Copper Mountain's Free Ambassador Snowshoe Tours: A Lesson in Scratch-and-Sniff
I have always loved snowshoeing so when I heard Copper Mountain offered free ambassador snowshoe tours twice a day, my daughter Hadley and I were thrilled to add this to our off-mountain repertoire.
There are two tours available:
Morning Tour at 10 a.m.
This more physically-demanding tour is 3 miles long with a 500-foot vertical. Participants must be 15 years or older.
Afternoon Tour at 1-3 p.m.
This family-friendly snowshoe tour is focused on beginner terrain and participants must be 8 years or older. Participants under 18 years old should be accompanied by a guardian.
Hadley is nine so it left little question as to what tour we would do. She is an intrepid hiker but has only been on showshoes a few times so this was the perfect introduction.
Though the tour is free, reservations are recommended (you may do so up to 48 hours in advance at any Guest Services location). Adult snowshoe rentals are available at Gear Check in West Village, though children should bring their own.
We met in front of the red schoolhouse at West Village. Our volunteer ambassadors Karen and Jane led the group and we were joined by a lovely older couple from Denver.
So, why do one of these tours? Hadley and I have our own snowshoes and we certainly could have carved out our own adventure on the snow-covered path that winds near the freeway up Vail Pass. But Karen and Jane were reservoirs of knowledge. Not only did they give us a new appreciation on the history of the area but insights into its beautiful ecology.
Some fun things we learned during our 1.5-hour snowshoe trek in our winter wonderland:
- You can scratch-and-sniff the bark on Douglas Firs. The scents? Chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. If you don’t believe me, try it next time.
- The chutes clearly visible from the East Village are nicknamed the Sky Chutes because they form the letters S-K-Y.
- You can expect to see several animals in this region including moose, river otters, lynx, owls and we even spotted raccoon tracks.
- You will see lettered tags attached to trees along the trail (A, B, C, etc.) These are placed there so in the event of an accident, ski patrol can located you based upon what letter you are near.
- You will find a lot of lichen peering through the snow on the rocks. You will only find it growing in unpolluted places and it can survive in Colorado’s bitter winters.
- We learned how to identify potentially-dangerous tree wells. Prevention of falling into a tree well is all-important because the odds of surviving deep snow immersion are low. For your safety, you should assume all trees have a hazardous tree well so steer clear.
Probably our favorite insight was regarding the area’s owls. We crossed below an I-70 underpass and the massive pillars had white streaks streaming down them.
“What do you think that is?” Jane queried, gleefully.
“Some kind of poop?” Hadley hesitatingly answered.
And she was correct. Barn owls make their habit under certain bridges and there was a cascading deluge of their excrement that stained the bridge. It was both fascinating and gross—the perfect kind of grossology for a 9-year-old.
You learn something new every day and believe me, on Copper Mountain’s complimentary ambassador snowshoe tours, it’s a lot.
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