Living in Crested Butte now for 14 years and traveling the state often, I can confirm without a doubt that there are many fun winter activities to enjoy in Colorado ski towns that don’t involve skiing. While I strongly encourage you to offer downhill skiing and snowboarding as an activity option when planning meetings, events and incentive trips in winter, I’ll utilize Snowmass (just over the mountains from me about 20 miles as a crow flies but not as a car drives) as an example of the huge range of non-skiing options.
The key is talking to the local tourism staff and ski resort sales team, as they can offer all sorts of ideas and help match activities to your group type. It’s important to note that almost every ski resort offers non-skiing activities during winter these days and partners with other local entities to make sure groups have well-rounded and memorable experiences. Here are just a few of the many opportunities from Snowmass, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary during the 2017/2018 ski season.
The new Breathtaker Alpine Coaster at the top of the Snowmass Elk Camp Gondola is now open. The coaster features individual cars that are controlled by the rider with a ride time of seven to nine minutes. The coaster is available during the day as well as in the evenings during Ullr Nights (Friday nights and select Tuesday nights throughout the season). During Ullr Nights, Elk Camp transforms into a winter playground, offering dinner and activities from tubing to snow biking and fireside s’mores.
Take a two-hour guided snowshoe tour with an Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) naturalist, starting at the top of the Elk Camp Gondola, daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Visit the Snowmass Cross Country Center located at Snowmass Club golf course between 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. for a snowshoe or ski outing on the Snowmass cross country trails. Tours, lessons and equipment rentals are available. There are an impressive 90 kilometers of free snowshoe and cross-country trails in Snowmass, Aspen and Basalt.
Spend the evening under the stars with a 1.2-mile snowshoe or cross-country ski around the Snowmass Club golf course, with a stop for cookies and hot chocolate. End with a family-style pasta dinner at Black Saddle Bar and Grille with live music and s’mores. These Starlit Treks and Moonlit Treks occur on the Saturday nearest darkest night (Starlit Treks) and full moon (Moonlit Treks) of each month. Starlit Treks feature an ACES night ski interpreter to chat about the night sky, while Moonlit Treks feature a guided tour with an ACES naturalist.
Enjoy the thrill of a lifetime with dog sled rides through the Snowmass backcountry at twilight. Krabloonik offers stunning views and energetic pups, as well as dinner in a 100-year-old, gas-lit log cabin restaurant.
Blazing Adventures coordinates all sorts of winter activities such as hot balloon rides, dog-sledding tours, backcountry powder tours, scenic drive tours, winter fly-fishing, snowmobiling, backcountry snowshoe tours and more.
It’s also important to consider some indoor options to incorporate into itineraries. For example, Anderson Ranch Arts Center is free and open to the public and serves as a hub of creative energy offering art workshops, lectures by artists and curators and more.
On the science side, a paleontological site was discovered in Snowmass in 2010 that proved to be the richest Ice Age ecosystem at high altitude found to date. The Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Center, located on the Snowmass Mall, features photos from the find, to-scale cast replicas of bones found at the dig site, and an on-site paleontologist. The center is free and open daily throughout the winter season from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
For an on-mountain dining experience that doesn’t require skis or a snowboard, both the restaurant at Elk Camp and Sam’s Smokehouse can be accessed via the Elk Camp Gondola and the Village Express Lift. On Tuesday and Thursday nights, ride a snowcat up the mountain for a four-course gourmet meal under the stars at the Lynn Britt Cabin. For something more casual, Chuckwagon Dinners on Wednesday nights are ideal.
Another great option is the Snowmass Village Recreation Center, a 18,000-square-foot facility that has a fitness center, gym, climbing wall, basketball court, bouldering cave, and yoga and Pilates classes. Step outside for an ice rink and heated saline pools.