Hidden Valley. If you have lived here long enough, you might remember the Hidden Valley Ski Area, which was established in 1941 and closed in 1992. If not, you should know it’s now a mecca for snowshoers, sledders and tubers, and you can rent equipment at the Hidden Valley Warming Hut or in nearby Estes Park. It’s a great place that can accommodate all levels.

If you’re looking for something more strenuous and remote, there are so many in Colorado that you could spend a lifetime trying them all. One of the most gorgeous is Abyss Lake trail, which traverses a glacial ring between Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt. Walk through aspen groves and around alpine lakes and rocky landslides beneath ancient, rugged gray peaks in the Mt. Evans Wilderness.

Hidden Valley // Beaver Meadows Entrance on Trail Ridge Road // 800-44-ESTES
The Abyss Trail // Guanella Pass, 20 miles south of Georgetown

Experience the Milky Way the way our ancestors did when they looked into its brightness and immensity and wondered what it was. 

The Real Night Sky
If you’ve never tried it, going someplace remote and dark, far from any urban corridor to
gaze at the night sky can be an intimidating, and life-changing experience. Winter’s crispness often makes it even more so. But you have to be willing to work for it. You have to stay up late or get up early to really get the full effect, but oh, is it worth the effort.

The Milky Way, for instance, almost completely hidden now in our urban lightscape, can be experienced the way our ancestors did when they looked up into its brightness and immensity and wondered what it was. And once your eyes adjust to the darkness, you begin to see the hundreds of man-made satellites bringing us cable, communications, navigation and reconnaissance, scurrying in all directions and at all velocities across the sky.

A couple of places to consider experiencing the enormity of it all are the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, one of the state’s wonders in its own right, with expansive sky views in stop-offs all along its rim. Another spectacular place is Chimney Rock National Monument, a towering rock precipice structure near Pagosa Springs that attracted native Pueblans, who built homes and farmed there. Today there is hemp growing in the fields below the monument, but views are spectacular from the parking lot or up nearer the rocks where the Pueblans lived.

There are several upcoming solar events you could plan around. The Geminids are generally considered the best of the annual meteor showers, with up to 120 meteors per hour at its. The shower runs from December 7-17, and peaks on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. Best viewing, of course, is after midnight.

The full moon comes Dec. 22 this month, which might hinder views of the Ursid meteor shower, which peaks Dec. 21-22. And much of North America will be in the path of a total lunar eclipse on Jan. 21, when the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow and turns a rusty, reddish color. And you’ll have to rise early, but on the next day, January 22, there is a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, with the planets within 2.4 degrees of each other in the early morning sky in the east just before sunrise.

Dogsledding at 10,000 Feet
One big diversion from skiing is dogsledding. We’re not talking about the Iditarod here, no 900-mile slog from Anchorage to Nome. At Alpine Adventures Dogsledding you can enjoy the wonders of sledding literally at the top of Colorado. It’s located in Leadville, at 10,151 feet the highest incorporated city in the US. Rides last an hour and 20 minutes, with about an hour of that on the trails.

Everything, of course, is dependent on how much snow there is on the ground at any given time, and owner Loren Priem says that group rides generally begin around the holidays, so check for availability. Accommodations for children and families are available, with tours departing any time between 8:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Kennel tours are available where you can visit with keepers and see how the 135 dogs are kept and learn their stories. At the end of each season, the company finds homes for dogs you might even get one yourself.


And, finally…

These are just a few winter activities in a state full of them. Call me a wimp, but a major wintertime activity I enjoy is just turning off the devices and curling up with a book or talking with friends, a glass of wine or spirits or a bowl of Durban Poison at the ready, in the general area of a large, crackling fire. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to sit back and remember how fortunate we are to be able to live in a state with so many things to do. Have a great cold season, no matter what you wind up doing.