Land of the Freebie
If you're like me, 2009 left you a lot broke and a little fat—in serious need of some low-cost healthy outdoor activity. But that's tough to find when lift tickets are approaching $100 and on-mountain burgers top ten bucks. If you've ever found yourself making a ski meal of saltines and ketchup, let's talk. There's plenty of great outdoor fun to be had this winter, even at some of the priciest resorts, so I rounded up a sampling. And by the way, let's not call ourselves cheap. I much prefer "resourceful."
10. Sierra-at-Tahoe: Backcountry Tours of Huckleberry Canyon
Free guided tours of some of the best steep and deep in Lake Tahoe. Every Friday at 10:15 and 1:15, Sierra-at-Tahoe takes qualified skiers and riders out the resort's five backcountry gates on a one-hour tour of Huckleberry Canyon's double-black-diamond chutes and bowls. Bonus: Includes directions for exiting the Canyon when you're hucking on your own later.
9. Kids Fly Free to Steamboat Springs
Until February 13, Steamboat Springs is running its Kids Fly Free program—mom or dad buys a ticket, kid under 12 flies free. There are all kindsa restrictions (five-day stay, fly midweek) but once they land, the little buggers can apparently then Ski Free and Rent Free. Do the math, but this may be cheaper than taking care of them at home!
8. Free Clinics, Ole's Cross Country Center, Warren, VT
Ole's Cross Country Center offers free clinics—both classic and skate skiing—every Saturday at 10 a.m. You need a $16 trail pass but the lesson is gratis. Olympic biathlon fans: No guns, please.
7. Utah's Olympic Park (Plus Booze)
Relive 2002 glory at Park City's Utah Olympic Park. Wander the Alf Engen Ski History Museum and check the park itself, home to 14 of the 2002 events. Then head over to the High West Distillery & Saloon for a free tour, including the 250-gallon copper-pot still where they brew up Rocky Mountain Rye. Yes, there are samples. Call ahead at 435.649.8300.
6. Ice Skating and Tobogganing at Camden Snow Bowl, Maine
More wholesome agenda? Go pond skating for free at Camden Snow Bowl, where kids under 5 also ski free. If you can scrounge $5, it will get you an hour of tobogganning down New England's last toboggan chute and home of the US National Toboggan Championships the first weekend in February.
5. Four for Two at Jackson Hole's Spring Creek Ranch
Get this one while the gettin's good: For the month of January, four people fly, stay, eat, get massaged, and go on wildlife safaris for the price of two at Jackson Hole's Spring Creek Ranch.
4. Survival Skills in Fernie, B.C.
Very, very handy: Fernie Alpine Resort (official location of the film Hot Tub Time Machine) offers free Wilderness Survival Skills Courses on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. This should be helpful in Fernie's five alpine bowls, and in their free geocaching treasure hunts—BYO GPS.
3. Five nights for four at Whistler/Blackcomb
The math on this one gets a little acrobatic, but if you book five nights at Whistler/Blackcomb, they'll give you the fifth night free, the fourth day of skiing free, or a rate that would give you five nights for the cost of four. It's blocked out during the Olympics, but good for the rest of the season and includes free Fresh Tracks breakfast and early lift access. Oh, and kids under 12 ski and rent gear for free.
2. The Adventure Series at Snowbird, Utah
Snowbird's Adventure Series is like a mini Banff Mountain Film Festival, with some of the most exciting mountaineers today presenting in their own backyard. 17-year-old local Johnny Collinson—who just completed the Seven Summits in one year—serves up his experiences in "The Seven Summits at 17," while his dad, Snowbird Snow Safety assistant director Jimmy Collinson, outlines the history of Little Cottonwood Canyon and ski patrol head Dean Cardinale takes you to "Everest and Beyond." Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Bonus: Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Snowbird screens the new Warren Miller film, Dynasty; Wednesdays are reserved for TGR's latest, Re:Session.
1. Surprise Land of the Freebie Winner: Aspen, Colorado
I would have figured Telluride for the lock on this, thanks to the town Free Box. But everything, it turns out, is free in Aspen. Some tips were dubious: Mezzaluna pizzeria has a free bread basket "right by the front door," wrote one scavenger tipster, who also noted that appetizers were free at fancy new Il Mulino ("....large chunks of Reggiano, olives, bread...I can imagine the ski bum who will be seated, indulge in the freebies, then 'have to rush' before the menu arrives.") Let it not be said that Outside condones such activity—especially when plenty of legit freebies abound:
-Free coffee, hot cider, sunscreen, and water at Aspen, Buttermilk, Snowmass, and Aspen Highlands
-Free First Tracks powder tours before the lifts open. (On Aspen Mountain, call 970.925.1220, x3543; Snowmass, call 970-923-0560.)
-Free Hucking and Drinking: You are there, gratis, for the X Games at Buttermilk Mountain Jan 28-31 and the outdoor Bud Light Hi-Fi Concert Series at the base of Aspen's Little Nell. Past performers have included Blues Traveler, Ozomatli, and Everclear.
-Free slide shows. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies offers free Naturalist Nights at least once a week, plus Potbelly Perspectives, ($4) a locals' favorite slide show and potluck on Wednesday nights. This winter: photographer Peter McBride on the Colorado River and Amory Lovins on Colombia.
-Free admission to the Aspen Art Museum: Plus a gallery tour and reception Thursday evenings.
-Free ice skating (BYO skates) at the Aspen Recreation Center and Snowmass Recreation Center outdoor rinks; plus the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System's 90 kilometers of free XC trails. And there's free hot chocolate for skate skiers at the top of the road to Maroon Bells
-Free waxing (skis! get your minds out of the gutter) at the swanky new Snowmass Viceroy Hotel for guests and even us shmoes apres-ing at the hotel's Eight K or Nest Poolside Lounge & Cafe.
-Finally—and this is just so Aspen—the Viceroy also offers complimentary charging for electric cars.
Bon Appetit! Now ping us with favorite winter steals in the comments section below.