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7 winter adventures to enjoy in Colorado (besides skiing)

Colorado Skiing

Colorado is the best ski destination in the country, with some of the largest resorts with the best snow at the highest altitude during the longest seasons. But if you don't like skiing or need a day or two off the slopes, plenty of outdoor adventures await you in the Colorado winter.

Sure, there are the expected outdoor sports and activities to enjoy in Colorado in addition to skiing. Slap on a pair of snowshoes and hike deep into the desert, even in the snow (but watch out for avalanches). Go ice skating, snowboarding, snowmobiling or cross country skiing. You can even pull out a fat bike with wide tires and pedal through ice and snow. Build a snowman. Throw snowballs. Take photos. Bundle up and sled or sled downhill.

But Colorado also gets creative with its outdoor adventures. Beyond the predictable, here are some creative and unique ways to enjoy the Colorado winter, without skis, that you probably haven't tried before.

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Climb a frozen waterfall

Head to the Ouray Ice Park in southern Colorado for incredible adventures on the ice. In the summer, this mountain town is home to some spectacular waterfalls. When everyone freezes, tourism doesn't end. The ice park is an artificial place for ice climbing located in the gorge. It features hundreds of icy climbs, from kid-friendly to beginner to awesome oh-my-gosh. For example, the Five Fingers area has a variety of types of ascents. You can see it from the highway. You may never think to go out and climb!

Go sledding through the snow

Dog sledding is a growing trend in Colorado; It's not just for the Arctic. Several different companies offer dog sled tours, where you and a passenger can be pulled in a sled by a dozen trained dogs.

Take a Snowcat for dinner

Enjoy dinner with a view in a serene, snowy setting after the slopes close. Many ski resorts have restaurants on the mountain, some of which are only accessible by Snowcat. You can't just drive there in your car. One option is in Aspen Highlands, at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro. This Swiss and continental restaurant serves dinner (by reservation only) in the mountains. Meet at 5:30 pm, have a glass of Gluehwein, and then hop on the Snowcat outdoors. Snuggle under the blankets as you travel about 30 minutes deep into the mountain. After a long dinner, the Snowcat will transport diners back to the welcome center.

Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride

Don't just sing on a "one-horse open sleigh." Take one out in the mountains near Beaver Creek. The BearCat Stables is a hidden gem near the luxurious Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, a golf resort. BearCat is a historic cabin and stables that offer guided sleigh rides throughout the winter, pulled by giant Percherons. After the workhorses bring you on a scenic ride, return to the cabin for a cozy and intimate dinner. BearCat Stables is a bit off the beaten path, we think it's one of the best-kept secrets in the state. 

Get on Santa's train

Colorado is home to a handful of historic trains in operation and many run during the winter. As the holiday season approaches, some of these trains get into the spirit with specially themed trips for families. For example, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway near Colorado Springs (in Manitou Springs) takes passengers up the Pike Peak of over 14,000. Also on board: Santa, his elves, and of course hot chocolate and cookies. Sing Christmas carols as you climb the mountain. Another interesting winter train is on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Santa's Illuminated Forest Train offers a spectacular view of a Christmas music and light show. 

See the best snow sizes in the world

Head to  Breckenridge each winter to see the International Snow Sculpture Championship. The ski town transforms into an incredible winter wonderland, filled with 12-foot-tall blocks of snow carved into all kinds of crazy scenes and characters. This event is usually held in late January. Walking through screens can be quite magical. 

Explore an ice castle

Castles carved out of ice are one of the most enchanting things to witness in cold weather. Colorado used to have a regular, seasonal ice castle in Silverthorne, but it moved to Dillon, near Breckenridge. These unreal ice structures are illuminated by colored lights and energetic music. Go through tunnels and slide down slides in this Elsa-style fairy tale.

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