Chautauqua in winter. Photo by Aimee Heckel

The Boulder Winter Bucket List

In Things to do by Aimee HeckelLeave a Comment

Snow days are the best days in Boulder.

Just because the temps and the snow start to drop doesn’t mean it’s time to drop off the radar like a hermit. There’s a ton of action in Boulder when it’s not summertime.

Boulder has more than 300 days of sunshine annually. And despite Boulder’s closeness to Eldora ski mountain, Boulder averages just 35 days of snow a year. Even then, the storms aren’t too bad; the average yearly dump is just 88 inches of snow.

So whether it’s snowing or chilly or dark early, no excuses. Pull on your Colorado beanie and have some fun. Here are 47 things to try in Boulder over the winter and early spring: the Boulder Winter Bucket List. How many of these things have you done?

  1. Go skiing. This one’s obvious, but it’s a must-do every winter at Eldora Mountain Resort, just 21 miles west of Boulder. Eldora is relaxed, unpretentious and generally cheaper and less busy. That’s why the locals love it.
    Eldora

    Eldora. Courtesy photo

  2. Eat elk sausages at Timbers Lodge. While at Eldora, refuel at Timbers Lodge in the base area. If you’re lucky, you’ll find grills cooking up elk sausages outside of Timbers Lodge.
  3. Warm up with tea. Head to the Dushanbe Tea House for a wide variety of tea in Boulder’s most beautiful, artistic building. For a quieter experience, get a cup at Ku Cha House of Tea on the Pearl Street Mall.

    Ku Cha House of Tea. Courtesy photo

  4. Shop the Pearl Street Mall. Over the holidays, the mall is adorned with glowing lights that make the perfect frame for a memorable shopping experience. Stroll your way over to Central Park, where more than 220,000 lights transform the park into a colorful winter wonderland. The lights flip on every day around the holidays at 4 p.m.

    The Boulder County Courthouse decorated for the holidays. Photo by the Downtown Boulder Partnership

  5. Try a new beer. Go on a brewery tour, complete with free beer tastings. Make sure you try the seasonal brews. Boulder County has some of the world’s top breweries, and they’re always coming up with new ways to enjoy beer. Look forward to the temporary seasonal beers, designed to complement the temperature, mood and pace of the different times of year in Colorado.

    Bru beer. Courtesy photo

  6. Go hiking. Yes, in winter. Many of Boulder’s 151 miles of trails stay open year-round. Our favorite: Mesa Trail/Woods Quarry, starting at the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage and then heading up Bluebell Road. It tends to be less harsh even on the coldest days.

    Chautauqua in winter. Photo by Aimee Heckel

  7. Warm up with cannabis. Take a hot bath using one of Coda Signature’s Bath Bombs while sipping a hot cup of tea or coffee from Willie’s Remedy. The locally-made bath bombs feature various scents, each “bomb” containing 15 mg of CBD and 15 mg of THC. The coffee is infused with full-spectrum, locally grown hemp oil. The loose-leaf tea is infused with 2 mg of CBD per 1 g of tea leaves.

    Willies Remedy Coffee. Courtesy photo

  8. See a show. Boulder has multiple local theaters. Combine dinner with a show at the BDT Stage, Boulder’s high-quality dinner theater.

    “Disenchanted” at the BDT Stage. Photo by Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com

  9. Take a fat bike for a spin. “Fat bikes,” named for their extra-wide tires, can handle snow and ice more easily. Rent one at Full Cycle or many other local bike shops.

    A fat bike at sunset. Photo by Flickr user Dustin Gaffke

  10. Go ice skating. Boulder has a new outdoor ice skating rink at Chautauqua that you can try during WinterFest, Dec. 13-15. The rink will stay open through Jan. 31.There is also Ice Centre in Westminster (so close it feels like Broomfield), the Longmont Ice Pavilion and Louisville’s Winterskate, an old-fashioned ice skating rink. Winterskate runs at the Steinbaugh Pavilion, 824 Front St., through February.

    Ice skating at Chautauqua. Photo by Aimee Heckel

  11. See a movie. Something about a cozy movie theater is perfect for winter. See a big-box film at the Century Theatre or catch a unique, artsy film at the Boedecker Theater at the Dairy Arts Center.
  12. Go ice climbing. If it’s cold enough, you might be able to find ice formations in Boulder Canyon. Make sure you’re experienced or with a knowledgeable guide. Of course.
  13. Warm up your taste buds with something spicy. Try one of the great ethnic restaurants in South Boulder. Extra spicy Thai, please. Read more at travelboulder.com/where-to-go-for-ethnic-food-in-south-boulder.
  14. Float away. The warm, Epsom salt-filled water at a float tank will relax your mind and body. The sensory-deprivation tank is a healthy way to reduce stress over the holidays. We love Radi8 Float Studio and Yoga. Also check out Isolate Floatation Center.

    Radi8 Float Studio. Courtesy photo

  15. Visit a museum. If the weather outside is frightening (and even when it’s not), take cover in inspiration, education and beauty at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art or the Museum of Boulder.
    BMOCA

    The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. Courtesy photo

  16. Build a snowman, a snow cave or something more creative. Get inspired by the nearby snow sculpting competition, the Berthoud Snow Fest (berthoudsnowfest.com).

    A rose sculpture at the Berthoud Snowfest. Photo by Aimee Heckel

  17. Take a ride on the Tebo Train’s Snowflake Express, a free, mini-train through downtown for kids. You can typically find this chugging around over the holidays.
  18. Go ice fishing. But make sure the ice is thick enough to support any weight first. Know Boulder’s fishing rules before you go.
  19. Go sledding. It’s not winter without flying down The Hill on a sled. Several of Boulder’s public parks also have great sledding spots when weather permits. Check out Tantra Park and Scott Carpenter Park.

    Not exactly a sled. Kind of. Photo by Aimee Heckel

  20. Go tubing. It’s like sledding, but can be a little more extreme. Sleds are easier to control, whereas tubes can go faster, are harder to steer, are harder to slow down and can spin. Needless to say, you must try it.
  21. Do a polar plunge. Coloradans are crazy. We like to jump into frigid water for fun. Often in costume. Test your grit at the New Year’s Day polar plunge at the Boulder Reservoir or at Frozen Dead Guy Days in March in Nederland.
  22. Tour the tea factory. You must take a free tour of the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory and take a deep whiff of the mint room. It’ll warm you up, nose first. Try free samples of tea in the cafe area.

    The factory of Celestial Seasonings. Photo by Aimee Heckel

  23. Indulge in comfort food. Fire up the night with a wood-fired pizza from Pizzeria Locale or a gooey grilled cheese sandwich (with a side of tomato soup, naturally) from the Cheese Importers in Longmont. Or dip, dip, dip at a fondue restaurant. Find all the melted cheese and chocolate at The Melting Pot in downtown Louisville. If you prefer to drink your liquid comfort, try a decadent cup of hot sipping chocolate at Piece, Love & Chocolate. Also look for classes here.
    A Grilled Cheese at Cheese Importers

    A grilled cheese at Cheese Importers. Photo by Aimee Heckel

  24. Indulge in a Sweet Treat. Warm up with a sweet treat like truffles from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory on the Pearl Street Mall. Boulder County is home to a handful of local chocolatiers and shops, including big names like Chocolove, Lift Chocolate, Coco-Licious (which claims to have healthy chocolate that’s low glycemic, vegan and gluten-free) and Robin Chocolates.
  25. Drink locally roasted coffee. Ozo Coffee, Silver Canyon Coffee Company and Boxcar Coffee Roasters are three of the best. You can buy bags of fresh beans to take with you, too.

    Ozo Coffee. Courtesy photo

  26. Hit the tanning bed. Suffering the “winter blues?” While we don’t advocate for exposure to dangerous rays, some studies have shown that “controlled UV exposure” can help you deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder on those days when the sun is hibernating. Veranda Sun in Boulder says the body makes vitamin D when the skin gets sunlight, so a short stint in a tanning salon can help boost your vitamin D levels.
  27. Sit in a steam room. Surround yourself with warm air in a steam room or sauna. Try the Mokara Spa at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield. While there, ask about treatments that include a rest under a warming blanket.
  28. Try an infrared sauna. Yes, this is different than a regular sauna. Visit the Sweat House/Cyl Sauna Studio, a luxury infrared sauna studio in Boulder. You’ll relax in a personal sauna pod designed to evoke a detoxifying sweat using infrared energy (heat). Not only is it toasty and cozy to warm up in these peaceful pods, but there’s a long list of health benefits, too, such as relaxation, athletic recovery, detoxification and improved circulation.

    Cyl Sauna Studio. Courtesy photo

  29. Exercise outside. This can boost your spirits, too. Go for a walk or hike. Experts recommend exercising outside for 45 minutes every day during the winter months. Even if you don’t want to go for a hike, simply stroll along the Boulder Creek Path or walk down the Pearl Street Mall.
  30. Simmer in the hot tub. The East Boulder Community Center has a great one, plus a lazy river, bubble bench, water slide, steam room and eight-lane lap pool.
  31. Sit in the Salt Spa. These man-made salt caves in Louisville are good for your health and a nice reset on a cold day.

    The Salt Spa. Courtesy photo

  32. Go snow camping near Boulder. Many campsites are open year-round. Bonus: You won’t get dirty, because it’s covered under snow. And it’s much easier to reserve a campsite because demand is low. Consider visiting the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, less than an hour from Boulder through Left Hand Canyon.
  33. Explore Ayurveda. The ancient Eastern medicine system, Ayurveda, has its own approaches to dealing with seasonal depression. Actions that may help according to this practice: sunlight, warm food like soup and stew, warming spices, plenty of sleep, gentle exercise. Learn more at John Douillard’s LifeSpa in Gunbarrel.
  34. Take a hot yoga class. Boulder Bikram Yoga has been a local staple since the 1990s.
  35. Get a warm oil scalp treatment at Spavia in Boulder. This exotic treatment begins with a slow drizzling of warm nut oils on your head and neck from a coconut bowl. The St Julien Spa in downtown Boulder also offers a hot oil scalp massage with lavender and grapefruit. Pair it with the Ultimate Colorado Bliss CBD Package, which combines a scrub, wrap and massage with the non-intoxifying part of cannabis, CBD.
  36. Pour some hot sauce on it. Boulder Hot Sauce is made right here in town. According to Coloradans, it goes on everything and anything. It’s hard to be cold when your mouth is on fire.

    Boulder Hot Sauce. Courtesy photo

  37. Drink a warming cocktail. Sip a hot toddy in the sexy basement space of License No. 1, below the Hotel Boulderado. Also ask local bars about their seasonal drink specials.

    License No. 1. Courtesy photo

  38. Consider supplements. In the winter, some people swear by supplemented vitamin D, B vitamins and fish oil to help boost their mood. Pharmaca is a great resource for vitamins and supplements. You could also check out Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary and Supply for natural treatments and recommendations.
  39. Smoke that hookah. Warm up with a puff from a hookah. Boulder has multiple hookah lounges, including The Hookah House and Peace Pipe Hookah Lounge and Smoke Shop.
  40. Go cross-country skiing. While the city of Boulder doesn’t have ski slopes, you can take out the cross-country skis at North Boulder Park.
  41. Laugh more. Laughter decreases cortisol and stress, and it can alter dopamine and serotonin activity and secrete endorphins, which can help people in a depressed mood. Check out the Boulder Comedy Show, the longest-lasting comedy show in Boulder. Catch live stand-up every Sunday at 7 and 9:15 p.m. at the Bohemian Biergarten.
  42. Visit the Planetarium. Fiske Planetarium offers everything from laser shows and shows about the stars, art, music and more.

    Roman Zavada performs live to lasers and footage of the Aurora Borealist in Northern Canada at Fiske Planetarium during a session titled Resonance Borealis at the Conference on World Affairs. Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado

  43. Cozy up at the library. Boulder’s public library is so much cooler than an ordinary library. First, its children’s wing is cozy and fun and offers storytime reading all week long. Second, the library often organizes special events and it even has a theater, healthy restaurant and art gallery inside. The main branch is right on Boulder Creek, too, so you could stay here all day.
    Boulder Public Library

    Musical Story Time at the Boulder Public Library. Courtesy Photo

  44. Swim in the warm-water therapy pool. The YMCA of Boulder Valley is what happens when the nonprofit Y meets the fittest city in America. This is a level above any other YMCA that you might have visited before. Find unique offerings like meditation classes, a warm-water therapy pool, ice hockey and more.
  45. Ski indoors. Shredder Urban Ski and Snowboard Park in Boulder makes skiing and snowboarding a year-round (and easy-to-access) event for kids. They can take ski and snowboard lessons in this indoor ski training facility that uses synthetic snow, man-built hills and various drills and obstacles to build the skills necessary to have success on the real mountains.

    Shredder. Courtesy photo

  46. Go snowshoeing. A few of our favorite destinations include Rabbit Mountain Open Space, Heil Valley Ranch and Bear Peak Trail. Bolder Adventure Travel is one company that can take you out on a snowshoeing adventure. It can provide transportation to and from your hotel and customize the route to your level of fitness, interests and time available.
  47. Bathe your tootsies. Warm your toes with a luxurious foot bath at the Dragontree Spa on Pearl Street.

    A foot bath at the Dragontree Spa. Photo by Aimee Heckel

Beyond Boulder

Here are some winter bucket list destinations beyond Boulder County.

Visit the Ice Castles in Dillon. Imagine walking through an elaborate castle built entirely of ice, with clusters of icicles adorning the archways like crystal chandeliers. Wander through white hallways, walk past a functioning water fountain built entirely out of ice, sit in a frozen throne and slip down a human-sized ice luge.

The Dillon Ice Castles. Photo by AJ Mellor

See incredible snow sculptures in Breckenridge. The International Snow Sculpture Championships pits 16 teams from around the world against each other to hand-carve 20-ton piles of snow. The public is invited to visit this event (now more than 30 years old) and watch as the snow evolves into detailed, elaborate pieces of temporary art. This contest spans five days and turns Breckenridge into a unique, chilly, pop-up art gallery.

International Snow Sculpture Championships. Courtesy photo

Blend fire and ice in Loveland. The Fire and Ice Festival includes snow and ice sculpting, as well as fireworks, fire-breathing performers and fire sculpting. Enjoy the beautiful artwork, sip hot chocolate and treat yourself to free entertainment.

Explore the world’s biggest snow fort in Keystone. Snowtopia is a massive creation great for families. After exploring the corners of this unique structure, go tubing down the mountain and take in the spectacular views.

Go on a road trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jackson Hole is known for being a gnarly mountain with lots of difficult terrain, so it’s a hardcore shredder’s paradise. Rising more than 4,000 feet from the floor of the valley, the resort has the longest continuous vertical rise of any U.S. ski area. If you’re brave enough, you can access more than 3,000 acres of backcountry terrain from the ski area.

A horse-drawn sleigh transports visitors at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Russell Hinkle

Take a ski trip to Taos Ski Valley. Explore this ski areas that is off the beaten path. There’s a mystique about Taos that you have to experience to understand.

On the way to Lift 1 at Taos Ski Valley. Courtesy photo

Visit a dude ranch north of Steamboat Springs. You can find plenty of opportunities to connect with horses at Vista Verde Ranch, an all-inclusive dude ranch that will make you feel like you’re roughin’ it like a cowboy — but not too rough. The ranch, located roughly 40 minutes north of Steamboat Springs and a little more than four hours from Boulder, is like a secluded winter paradise.

Vista Verde Ranch. Photo by Russell Hinkle

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