Sylvan Lake State Park offers winter rec options
EAGLE — As a welcome storm system deposited a blanket of snow on the Vail Valley this week, residents and visitors are shifting from a focus on fall to a yearning for winter.
While the slopes of Vail and Beaver Creek are calling, there’s also a freezing shift under way at Sylvan Lake State Park.
The park is a very popular summer camping destination for people from throughout the state and region. But Sylvan Lake State Park doesn’t close down come winter, as local users have discovered. Instead, it remains an accessible local get-away with rental cabins available and lots of recreational opportunities on tap.
“A lot of people think we close down on Sept. 30, so the park is a bit of a secret for the winter,” said Sylvan Lake State Park staffer Mallory Carnuccio. “But Sylvan Lake is a beautiful place and we keep Brush Creek Road plowed all winter. There’s not a lot of places like this where you can be driving on snow and get to a nice alpine lake.”
Once they arrive at the destination, winter recreation enthusiasts can ice fish, snowshoe and cross-country ski. Ambitious visitors have even gone so far as to clear snow from parts of the lake for ice skating. As it does for the summer, the state charges a $7 daily activity fee at Sylvan but annual passes are still good for winter use. Cabin rentals are available, just as they are in the summer.
Earlier this week, Carnuccio said the state park staff is now transitioning to its winter model.
“Obviously, we need a lot more snow to support some of the activities, but we aren’t far off,” she said.
One of the most popular winter activities at Sylvan Lake State Park is snowshoeing, and it’s a great locale to try out the sport. In addition to terrain that ranges from easy to difficult, the park has free loaner snowshoes available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Because it centers around a lake, the state park is also a popular ice fishing venue. Carnuccio said Sylvan Lake traditionally freezes over by late November to early December and the staff will let fishermen know when it’s safe to venture out on the ice. Carnuccio said the ice needs to reach six inches in depth for safety.
While snowmobiling is not allowed in the park, snowmobilers often stay at Sylvan Lake and use the area as a base camp when they venture out to national forest land.
As for attracting visitors who may not know that Sylvan Lake State Park stays open all winter, Carnuccio said the park staff hosts periodic programs as well as a holiday open house. Look for those announcements as the winter progresses.
To learn more about what is available at Sylvan Lake State Park this winter, call 970-328-2021. To make cabin reservations call 1-800-678-2267 (or 303-470-1144 in the Denver metro area). Reservations can also be made at the state parks website a http://www.cpw.state.co.us.
There are three keys to look at when deciding the bonus days: staffing, skier excitement and conditions.