Original article at www.gonomad.com
With a slew of adrenaline-pumping activities rivaling adventure hotspots like Queenstown, New Zealand, and Interlaken, Switzerland, Colorado holds bragging rights as one of the top domestic destinations to get your summer kicks all in one place.
Friendly Colorado resort towns like Winter Park, Glenwood Springs and Snowmass Village offer a more intimate feel than some of their better-known cousins like Vail and Breckenridge – and at more reasonable prices.
Together, the three towns promise an assortment of unique warm-weather adventure activities geared toward appeasing speed-demons, water babies, bird wannabes, and cave dwellers alike.
Whether you prefer land-based, water-based, or air-based options, Colorado has the pursuit for you.
One if by land…
Naturally, many of Colorado’s prime land-centered activities involve its best-known attractions – mountains. To enjoy them to the fullest, you’ll need a high tolerance for varying altitudes, steep hills and plenty of thrills. Some make you sweat, some let you sit back and enjoy the ride, and some test your agility in ways you never imagined…
Toss skateboarding, snowboarding, mountain biking and a splash of adrenaline into a blender, mix well – and you’ll end up with the hot, up-and-coming sport of mountain boarding. Snowmass Village is one of the country’s top spots to experience the surprisingly easy-to-learn extreme sport of riding a board with knobby wheels down a mountain.
The slightly flexible board feels like a balance between a skateboard, where your feet rest freely, and a snowboard, where your feet are locked in. You slip your feet into stirrup-like contraptions that allow you to have the security of feeling attached to the board, but offer you the freedom to step out. A hand-held brake allows you to control your downhill speed.
My instructor started me off on what served as the bunny hill during the winter. Even though the incline was slight, I figured there was a decent chance I’d end up in the hospital by the afternoon.
But my instructor wasn’t about to give me any time to doubt myself. After he gave me a few quick pointers – and a full set of armor: elbow and knee pads, wrist guards, and a helmet – I was boarding down the hill without falling on the first try. The board was astonishingly easy to maneuver, especially considering I was flying over dirt and rocks.
After a few runs on the little hill, we headed over to the steeper incline of the freestyle terrain park. I looked at the seemingly experienced riders doing jumps and learned that some of them had only been boarding for a day. I’d never seen a sport with that easy a learning curve and was immediately hooked.
Within less than 30 minutes, I was onto a steeper grade and began boarding up and down the hills in the terrain park. The speed going downhill was positively intoxicating and had the added benefit of making me look much cooler than I was. Coupled with the freedom of being able to brake, it was the perfect combination.
Advanced riders bring their boards on the chairlifts to ride down the trails alongside the mountain bikers. Although I didn’t quite manage to get to that level on my first day, it definitely gives me motivation to go back.
Snowmass Village is home to the US Mountain Boarding Championships and is one of the few US destinations offering lessons for this growing sport.
Camp Snowmass (877/282-7736) offers adults a 3-hour private lesson for $230 or a 6-hour private lesson for $345. Lessons can be shared by up to three people. Children’s lessons are available starting at $55 for a half-day lesson.
Were you ever the kind of kid who loved hide and seek? Exploring and squeezing through every dark corner you could find? Ever fantasized about doing some true spelunking?
The Glenwood Caverns and History Fairy Caves could be your answer, particularly if you’re brave enough to try the “Wild Tour” option – a challenging trip of slithering on your stomach and working your way through holes no taller than a DVD player sitting on its side.
Located at the top of Iron Mountain in the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, these caves intrigue non-claustrophobic folks looking for some truly dark adventure.
Outfitted with a headlight-equipped helmet, padding, and gloves, Wild Tour participants descend into the Glenwood Caverns and Fairy Caves and soon face their first challenge – the tight White Rabbit hole, which requires spelunkers to draw on every bit of agility they possess. Crawling on your stomach, you’ll need to make the squeeze by extending one arm in front of you and pulling the rest of your body through. Luckily, tour guides let participants try out a similarly sized mock hole before entering the cave to make sure they’re comfortable with it.
You’ll press on to see halls and rooms covered in unique formations. The Z-turn offers a challenging maneuver and the Register Room has numerous loops to explore. Later, spelunkers slide down the Striptease section – named for its uncanny ability to catch and pull off items of clothing in the process. Trust me – it’s well-named. The Column Crawl and Meat Grinder squeezes dare you to remain composed while crawling on your elbows, sandwiched between rocks. The experience is certainly a measure of how participants maintain grace under pressure.
Bring a disposable camera with a flash and clothes you don’t necessarily plan on wearing again. The Wild Tour costs $50/person and is offered on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. If you’re looking for something milder, check out the regular Cave Tour for $10 or the Adventure Tour (which is less strenuous than the Wild Tour but more challenging than the Cave Tour) for $30.