Sometimes it seems like winter in Colorado is all about extreme sports. On Monday mornings, I hear all about weekends at the terrain park, back country powder and ice climbing shenanigans. Mark and I have never been big skiers, so we usually spend the winter months in a gym or commuting to a desert crag. This year, there has been no escape to the desert, and the gym is getting old. The mountains are calling.
We pack up our warmest winter clothes and a couple of sleds we found at a garage sale a few years ago, and head up to Rocky Mountain National Park. The old Hidden Valley Ski Area has been turned into a “Snow Play” area, and my internet research leads me to believe that the sledding is excellent here.
Unfortunately, the ranger at the park entrance tells us that conditions are “Very Poor” at Hidden Valley. We drive in anyway, and find a hillside covered in hard-packed wind-blown snow. From what I hear, this is similar to what people are finding all over Colorado this year.
We stop to chat with two rangers at the bottom of the hill, before heading up to attempt sledding. They tell us that the area has seen several inches of snow this winter, but that it all blew away. Seems sad, somehow, and part of me wonders which mountain gathered all of that blown snow on its flanks?
We put the sled down, and find that there is enough of a surface for a few good runs. Gabe really seems to be confused by the whole process. He is completely silent, wide-eyed and amazed during each ride down. He doesn’t wine or complain or cry, but doesn’t seem to understand what is going on or why. After a few sledding runs on the hard, bumpy snow, we give up on trying to get him to enjoy it and let him play in some snow drifts at the base of the hill. He giggles as he stomps around in his snow boots, and loves digging holes in the powdery white stuff.
I’m not going to lie, at this point, Mark and I take turns sledding on our own. It’s been probably 25 years since I went sledding, and even though the snow was awful, I have a righteous ball flinging myself down that hillside over and over again!
We play in the drifts and the hills until snow starts falling heavily around us. Then it’s time to go check out the Ranger station at the base of the hill. For a winter facility in RoMo, this place is luxurious. There are heated bathrooms, with flushing toilets! There is also a warming room with lots of benches, and photos and signs showing off 60 years of snow play in the area.
The consensus at the end of the day is that we should definitely return when conditions are better. The area was not crowded, the hills not too steep for our kiddo, and the facilities were very nice. It was a great way to go play in the mountains without having to do anything too epic or extreme.