Beyond Skiing + Snowboarding

Enjoy All the Winter Outdoor Options in the Vail Valley

Vail is almost synonymous with downhill skiing. And rightly so, given our mountain community boasts the third-largest ski resort in the U.S. with world-class facilities, plenty of other resorts close by and a wide range of accommodation and dining options to accompany all the expansive terrain. But, there are more ways to play in our annual 108 inches of snow than just shredding through the trees on a powder day or carving the corduroy when the sky’s painted blue. Read on to discover four less traditional but equally enjoyable options for taking advantage of the snow.



Glide Across the Backcountry on a Cross-Country Ski Tour with Paragon Guides
Location: Edwards and Vail
Beautiful terrain, experienced instructors and great customer service are the hallmarks of a cross-country ski tour with Paragon Guides. Their beginner- and intermediate-friendly cross country ski outings traverse ungroomed, backcountry terrain throughout the Vail Valley. The best part: there’s no need to stress about the details. Guides can pick you up, outfit you with skis, boots, poles, gaiters and food, and (of course) provide tips on your cross-country skiing technique as they lead you and your crew along the trail. Tours generally last between four and six hours (including drive time to the trailhead), but ultimately, “We cater our trips to peoples’ timeframe, experience, fitness and the weather,” says Don Shefchik, Paragon’s head guide and field director. Prices range from $325 for one person to $145 per person for groups of four or more.

Learn About Colorado’s Winter Wonderland on a Guided Snowshoe Tour with Walking Mountains Science Center
Location: Vail Mountain at the Nature Discovery Center
How does wildlife survive in the winter on and below the snow? Why is each snowflake unique? And, why is snow so important in the West? Join one of Walking Mountains Science Center’s naturalists on a free snowshoe tour to get answers to those questions and more. Their hour-long mini expeditions head out from the Nature Discovery Center (next to the Eagle Bahn gondola at 10,000 feet) Wednesdays through Saturdays. Three tours leave each day, but Walking Mountains community programs coordinator Scott Dunn suggests hitting the 5 p.m. option if you can. “By then, the mountain is closed for skiing, and at the right time of year, you can catch the sunset up there,” he shares. “You get to experience solitude on what’s normally a very busy mountain.” Snowshoes are provided, but you’ll need a valid ski pass or scenic gondola ticket to get to the starting point. Advance registration is required.

Rev Your Engine on a Snowmobile Tour Through Uncharted Society
Starting point: Vail
For those with a thirst for thrills and a taste for speed and power, a snowmobile tour through Vail’s backcountry is the perfect adrenaline-fueled adventure. Uncharted Society, a recently launched expedition program, connects participants with Nova Guides and their collection of half-day and full-day, guided and unguided, groomed and ungroomed tour options. All, however, allow riders to experience the muscle of their supercharged Ski-Doo motor sleds and the beauty of snow-covered alpine terrain. Prices start at $150 and include a helmet, map, safety/operating instructions and (of course) a snowmobile.

Experience the Iditarod with Mountain Musher
Starting point: Wolcott
After watching (okay, crying at) movies like Iron Will and Togo, most of us have dreamed about leading a team of steadfast huskies across a winter white landscape. Then again, tackling miles of brutal terrain in sub-zero-degree temperatures sounds a bit intimidating. A tour with the pros at Mountain Musher provides the delight of a dog sled experience in a much more palatable package. On their approachable 1.5-hour sled rides, a trained driver steers the sled behind two guests, although it’s of course the team of huskies at the helm doing the lion’s share of the work. The dogs guide the sled through aspen glades and pine forests to a mid-mush stop for homemade pumpkin bread and hot cocoa before returning to the starting point. Tours cost $225 per person with two people per sled.