Skiing and snowboarding. These are the sports most people think of when it comes to winter activities in Aspen. But there are dozens more to keep you active while visiting the Aspen Snowmass area. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and hiking are just a few that quickly come to mind. But what about the rest? There are some sports — popular with locals and visitors alike — that don’t get a lot of press and that maybe you’ve never even heard of. This doesn’t make them uninteresting, just quietly gaining in popularity!

Curling

Unusual Aspen Sports - Curling
Unusual Aspen Sports - Curling

So maybe you’ve heard of curling if you’ve ever spent any time watching the Winter Olympics. But there’s no question that even the every-four-year television spectators have likely never seen curling in person let alone tried it for themselves. But in Aspen, curling is pretty accessible. The Aspen Ice Garden in the Aspen Recreation Center is home to the Aspen Curling Club. The club plays host to over 20 curling teams who gather Wednesday evenings to brush, sweep, and hit the night away. If you’re looking to test out curling before joining a team, Game of Stones, Aspen Snowmass’ newest event is perfect for you. This free curling tournament is held every Friday until March 22nd at the Snowmass Bass Village Ice Rink. Teams of two compete from 3pm–5pm for local bragging rights and the title of Master of Stones!

Fat Biking

Those bikes with the fat tires you see all around Aspen are all the rage. But they are not for super muddy mountain bike trails but rather their ideal use is for biking in the snow. The low PSI makes the tires able to go over nearly everything and gain traction on nearly any surface — including snow. Traditional biking in the winter is limited to plowed sidewalks or trails, but with a fat-tired bike, the sky is the limit.

Surly brought the first fat bike to market in 2004 and many manufacturers have followed suit. Popularity began in the Midwest where there were wide open snow fields ripe for traversing on a bike. But they slowly made their way west to the hills and mountains of Colorado, Utah, and California.
Sports You've Never Heard of - Fat Biking
Sports You've Never Heard of - Fat Biking

Here in Aspen, a ride up Smuggler or to the Maroon Bells is perfect terrain for keeping up the summer time cycling fitness with a fat bike. Bikes can be rented at the Aspen Snowmass Cross Country Center at the Aspen Golf Course as well as other bike shops around town. There are specific trails just for fat bikes out at the cross country center and if you love it, the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association hosts fat biking races throughout the winter season.

Skate Skiing

Sports You've Never Heard of - Skate Skiing
Sports You've Never Heard of - Skate Skiing

Skate skiing is technically a form of cross country skiing, but one that most people don’t think of when they think of classic Nordic skiing. Cross country skiing — or Nordic skiing since it was popularized and still is widely done in Scandinavia — comes in two disciplines, classic and skate. Classic is the more traditional and generally easier of the two. Tracks, or grooves, are groomed into the snow and followed while on skis in a walking type of motion. Skate skiing, on the other hand, requires skiers to operate their skis more like roller blades or ice skates, using the inside edge of the ski for propulsion. This is done on a corduroy groomed trail or anywhere snow is compact enough to provide a smooth surface.
Skate skis are generally shorter than classic cross country skis and are the entire surface area is waxed. Classic skis are longer, have a more pronounced turn-up at the tip, and have a grip zone to help with traction.

The Aspen Snowmass Nordic trail system has its headquarters at the Aspen Public Golf Course on Highway 82. It’s ground central for over 50 miles of groomed trails — for both classic and skate skiing — and has rentals and demos as well as tuning and waxing.

Snow Polo

The traditional game of polo has been around for over 2,000 years, but its brother sport, snow polo, made its debut just a little over 30 years ago. The European town and winter hotbed of St. Moritz played host to the first snow polo game in 1985 which introduced horses, mallets, and chukkers to the snow. The game spread through Europe and into Russia, Asia, and the Americas with Aspen hosting the first and only snow polo event in the US in 2010. Aspen is home to the most renowned competition every year in December when the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship takes center stage in Rio Grande Park.

Snow polo is played on a smaller field with fewer people on each team and a different type of ball. But the general idea is still the same as the sport we all know to be the favorite of certain royals William and Harry — score goals while on the back of a horse. The Aspen Valley Polo Club is the primary instigator and supporter of the event with many of the members competing.

Snowbiking

Snowbiking at Aspen Snowmass
Snowbiking at Aspen Snowmass

Have you seen what looks like a mountain biker flying past you on the slopes? Originally called Skibobs, the first Snowbikes have been around since 1892 but has just recently started to gain popularity in North America. There are several types of snow bikes out there. Some are designed like mountain bikes with large shocks on the front and in the back of the bike. Then there are Snow Bikes that you attach mini skis on the bottom of your boots for balance (these are more common at Aspen Snowmass). Snowbiking can be an excellent alternative for those looking to get on the slopes without knowing how to ski or snowboard. With a relatively fast learning curve snowbiking, first timers can pick up the sport and enjoy the all that the mountain has to offer all within a few hours. If you’re looking for someone to show you the ropes Aspen Snowmass offers Snowbike Lessons throughout the winter season at Snowmass.

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Nicole Birkhold
Nicole Birkhold

NICOLE BIRKHOLD

With nothing but a pair of skis and a journalism degree from Michigan State University, Nicole headed west looking for mountains, snow, and someone to pay her to put words to paper. She found the writing gig in Freeskier Magazine for ten years, but needed to be closer to the mountains to she packed it up and came to Aspen where she still crafts words but with more time on the snow.

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