By Cat Perry
So, what's there to do beyond skiing (and apres skiing)? Plenty!
If you like to ride fast but have never powered across the Continental Divide on a snow mobile, you're missing out! The sports of snowshoeing, dog sledding, and snowmobiling are borne from the necessity of frontiersmen to use alternate means to travel inhospitable, snowy regions. But for our focus on travel attractions near Breckenridge, Colorado, and Vail, Colorado, they're also pretty crazy fun. Plus they're kid & family friendly. With snowmobiling, for example, speed is easy, yet you're really safe riding across groomed trails on a wide footprint. And the best part is that people of varying abilities can take a turn revving their handgrips and steering through forested trails till their heart's content.
The intensely mountainous region of the Continental Divide Trail stretches from the Bearing Strait of Alaska to the Sea of Magellan, going straight through Colorado. And it marks the parting point of the watershed for the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Needless to say, when you're near it, you're at peak elevations up there, toping out at 14,278 feet (4,352 meters) at Gray's Peak, which is between Clear Creek and Summit Counties. Right smack in the Breckenridge region. Bonus: It's incredibly beautiful. So what to do besides skiing in Breckenridge?
1. Start your Engines Snowmobiling
Talk about backcountry exploration! Certain regions of Colorado feel more remote than others. Some feel more hip, like Denver and the laidback-chic Aspen. Others like Leadville, home of the famous 100-mile high-intensity Leadville 100 Race Series of trail runs and bike rides that see hundreds or racers face their maker of willpower every year.
Here off any main road, on packed trails, you actually are remote. And that's the beauty of it. A chance to escape. And Breckenridge is just under 90 miles from Denver, weaving up and down scenic mountain passes, though Winter Park Resort is within view. Yet despite that far off feeling, you'll feel in complete control back there on the snowmobile.
In the regions surrounding Breckenridge, Colorado, unspoiled views harken thoughts of that frontier life that has faded fast across the US, but not here, with a dozen miles of snowpack between you and the next town. But a visit to Summit County, where you can ride (or hike in the summer) peaks in famous areas like Breckenridge and Copper Mountain, is the perfect reason to find a snowmobile rental like those from Good Times Adventures, which runs snowmobiling and dog sledding tours your eyes won't believe. The best parts: You can cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time—seeing way more than on snowshoes or skis even. And if you like some speed but want a break from skiing or snowboarding, or the growing trend of fat biking. Plus, if you have disabilities, this is a more widely accessible snow sport. Sure the rumble of the vehicles is the opposite of quiet, but you'll remember the sounds, speed, and views as part of the journey.
2. Join the Team Dog sledding
For the cost of a fancy dinner, $75, with Good Times Adventures, which operates in Breckenridge and many other Colorado areas, as well as competitor dog sledding guide companies across the region, you step on the back of a truly wild ride. Dog sledding is one of my favorite out-of-the ordinary backcountry activities.
If you're a dog lover, I don't need to sell you on why a few hours with some loving Huskies could make your whole trip out West worthwhile. But if you're not, or are more of a cat person, let me explain why dog sledding is a must-do in ski country.
- It's all-natural. There is no fancy gear on a dog sled. It's slats of wood, woven cord and steel that connects you to the dogs and the snow around you. And even if you're a gear fiend like most of us, this is a refreshingly simple way to explore.
- You're an active participant, and you're steering the ship. Some people may feel like the dogs have control, but that's far from the truth. The are well-trained, pure-bred sledding machines. You tell them to go left and they'll go; you step lightly on the built-in brake and they'll pull back with little resistance. They're there to listen and be guided.
- Wind in your hair much? Who doesn't feel great while getting a little wind in their hair? You won't be able to wipe that smile off your face.
- Fresh air first. The air is pure back there in the altitude. So you'll enjoy every second of the high-country clean H20 as you gallop past towering spindly evergreens.
- Partner in crime. This isn't necessarily a solo sport. You can have your best friend or significant other sit on the front platform that you're standing on, covered from the legs down by a nice warm blanket, while you all laugh and shriek and share the experience together side by side as the world whirs by. Good times!
3. Wipe that smile on your face while Fat Biking
Ever ridden your road bike on snow or ice? I sure hope not! But kick up the kickstand of a fat bike and now you're talking!
Wherever you travel in the world in extreme climates (desert, ocean, snow country) there are always some local really quirky sports that have been invented over the years, probably out of sheer boredom—or genius, depending on your perspective. Fat biking is one of them. The technical definition of this growing fat biking trend is the riding of off-road cycles with oversize wheels, "typically 3.8 in (97 mm) or larger and rims 2.6 in (66 mm) or wider, designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs and mud." THey've still got all the disc brake stopping power of a great mountain bike and the drive train. But what are you in for that's different, then? Not your typical day outdoors, not your typical workout (it's tougher), and not your typical trail ride. It's family friendly and kid friendly too.
As you can see in the first video below. You can fat bike from one corner of the world to the other now. But if you're up in Summit County, near the old Western town of Leadville, stop by Cycles of Life Bike shop and pick up a fat bike rental.
They're surprisingly more forgiving than biking on a road. Because the tires have so much surface are, they grip the wide-open groomed trails better and don't dig you into ruts. And when you see a feature in the trail that you want to avoid, the fat bike is expert at rolling right over it. I'd rather be on a fat bike rolling over a fallen tree stump or a curb than on any other bike.
So take a look at some rides with Fitzgerald Cycles in Victor, Idaho. Check out those VIEWS!
And just for kicks let's watch some experienced MTBers/Fat Bikers shred the trail. Don't worry, this is NOT what your skill level is expected to be to fat bike! You can be a super beginner to bikes and still have a blast.
Travel to most parts of Colorado outside of Denver will require a car rental or a shuttle. To get a little closer to your destination, you can fly from Denver Airport to a variety of smaller airports. From there, transportation shuttles are reliable and affordable.
The #2 Trip Advisor destination in Colorado after Denver is Breckenridge. And Breckenridge, which is served by the Eagle County Regional Airport is the closest large resort to the areas I've mentioned above. Though Trip Advisor says that the towns like Leadville and Summit County areas are served by the Aspen Airport (via Denver Airport, aka DIA), that's not right. You should fly into Denver and transfer to a smaller plane to Eagle County Vail Airport, which serves Breckenridge, Vail, and Beaver Creek among other places. From there take Colorado Mountain Express or rent a car at Eagle Airport to a nearby inn or resort.
Be sure to rent a car that has four wheel drive if you're going to be driving during winter.
Airlines that fly into Eagle County Airport from DIA include United, Delta, American, and more.