Surrounded by beautiful mountains, clear lakes and rivers, and spectacular views, outdoor activities abound in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond. Many sports are seasonal, although some are not, and many residents enjoy the outdoors year-round. With the variety of outdoor recreation available, there’s no shortage of things to get out and do.
Colorado is known for its world-class skiing and snowboarding. With some of the best runs, people from all over the world come to Colorado, and the Roaring Fork Valley, to enjoy the mountains and snow. In the area, there are five main mountains where skiers and snowboarders go to take some turns.
Also called Ajax by the locals, Aspen Mountain looms large over the city of Aspen, and is the most visible mountain from the city, and also the most accessible. What began as a silver mining camp evolved into a recreational ski area in 1946 when the first chair lift was built. Now, the gondola transports passengers six at a time to the top of the mountain, where advanced-level skiers and riders can experience phenomenal trails, moguls, and runs throughout the 675 acres of terrain.
Aspen Highlands Ski Area
Famous for its Highlands Bowl, Aspen Highlands is a local’s favorite. Comprised of a primary ridge off of which most runs start, Highlands offers some of the most challenging and intense terrain anywhere in the state, much of which is advanced level and experts only. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Cloud Nine Bistro, at the top of the Cloud Nine lift, has some of the best top of mountain dining of the Aspen ski areas, and incredible uninterrupted views of the Maroon Bells.
Buttermilk Ski Area
Host for the Winter X Games for 13 years running, Buttermilk is where many locals first learn to ski or snowboard from the skilled instructors at the Ski/Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass or Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, who have been teaching generations of kids and adults to safely and skillfully ski and ride the mountains. Buttermilk has a range of trails, from easy to intermediate, as well as easy access for RFTA bus riders. With its children’s center, The Hideout, at the base area, Buttermilk is a favorite for families of varying ages and abilities.
Lifts at Snowmass launch from just off the Mall in Snowmass Village, and take you into 3,362 acres of skiable/ridable terrain–the largest of the four Aspen-area mountains, and the most vertical feet of skiing anywhere in the U.S. With 94 trails comprising 150 miles of trails, Snowmass caters to a wide range of abilities and styles. From easy green runs for ski and snowboard schoolers to expert-level terrain for pros looking for a challenge, Snowmass delivers. Visitors like Snowmass for all its ski-in/ski-out lodging options, and locals enjoy it because of its proximity to the Town of Snowmass Village.
Sunlight Ski Resort
Located in Glenwood Springs, Sunlight is one of Colorado’s best independent ski resorts. Sunlight is home to Ute, one of the longest ski runs in the country, where beginners can take wide turns on 2 miles of trail from summit to base. All the trails converge at the same base lodge, so families and groups can always keep track of each other. Locals love it because it’s half the cost of the Aspen-area mountains; visitors love it because of the variety of runs and its accessibility to Glenwood Springs and 1-70. Spend the day skiing or riding at Sunlight; spend the evening relaxing in the Hot Springs pool.
Nordic (cross-country) skiing
In addition to mountain-specific nordic ski routes, there are plenty of other nordic skiing trails in the Roaring Fork Valley, many of which are free. For information on non-mountain nordic skiing in the Aspen – Basalt areas, including trails, difficulty levels, and dog-friendliness, visit http://www.aspennordic.com.
Spring Gulch, located above Carbondale, is a popular locals cross-country skiing location operated by the Mount Sopris Nordic Council, a non-profit organization. Thanks to dedicated volunteers who help groom and maintain the 13+ miles of trails, as well as financial donations from members, Spring Gulch is free to use. Bring a sack lunch, as there are no nearby eateries. Dogs are not permitted at Spring Gulch.
Ice-skating & Hockey
From Aspen to Rifle, there are many places to ice-skate or play hockey. Aspen has two indoor arenas: the Aspen Ice Garden and the Lewis Ice Rink at the Aspen Recreation Center (ARC). Carbondale has a seasonal outdoor rink that, during the summer, is the grounds for the local rodeo (located off the Catherine Store Road). Glenwood Springs has an ice rink located at the Community Center, on Wulfshon Road, near the Glenwood Meadows Mall.
There are hiking trails and camping spots throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. Some popular spots include hiking and camping at the Maroon Bells in Aspen; camping around Ruedi Reservoir near Basalt; hiking and mountain biking on Red Hill, also known as Mushroom Rock, in Carbondale; hiking, horseback riding, and camping at Avalanche Creek located between Carbondale and Redstone; Hanging Lake, located east of Glenwood Springs, whose picturesque waterfall overlooks a clear lake with view straight to the bottom; and hiking and camping in Harvey Gap State Park and the scenic Rifle Falls State Park.
Learn more about hiking and camping in the Roaring Fork Valley. Additional resources include:
With three world-class rivers as well as the legendary Colorado River flowing through the Roaring Fork Valley, there are plenty of places to raft, kayak, paddleboard, and enjoy a variety of white water sports. From Aspen to Glenwood Springs, there are several rafting companies that provide guided raft adventures on the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River. Individuals also enjoy rafting and kayaking on personal watercraft. Check local business listings for information about rafting outfitters.
The Roaring Fork Valley is a popular area for fly fishing, and with two Gold Medal rivers in the area, local anglers keep their hot spots secret. The Roaring Fork is one of Colorado’s premier trout fisheries; the Colorado, because of its strong current, has some of the strongest fighting fish; and the Frying Pan, renowned for its prolific insect hatches, has some of the most diverse fish populations in the area. Local companies offer fly fishing expeditions that take patrons down the Frying Pan, Crystal, Roaring Fork, and Colorado Rivers. The entire Roaring Fork Watershed is about the size of the state of Rhode Island. Learn more in our Roaring Fork Valley Fly Fishing Guide.
Whether its big game, small game, turkey or water fowl, the Roaring Fork Valley has something for every hunting enthusiast. Local hot spots include White River National Forest and the Grand Mesa. All hunters are required to have a hunting license, safety card, and education course. For more information about hunting in and around the Roaring Fork Valley, visit Colorado Parks & Wildlife.