5 winter sports on the cheap
This holiday season, Vail Resorts announced the priciest single-day lift tickets in the company’s history: $179 at the window for an adult pass at Vail Mountain, $161 for the same at Breckenridge and $136 for Keystone. That’s an increase of nearly $50 at Vail over the past five years — hardly chump change.
But you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to have a blast in the Rocky Mountains. Here’s a look at five fun-yet-affordable winter sports for anyone of any ability, from traditional diversions like ice skating to the growing trends of snowbiking and alpine touring everywhere.
Based on statistics from Snowsports Industries America, a winter sports trade group, 4.6 million people cross-country ski in the winter. The aerobic sport won’t break your bank — lessons and rentals are typically in the $40-$50 range at the four Summit County Nordic centers — and it’s guaranteed to burn anywhere from 300-700 calories per hour while offering a low impact, safe form of exercise. It combines cardio, strength training and muscle endurance.
Read on for more info on the local centers (Breckenridge Nordic, Frisco Nordic, Gold Run Nordic in Breck and Keystone Nordic) including pricing, trails, lesson packages and more.
Uphill access and alpine touring
It might sound contradictory to the typical skiing and snowboarding you’re familiar with, but if you’re looking for an invigorating workout, or access to untouched terrain, rent some touring skis or a splitboard from your local ski shop and venture uphill.
Statistics from SIA show that since the 2008-09 season, backcountry AT and splitboard travel has grown from 1.8 million participants to 2.1 million.
Be aware: skiing in uncharted, unmaintained terrain requires avalanche gear and training. But, you do not need to be an expert ski mountaineer to partake in the sport: If you’re not ready to venture out into the mountains on your own, grab some skins and take advantage of early-morning and late-afternoon uphill access at local resorts. Best part: it’s free at Keystone, Breck, Copper and Arapahoe Basin.
Snowshoeing is no joke in the U.S.: more than 3.5 million participants hit the trails to walk and hike outside, even in the biggest of snowstorms. Snowshoeing can accommodate a variety of activities — a casual hike in the woods, an overnight backpacking trip, an alpine climb or a race on Tennessee Pass — all with minimal equipment and no lift ticket. The Summit area is home to dozens of trails, and the majority of mountain bike trails are perfect snowshoe routes come January and February. It also pairs perfectly with yoga.
It’s just what the name implies: a traditional mountain-bike frame with oversized tires made for traction on the snow. This trend isn’t exactly new — fat-bike races have been around for at least a decade in the flat, frozen Midwest — but it’s finally starting to win converts on the downhill and cross-country trails of the Rockies. The Fat Bike World Championships returns to Crested Butte in late January, and the second Ullr Bike race is scheduled to kick off the Ullr Parade in downtown Breck in early January.
Before the powder gets too deep, drop by a local bike shop to check out their selection. Most rentals run $30-$50 per day.
Sledding and tubing
For the perfect family-friendly activity, grab a sled, snow tube or toboggan, and hike up your neighborhood hill to enjoy one of the most popular activities in the snowsports world. Over 8 million people venture out for a day’s worth of sledding and tubing every winter.
Luckily, Summit is home to a slew of tubing hills, including the Frisco Adventure Park, Keystone and Copper. The resort hills don’t usually require a full lift ticket — just the price of tubing hill admission at $15-$30 per person for a few hours.
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