Dec 4, 2020 | SPORTS | By Zeke Lloyd | Illustration by Bibi Powers
At 41 different border locations, 41 identical landmarks welcome travelers to the state of Colorado. Students from outside the state will undoubtedly recognize that rustic wooden sign, engraved with white block characters reading “Welcome to Colorful Colorado.” While an autumn drive to campus would certainly highlight the state’s dynamic palette, the colder months hide some of the more vibrant shades that can ordinarily be found. Despite the gray tone the state takes on in the winter, the same beautiful outdoors is still waiting to be explored.
Colorado is a geographical masterpiece all year round. Of the 67 mountains in the continental U.S. with peaks higher than 14,000 feet, 53 are in Colorado. Between the state’s 11 national forests and two national grasslands, there are 14.5 million acres of protected wilderness. Artistic depictions of Colorado feature open pastures, reflective lakes, and snow-capped mountains. While a little cold may force a hiker to bundle up, it’s no reason to stay inside.
“It’s pristine. It’s beautiful. I love just looking at the scenery wherever I am, whatever I’m doing,” said Jonathan Kaufmann ’21, a student who holds the position of Winter Sports Coordinator at Colorado College.
Kaufmann also pointed out that outdoor activities are relatively COVID safe. Unlike sports which require a minimum number of people, Kaufmann highlights that these adventuring enterprises are not so restrictive. “Go on a snowshoe trip and you can decide. It could just be you,” Kaufmann said. “Just getting the right amount of interaction with other people is very nice for me.”
Cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and even ice climbing are popular alternatives to alpine skiing, which requires people to congregate together on a small, busy mountain. Rachael Abler, Assistant Director of Outdoor Education, warned that ski resorts may be risky places to visit. “I would just encourage people: do your homework,” said Abler. “Ask yourself: should you go?” Abler encouraged students to make sure they are well informed and safe in the activities they wish to pursue.
Fortunately, the Outdoor Education Department provides students easy alternatives to downhill skiing. The department is stocked with jackets, gloves, snow pants, rain pants, micro spikes (for walking on icy terrain), hiking boots, and even snowshoes. Colorado College offers all clothing rentals for free, andother snow gear is available for a very low rental cost.
Even with extensive access to winter sports gear, getting into outdoor activities during the coldest months of the year can be daunting. “Starting out at CC, I didn’t have a ton of outdoor experience,” Kaufmann said. Kaufmann recommended “just showing up to really any type of event, whether it’s future in person trips or online clinics or group speakers or anything. And then just meeting like-minded people.”
Outdoor Education offers clinics for beginners. Ordinarily there are trips for skiing novices, but group trips are not advisable given the pandemic. Outdoor Education still plans to offer the avalanche hazard management class as usual, but is open to student feedback on other potentially interesting programming. The department has produced a survey students can use to provide input on clinics they’d like to see in the upcoming semester. A link is provided here.
While living in colorful Colorado, take advantage of it. Instead of waiting for the winter to end, enjoy it while it lasts. “Just being outside and taking in … cool fresh air in your lungs,” Abler said. “It’s this sense of adventure when you’re in a place that is blanketed with snow. Trails are the trail you pave.”