There’s more than one way to enjoy a winter vacation at a mountain resort — and it doesn’t have to involve skiing. Here are a few ways to enjoy the snow that don’t require a lift ticket.
Aspen is known as a winter wonderland for the well-heeled, a snow sports destination with not one but four mountains to explore. However, schussing down the slopes is not the only way to explore the area.
As a not-terribly-hardcore snowboarder, I enjoy my time on the snow when I visit Aspen, but I don’t want to limit myself to just one wintry adventure. So when my parents are in town — they’re unapologetic beach bums and don’t ski at all — we opt for fun off-the-slopes activities like these.
Walk in the winter woods.
Just because you don’t ski doesn’t mean you have to skip frolicking in the snowflakes. Aspen is a gorgeous destination in the wintertime, and one of my favorite ways to explore is on snowshoes. There’s a saying that “if you can walk, you can snowshoe,” and I’m a testament to its truth (I’m usually a bit clumsy). Dress in warm layers and don a decent pair of (preferably) waterproof shoes, then just strap on snowshoes and you’re ready to go!
Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) offers daily group snowshoe tours on Aspen Mountain, Ashcroft and Snowmass. If you want to strike out on your own, head to the Aspen Golf Course — it transforms into the Aspen Cross Country Center in the winter — or to beautiful Hunter Valley.
ACES also offers private tours with a naturalist guide, allowing you to explore the mountains, forests and wildlife on your own schedule.
Bicycle through snowy vistas.
It may seem far-fetched, but biking is no longer just for the summertime. Fat bikes — bicycles with chubby wheels that retain traction in snow — have become popular options for wintertime excursions. Rent one from several stores in town and choose from several nearby scenic routes.
The aptly-named Aspen Fat Bike Loop is a 4.5-mile loop designed specifically for fat bikes. For a longer ride, the Rio Grande Trail is a 42-mile rolling bike path that has plowed, groomed and snow-free sections. I love riding this trail in the summer, but it’s even more fun with snowy views along the way.
Fat biking is similar to regular biking, but it can be a bit more difficult — cycling through snow can make for a more intense workout. If you want a real challenge, head to Independence Pass: The summit is 19 leg-burning miles from Aspen.
Sled across the winter wonderland.
Another great group activity is dog sledding — a breathtaking experience that’s fun for the whole family, especially for any animal lovers in your group. There’s nothing quite like sledding through the pristine wilderness, pulled by eight to 12 incredibly energetic (and adorable) Alaskan huskies. These dogs are so excited to run, and their enthusiasm is contagious — it’s an energizing way to spend a morning in the snow.
Take a trip to the kennel to meet the huskies and learn the science of keeping happy, healthy working dogs. If it’s the right time of year, you’ll also meet the puppies, which might be an even better experience than the ride itself!
Speed down a mountainside.
If you prefer gravity-based speed, head to the tubing hill at Aspen Snowmass. The lanes at The Meadows at Elk Camp are lift-served (which means you can get more rides in without slogging uphill with your tube). We usually purchase 2.5-hour passes and then enjoy all the tubing we can stomach in that time period.
You can also purchase a pass that includes access to the alpine coaster, a ride on an elevated track that can reach speeds of up to 28 miles per hour. I love the rush that comes with tubing, but I have to admit: Having the wind whip through my hair on the alpine coaster is one of my favorite wintertime experiences.
Of course, you’ll find plenty of indoor options for fun in Aspen, too. Visit world-class restaurants (including ones you can only reach via snowcat) or sip satisfying suds at local breweries. Unwind with luxurious, pampering spa treatments or simply soak in a hot tub while the flakes gently fall around you. You’ll agree that there’s plenty to enjoy in Aspen without a pair of skis.
Where to Stay:
The Ritz-Carlton Club®, Aspen Highlands