Just as the last frost in Aurora finally melts, like the final gasp of what always seems to be the longest winter ever, warmer days bring one thing to mind: Let’s go snowshoeing.
It may well be the last thing on your mind, but it shouldn’t be. Short pants. T-shirts. Hot sun. Cold beer.
I know what you’re thinking. One of the best things about Colorado is that even if you’re not really the kind of person inclined to trade watching sports for actually doing them, the sheer enthusiasm and opportunities in the state draws you in.
Colorful Colorado has always been a place that lures you off the couch, but now, more than ever, it’s renowned as an outdoor Mecca for every level and interest in getting it moving.
We’re the thinnest, healthiest state in the country, and a lot of it is because of having best the backyard ever to play in.
So the longer, sunny days of May and June conjure up the motivation to take those glorious spring walks in the afternoon when the parks trails or just nearby sidewalks are glorious. Spring means biking much farther than you planned because the weather and the stunning scenery are just too good to give up. Spring means running. Foot-hills hiking, golf and seriously contemplating some laughs on a tennis court.
But days like this in the snow? Most people shudder. Most people just don’t know.
Snowshoeing has become increasingly popular, and industry experts say it’s the fastest growing winter sport next to snowboarding. But it’s just recently moving into mainstream Colorado consciousness as something slightly less archaic or eccentric than ice fishing.
For most people, even those who’ve seriously dabbled in traipsing through the powder, the quintessential shoeing images come to mind. It’s all about brisk or even biting cold, huffing and puffing clouds of steam, layers of woolen sweaters, coats, mittens, hot cocoa, Christmas tunes, heavy stews, mulled wines and sips of cinnamon schnapps.
Sure it’s all that.
And most people, even those who love to be active and crave the outdoors all winter long, think of one thing when it comes to snowshoeing when the winter wonderland begins in earnest after Thanksgiving; No. No, it’s cold. And slick. And wet. And dangerous.
While it can certainly be very cold during a winter trek, especially when the trekking gets way, way above a mile high, it doesn’t mean you are.
Even first timers quickly learn that you can easily work up a sweat snowshoeing, without feeling like you’re over-exerting yourself. As for wet and slick, equipment takes care of that.
What you get for very little trouble are winter scenes you’ll never see from a car or even a snowmobile. Close up, quiet and serene, winter shoeing is an experience like no other, whether it’s among the mountain pines or on the high plains of the Colorado Front Range.
And if all this so far just sounds awful, and you’re the kind of person who marks a big “X” on the calendar around Mother’s Day to indicate that life begins again as the cold and snow finally recede, I know a secret: Snowshoeing in T-shirts and short pants is like nothing else.
Sure the winter stuff is sweet, and the summer mountain biking in the cool mountains is one big reason why people move here, but trekking on the snow in spring dressed like you’re ready for a day at the lake is an experience unlike any other.
If you’ve spent any time at all really hiking in Colorado, and messing around on the Continental Divide or near and at the top of the state’s alluring 13ers and 14ers, you know what summer snow is all about. Couloirs and gullies and sometimes just north-facing high slopes guard their winter treasures well into July and even August. They’re mostly ice fields.
That’s not what I’m talking about. What’s in store for you is something you’ve probably been looking at in June but never really seen.
Colorado ski slopes and lots of trails and terrain at 11,000 feet to 13,000 feet holds thousands of acres of snow all for the taking.
Colorado is filled with snowy places along the I-70 corridor that allow for easy parking and access, and a luxury of crowd-free watering holes to celebrate an unusual day on the way home to metro Aurora.
Many Colorado ski areas are on public lands, like Loveland Ski Basin. Under an agreement with the Department of Wildlife, Loveland closes weeks, and sometimes months, before the snow is gone. Ski resorts with cat walks, roads and “green” ski runs make for perfect snowshoeing routes.
Winter Park, Loveland and Arapahoe Basin are among the resorts on public lands that have varying policies on mountain and trail access for hiking and snowshoeing. Arapahoe Basin is regularly open until late May and Early June, and offers a free “uphill access” pass for snowshoers.
The Colorado Ski Association recommends you contact each resort of policies and restrictions.
Besides ski areas, the public forest land at and near Loveland Pass, Berthoud Pass, Mount Evans and near Trail Ridge Road hold snow that softens at about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. usually until the end of May and sometimes in June.