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New Ski Runs Highlight Winter Fun on Grand Mesa

Skiers in search of fresh powder adventures need look no farther than Grand Mesa
Catch some serious air at Powderhorn.
Catch some serious air at Powderhorn.
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When Grand Mesa's alpine high country disappears beneath a thick blanket of snow, the area's winter recreation fun really kicks into high gear in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The 10,000-foot-high mountain east of Grand Junction features a family-style ski and snowboard resort with terrain to please everyone from beginners to experts. Elsewhere on Grand Mesa, rustic Colorado lodges offer  snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. And for those who want to explore expansive backcountry, the mesa has a well-maintained network of ski and snowshoe trails.

Black-Diamond Runs at Powderhorn Resort

The newest attractions in recent years at Powderhorn Resort are two ski runs dubbed "Hooligan" and "Bear Claw". These trails are about 2,400 feet  long and represent a significant expansion of Powderhorn's expert terrain.

"They're both black-diamond runs, and they're both located  over on the west side of our mountain," says Sarah Allen, Powderhorn's  marketing and communications director. The new trails are served by a double  chairlift abd are big draws for  those seeking more challenging terrain.

Although Powderhorn expanded its expert terrain options a couple of years ago, the ski resort remains an affordable, family-friendly getaway in Western Colorado. Almost  three-fourths of Powderhorn's terrain is geared toward beginners and  intermediates, and there's a full-service ski and snowboard school that  provides lessons to children as young age 3. A rental shop can fit guests with  equipment for snowboarding, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

Four lifts -- including one quad, two doubles and a new "magic carpet" ride that slides along the surface like a moving sidewalk in an airport -- carry guests to various parts of the mountain. Skiers and snowboarders flock to Powderhorn in fairly equal numbers and both happily coexist on the slopes.

Powderhorn Resort also has about 10 miles of snowshoe trails, and  for snowshoers who want more, the resort is only  a short drive from a vast network of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails on  top of Grand Mesa.

When you need a break to refuel, Powderhorn offers two  restaurants: Wildewood Restaurant offers sit-down dining, and Sunset Grille and  Bar is a convenient lunch stop. 

Winter fun at Mesa  Lakes Resort

A popular fishing spot by summer, Mesa Lakes Resort  becomes a family-friendly winter recreation destination when it's buried under  heavy snowfall. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers can wander the Mesa Lakes  area for a few hours or a few days, depending on their preference, says Ann  Stiers, co-owner of the rustic resort.

"There are a lot of really good trails right out of here,"  Stiers says. "From here, you can do a half-hour loop or a four- or five-hour  loop."

A series of interconnected trails wind among the lakes  around the resort, and the longer West Bench Trail takes skiers and snowshoers  from Mesa Lakes to the top of Powderhorn. Mesa Lakes Resort also rents  cross-country and snowshoe equipment, as well as snowmobiles. (Although  snowmobiles aren't allowed in the skiing and snowshoeing areas, the resort grooms a snowmobile trail to the top of Grand Mesa, where snowmobilers can find miles of fun.)

"Once you're on top, you can go all the way to Glenwood Springs," Stiers says. "There's tons and tons of riding up here."

Mesa Lakes Resort operates a restaurant open daily from 9  a.m. to 4 p.m.

Backcountry ski experience

A network of groomed cross-country ski trails maintained by the nonprofit Grand Mesa Nordic Council (GMNC website) winds across the rolling terrain atop the mountain. Trails are suitable for both track skiing and skating, and skiers of all skill levels can have a blast.  Skyway trails are geared toward everyone, County Line trails are best for beginners and intermediates, and Ward Lake trails are suitable for intermediate to advanced users.

Ski trails atop Grand Mesa are great fun anytime, but for a special experience try a night excursion during a full moon. The glow of bright moonlight off the undisturbed snow gives the mountaintop an otherworldly feel that won't soon be forgotten.