Winter Escape: Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado

    Photo: Courtesy of NPS

Yes, nearly three million people visit Rocky Mountain National Park each year. But most of them come in the warmer months, leaving the park's 12,000-to-14,000-foot peaks empty—and open to backcountry skiers all winter. No experience? No problem. Sign up with Estes Park–based Colorado Mountain School, which offers daylong introductory courses ($170; totalclimbing.com). Backcountry veterans, pick up a copy of Front Range Descents: Spring and Summer Skiing and Snowboarding in Colorado's Front Range ($20; neptunemountaineering.com) and aim for the Ptarmigan Fingers area of Flattop Mountain. The three-mile approach is mellow, and there are lappable, north-facing couloirs and bowls of varying difficulty, making it the ideal first tour to assess snow stability. Lodging: For $25 you can reserve a bunk at CMS's hostel-like base camp, which completes the dirtbag hat trick with a full kitchen and occasional screenings of old ski movies. Those wanting less fragrant digs should check out the Sunnyside Knoll Resort (from $75; sunnysideknoll.com), an unpretentious joint just outside the main entrance to the park with a couple of hot tubs overlooking the Fall River. NEAREST AIRPORT: Denver, 90 minutes.

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