I’m suited up in waders and waterproof boots, standing in an icy river in Aspen, Colo., early in the morning a fly-fishing rod in my hand, thinking of how much I’d love a cup of coffee.
“Get in the moment!” my daughters, who are fishing downstream, tell me laughing. The Roaring Fork is famous for fly-fishing – that’s why a guide from the Little Nell Adventure Shop brought us here. We’d climbed down the steep incline to the river, holding on to tree roots for support. None of us catch anything.
No matter. This morning and this trip is about sharing a new experience as a family and doing things we enjoy together – hiking, biking or visiting the resident golden eagle at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which offers summer programs and guided hikes for adults and kids. We have fun just hanging out at the rented house in Snowmass, cooking together and heading up to the top of the gondola for Valhalla Nights music and free activities. (S’mores, anyone? Hula-Hoop?) That’s the thing about ski country in summer, especially Colorado. You won’t run out of things to do. Many who live in ski towns say they originally came for the snow but stayed because they love the summer.
Even better, you can find plenty of good lodging deals at places you might not be able to afford in winter. (Check out the Family Getaway Deal at Durango Mountain Resort, which starts at just $52 per person per night and includes tickets to the family ropes course, climbing wall, chairlift and more.) Here’s the chance for you and your kids and grandkids to share new adventures – even an 18-hole disc golf course at Sunlight Mountain Resort. There are also plenty of opportunities for those with special challenges to get out and enjoy the outdoors at the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park and the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.
There are opportunities for parents to get a break while the kids stretch their horizons at special camps – Woodward at Copper for skateboarding, snowboarding (with on-snow parks) and even one focused on digital media. Or try Telluride, where kids might get lessons in back-country survival at the Telluride Academy or see how science can be cool at the Pinhead Punk Science demonstrations each Tuesday evening at Telluride High School.
Here are six adventures you can share in ski country that are guaranteed to please:
1. Zip line over the treetops at Big Sky Mountain Resort in Montana, not far from Yellowstone National Park. Ready to fly across 425 feet – 60 feet above the mountaintops – at 25 mph? If I can do it, you can! Kids as young as 4 (as long as they weigh 45 pounds and are tall enough for a harness to fit properly), as well as people in their 80s, have zip lined here after a half-mile hike. You’ll find zip lines, bungee trampolines and climbing walls here and at other ski resorts too.
2. Stop and smell the wildflowers at Crested Butte, Colorado’s famous wildflower festival in July. (Crested Butte is the official wildflower capital of Colorado.) Enjoy the wildflowers while hiking the 11 miles from Aspen to Crested Butte, or the other way, as we did over the Maroon Bells. The Limelight Hotel in Aspen – one of my faves because it is low-key, not pricey, has free breakfast and sits right in the middle of town. It welcomes kids (free kites this summer) and pets. There is a special package that includes ferrying you to the trail head for the hike to Crested Butte, a hotel there and a shuttle – or helicopter ride – back.
3. Go mountain bike at ski resorts across ski country as they open their lifts to those who want to ride up and bike down the trails they skied down in winter! Just an hour from Denver, Winter Park has more than 600 trails and calls itself “Mountain Bike Capital USA. Come July 24 through 29 to the largest free ride festival in the country for special family activities, lessons and more. You’ll find plenty of opportunities from Vermont and New Hampshire to Utah and California that are appropriate for kids, as well as adults.
4. Get your groove on at an outdoor concert, whether at the Steamboat Mountain Music Series, weekly free concerts at Snowmass Village, or a festival like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (which was held Thursday) with a special kids’ parade, talent show and family tent full of free fun. Ready to learn how to juggle?
5. Take a dip in a hot springs. The world’s largest natural hot springs pool is in Glenwood Springs, Colo. – two blocks long and complete with waterslide! My family is partial to soaking in the wilderness at Strawberry Park Hot Springs, just outside Steamboat Springs.
6. Bring out your inner cowboy at a Colorado dude ranch. There are 30 ranches to choose from – and you don’t have to worry about meals or entertaining the kids. There are even overnight pack trips and cattle roundups. You’ll also find dude ranches across the west, including the 320 Guest Ranch in Montana, about a half-hour from Yellowstone.