By Scott Prater
Pikes Peak region service members can consider themselves fortunate to live within a couple hours’ drive of some of the best outdoor winter recreation the nation has to offer. Following a fairly dry early season, the snow has been flying of late, so most winter resorts in the state have accumulated a solid snow pack and Outdoor Recreation at Fort Carson is prepared to assist thrill seekers with planned activities for the next few months. All service members, their families and military retirees are eligible to participate.
Gear and equipment are also available for rent from Outdoor Recreation’s Equipment Checkout Center and there’s no shortage of opportunities to get out and enjoy Colorado’s winter splendor, including skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing.
Families and single Soldiers don’t even need a car to get to the slopes if they take advantage of Outdoor Rec’s, “Get on the Bus,” trips.
“We offer ski and snowboard trips to Monarch Mountain ski area,” said Erina Patrick, Fort Carson Outdoor Recreation director. “People can package their trip with a lift ticket, equipment rental and transportation. Our goal is to make the trip simple and easy, and all of our trips depart from our building here, so it’s kind of a one-stop shop for a ski trip.”
Skiers and snowboarders can’t beat the rates for these trips, either. If purchased at the resorts, most skiers will pay close to or more than $100 for a daily lift ticket, but at Outdoor Rec, an entire package that includes transportation, equipment rental and lift ticket will set one back just $85. Those with their own equipment can get a lift ticket and transportation for $75. Skiers who may already have a season pass or their own daily lift ticket can opt to pay $55 for transportation and equipment rental. And, for those who only need a transportation, the ride costs $35.
“Get on the Bus” trips are planned for Feb. 23, March 9 and March 23, but skiers and snowboarders must register by the Friday before each trip. Information about available dates can be found at https://carson.armymwr.com/outdoor-recreation.
All “Get on the Bus,” trips occur on Saturdays and rates are subject to change.
“Ideally, we encourage people to sign up by Wednesday prior to their desired trip because trips do fill up and it also helps provide time for people to make arrangements,” Patrick said. “If, for instance, they need to get their rental equipment, it’s easier to obtain it earlier than if they waited until 5 p.m. on the Friday prior to the trip. In that case, it might be tough because there will be a lot of other people renting as well. We also send out an itinerary on Thursdays that relays specific details about the trip.”
The Outdoor Rec Equipment Checkout Center has equipment available for skiing and snowboarding in all size ranges ages 4 and up, that includes boots and bindings.
Outdoor Rec staff members drive the bus, so they accompany each trip and can provide directions and answer questions at the ski mountain.
“This year, we’re also offering a Ski and Soak trip, Feb. 23, which includes a day of skiing or snowboarding at Monarch Mountain, followed by a soak at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, rates include $65 for transportation and the hot springs, $105 for transportation, lift ticket and hot springs, and $120 for transportation, lift ticket, rental gear and hot springs.
Families and Soldiers who would prefer to activities other than downhill skiing and snowboarding have plenty of options to choose from. Fort Carson Outdoor Recreation offers snowshoeing and cross-country ski, snowmobiling and ice climbing trips to in-state destinations, but these trips are organized by the staff for groups (minimum number of participants depends on the activity) with advance notice (a month’s notice is advisable) throughout the winter season. Contact Fort Carson Outdoor Recreation Adventure Programs at 719-526-5198 for rates and conditions.
“We like people to have completed our Climbing Wall Orientation class prior to going on our Ice Climbing trip, but that’s not required,” Patrick said.
“People can be a novice rock climber or a novice ice climber and still have a great time.”
The Climbing Wall Orientation covers knot tying, belay techniques and climbing communication.
See the website listed above for the most up-to-date information on all trips and be advised that rates are subject to change.
Patrick said that Fort Carson Outdoor Recreation also offers a climbing-wall orientation class throughout the winter season on specified dates.
Skiers and riders can also get their equipment tuned at Outdoor Rec or sign up for the facility’s Ski and Snowboard Tuning Clinic, where professional technicians teach the basics of at-home ski and snowboard repair and maintenance.