[Sunlight Mountain in Glenwood Springs. Photo: 黒忍者] The Colorado Western Slope boasts a gorgeous winter wonderland filled with challenging and exciting activities for the avid sport enthusiast. Ski, skate, sled and swim all season long in Western Colorado!
Once you’re up and over the Continental Divide and on its western side you’re officially on Colorado’s Western Slope. Although vast in size it contains the minority of the state’s population. This creates gems that are mostly away from the crowds.
Winter Things To Do in Western Colorado
Western Colorado should receive more credit. It’s seldom visited and the natural beauty is expansive. Each of the counties of Delta, Montrose, Garfield, Mesa, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Ouray and San Miguel has something to offer.
Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding
Whoosh! Downhill, on skis or snowboards, this adrenaline-charged experience is plentiful throughout the region. Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Gunnison County is a well-known Alpine Skiing and snowboarding destination for individuals, couples, families and other groups. The town is lovely and the people are friendly and laid-back. There’s also excellent back county skiing.
With 250 inches of average snowfall each year, Powderhorn Resort in Delta County provides a wide range of snowy experiences. From novice to expert, this is a great destination for downhill skiing and snowboarding.
Enjoy some of the deepest, steepest terrain for skiers at the Telluride Ski Resort. Sunlight Mountain Resort in Garfield County offers 67 trails for skiing and snowboarding, and presents you with one of the longest trails in ski country.
Nordic Skiing & Snowshoeing
Crested Butte offers so much for the winter activity enthusiast. It prides itself on being the “Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado” with 55 kilometers of trails available for the Nordic Skier. There’s also snowshoeing for a great workout and wildlife watching.
Delta County is the site of over 30 miles of trail for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing on the Grand Mesa. The Grand Mesa Nordic Council grooms these trails. Glenwood Springs’ Sunlight Mountain Resort offers up cross-country skiing for all levels of Nordic skiers in Babbish Gulch valley.
In winter, Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park is a great spot for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. You can also enjoy snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the San Juan Mountains of Ouray County.
Ouray is a great spot for snowmobiling too, in the San Juan Mountains, with both groomed and ungroomed trails. Telluride is another snowmobiling destination on the Western Slope, offering guided tours.
There are hundreds of miles to explore in the Grand Mesa National Forest. Snowmobiles are permitted on five trails throughout. The trails connect to Vega State Park, Powderhorn, the Sunlight Ski Area, and 180 miles of additional trail. Gunnison, Hinsdale and Montrose Counties also offer snowmobiling trails.
Does climbing a frozen waterfall appeal to you? Ouray is home to the world’s first official ice park, Ouray Ice Park. This free man made attraction offers more than 200 ice and mixed climbs. Come to participate, or watch others scale the icy walls positioned in a natural gorge. The Ouray Ice Fest is held in early January.
Expert ice climbers can also try their crampons and axes at the Black Canyon in Montrose. Popular routes include Gandalf’s Beard, Shadowfax, Train Route and Curecanti Monster.
For the less experienced ice climber, try Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride. If you’re completely new to ice climbing, novice classes are available, or the experienced among you can challenge yourselves with more advanced climbs.
Locations abound in Crested Butte, from hockey rinks to outdoor skating ponds. You can drop south to Gunnison and skate at the outdoor Jorgensen Ice Rink. And if you’re in Lake City, take a break from backcountry skiing, climbing and snowmobiling for some leisurely ice skating in the Town Park between December and March.
Telluride also offers three outdoor ice rinks spread around town.
Hot springs aren’t just summer destinations. The Ouray Hot Springs Pool is open year round. This outdoor pool is supplied by seven different springs. Wind down after a day of winter sports while enjoying the San Juan Mountains scenery. You can also head up to Ridgway to Orvis Hot Springs.
For more mineral hot springs, visit the Glenwood Hot Springs in Garfield County to enjoy their world-renowned historic landmark. The Ute Native Americans called these springs Big Medicine.
A Little Out of the Ordinary
Snow Biking – Crested Butte Resort has added this interesting new snow bike program to their 2014-2015 offerings.
Sleigh Rides – Almont Resort & Fantasy Ranch will delight you with their sleigh rides. For an extended experience look into dinner and a sleigh ride from Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Lazy F Bar Ranch.
Dog Sledding – Embark on a dog sledding journey in Gunnison-Crested Butte with either Cosmic Cruisers or Lucky Cat Dog Farm. Get in on the fun with the Grand Mesa Summit Challenge Sled Dog Races in January.
Ice Fishing – Ice fishermen can try their skill and luck in the Blue Mesa reservoir. The Harvey Gap State Park offers some good ice fishing options as well. Another alternative for ice fishing on the Western Slope is Lake San Cristobel.
Sledding – Go sledding with your kids on Firecracker Hill in Telluride Town Park.
Yurts – Enjoy the Magic Meadows Yurt Dinners in Crested Butte. Delight in a stay at the Hinsdale Haute Route Back Country Hut System for some rest and relaxation on your cross country winter adventure.
Please share any of other Western Slope winter fun.