The excellent powder and world-famous scenery of the Colorado Rockies have made Aspen Snowmass an international magnet for skiers and snowboarders. But, that's not all the area has to offer. Every year, thousands of hikers find great enjoyment exploring the snowbound trails throughout the area on snowshoes. Snowshoeing is low-impact, and offers participants a fun way to visit both trails and terrain that skiers, snowboarders, and even cross-country skiers rarely get to see.
Snowshoe Trails Around Aspen
Snowshoeing is one of the most beginner-friendly activities you can try in the snow. Unlike skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing is so similar to regular walking that most people get the hang of it within minutes of strapping on their first pair of shoes. Moving in groups with more experienced snowshoers in the lead, dozens of people at a time can travel through the less-visited stretches of wilderness around Aspen Snowmass.
One of the best places for individuals new to the hobby to try is Independence Pass. Every year, this relatively flat stretch of Highway 82 closes for the season, and becomes a great beginners' trail for snowshoeing. Because the snow is on top of a paved highway, the route is clearly delineated. No trees or inconvenient hills block the way, and curves are gentle and easily traversed. Most of the groups that snowshoe on this trail don't even bother with carrying maps. At places, the road towards Independence Pass rises to give snowshoers a breathtaking view of the silent country all around them. With no traffic on the road and few people around, hikers have all the time in the world to enjoy the sights.
More experienced snowshoers can try the less even terrain of Difficult Creek Trail. This 3.6-mile loop is situated conveniently close to downtown Aspen, but it's far enough out to pass through an open meadow and close pine forest. The grade here is steeper than on Independence Pass, but even intermediate snowshoers regularly manage the trail in under two hours.
Aspen Guided Snowshoe Tours
Snowshoeing has gotten to be such a popular activity for visitors to Aspen that several local companies exist to give guided tours of some of the best spots.
Sun Dog Athletics
For people new to snowshoeing, there might not be a better choice for guided tours than Sun Dog Athletics. This locally owned company has operated year-round outdoor tours for nearly 30 years in Aspen and Snowmass. Using the latest in lightweight foam snowshoes, Sun Dog Athletics schedules group trips through easy-to-manage trails around Aspen every day of winter. Teams are managed by experienced guides, and trips are planned to take in some of the most beautiful vistas in the region. Sun Dog Athletics also rents fat bikes and mountain bikes to visitors, as well as conducting flatwater canoe trips that are great for families.
Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES)
ACES is a local environmental non-profit providing snowshoe tours in Aspen and Snowmass. During the winter, ACES offers daily tours on Aspen Mountain and atop Snowmass. The tours are varied and offer something for the whole family, including mountain ecology and geographic information presented by an ACES naturalist. These tours are presented in partnership with Aspen Snowmass and the US Forest Service.
ACES also offers daily tours out of King Cabin Nordic Center in the Castle Creek Valley. Along the way, naturalist guides take snowshoers on a second adventure through the local flora and fauna. While walking through the pine and aspen forest, guides point out tracks from the local wildlife that stay active all winter, including deer and foxes. Ashcroft is an old mining town, and snowshoers on this ACES half-day-long tour have time to explore it and learn about its history. Tours through Ashcroft end with a gourmet lunch at Pine Creek Cookhouse.
The ACES Aspen Mountain tour is a two-hour educational experience focusing on the fascinating mountain ecology and the human history of Aspen Mountain. ACES naturalists expertly track local animals and explain to guests how the local wildlife exist during long mountain winters. Views of the countryside around Aspen Mountain are breathtaking from the summit, which participants reach by hiking along Richmond Ridge. Tours begin each day in front of Sundeck restaurant and tickets include a complimentary gondola foot pass, hot beverages and a snack along the way.
Meeting at the top of the Elk Camp Gondola every day, ACES Snowmass Mountain tour travels along protected trails through the perfect stillness of the mountain's pristine forests. Guides look for opportunities to introduce snowshoers to the seeds, living plants and animal tracks every tour is bound to encounter in the virgin wilderness. Snowshoers on the Snowmass Mountain tour get a free foot pass up the Elk Camp gondola to meet up before the hike, which also includes hot beverages and snacks.
Snowshoe Under the Stars in Snowmass
Aspen is amazing at night during winter, when moonlight pours out over our totally silent snowy mountains. Every Friday night in winter, ACES naturalists gather small groups of snowshoers for a nighttime hike through this unearthly wilderness. Meeting at the Elk Camp gondola after sunset, the team heads out for a one-hour trek under twinkling stars in the crisp winter air. At the end of the tour, snowshoers enjoy a hearty and warming dinner at Elk Camp restaurant.
Snowshoe Rentals in Aspen
For those with some experience snowshoeing, or for those who can't wait to explore on their own, there's no shortage of snowshoe rentals from which to choose in Aspen and Snowmass. Several Aspen shops are able to accommodate visitors' requests for a snowshoe rental, many of them offering both daily and hourly rates. You can also purchase snowshoeing gear from some of the same shops, such as the Ute Mountaineer in Aspen, which carries a wide selection of snowshoes, from classic woven designs to locally manufactured polymer and synthetic models that make the most of every footfall. Staff at these shops are often experienced snowshoers themselves, and they can be a great source of advice for visitors new to the experience.
For more information about snowshoeing adventures in Aspen and Snowmass, our guests can contact the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel concierge team at firstname.lastname@example.org.