If you’re like us, you live in Colorado, to some extent or another, for the mountains and the multitude of outdoor activities we enjoy here. But it can get pretty expensive to be an outdoors enthusiast this time of year! Most ski slopes are topping triple-digit prices for just one day on the mountain or several times over for a season pass. Don’t suffer from FOMO, we’ve compiled four great ways to get outside on the cheap before spring rolls in.
Hike All Year Long
There’s no need to spring for snowshoes or cross-country skis to hit the trails in the wintertime. If pricey new gear is not in your budget, head to your favorite summer hiking spots with intro-level crampons, like Yaktrax or Wintertrax. These go for as low as $8 and open up a world of iced-over routes. Think of them as chains (like you put on your car) for your hiking boots. Strap ‘em on and enjoy (with caution)!
Colorado is home to eight national wildlife refuges that are free to the public. The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, tucked into the plains southeast of Golden, is an easy day trip for those on the Front Range. Before you go, grab a list online of beasts to spot all winter long. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is also a hop, skip, and jump from most Front Range cities, nestled between Aurora and the eastern plains. The refuge features hundreds of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. You might even catch a glimpse of a bald eagle or two in the winter.
Garden of the Gods
If you seek an outdoor adventure farther south, head to Garden of Gods, a dreamy mountainside park of red rock formations just outside of Colorado Springs. Seeing the bright, crimson rock blanketed with glistening white snow is downright enchanting. Admission is free, plus you’ll find plenty of no-cost guided experiences to choose from, such as nature walks led by a naturalist, bighorn sheep spotting, and an intro to the mind-boggling geology of the Mars-like park.
Ice Block Sledding
In Colorado these days, winter is no guarantee of an amplitude of snow. If you’re hankering for a winter experience, but the sun is still relentlessly shining, we’ve got a trick for you: Grab an ice block from the grocery store (they run about $3), head to your local sledding hill (no snow necessary), perch atop your ice, and down the hill you go. You’ll want gloves to grip the top corners of the block. Snow or sun, you’ve got winter.