We all know that Colorado winter is known for resort skiing, high-end lodging, trendy restaurants - and as locals, we all love it too! There’s a reason Colorado is snow’s perfect state!
The other chapter of the Colorado winter story is there lives a place Coloradoans flock to that offers plenty of fresh powder, no lift lines, friendly locals who share epic adventure stories with guests over a craft beverage, uber-affordable lodging, and over 150 restaurants that cater to every pallet and budget. This place is the Grand Junction area. Don’t believe us? Check it out…
Downhill Skiing & Snowboarding
Located on the northern flank of the Grand Mesa is Powderhorn Resort, offering downhill skiing and snowboarding, as well as equipment rental, lessons, meals, and lodging. The resort, which receives an average of 250 inches of snow each year, usually opens in December and closes in late March (pending snow conditions). New in 2015, the resort introduced the Flat Top Flyer, a new high-speed, detachable quad chair lift that moves skiers and snowboarders back up the mountain faster than ever. Powderhorn has 63 runs suitable for every level from beginner to expert. The new terrain-assisted learning area helps newbies control their speed, reduce their fear and enhance their skills. Full-day adult lift tickets cost $71, although lower prices are available for children, seniors, and young adults.
Winter brings plenty of snow to the Grand Mesa, which stands taller than 11,000 feet at its peak elevation. Three networks of cross-country ski trails crown this enormous, flat-top mountain just outside of Grand Junction. The Skyway trail system offers pristine classic and skate-skiing routes for every level and a warming hut just 100 yards from the trailhead. The Country Line trail system is ideal for beginner and intermediate skiers, while the Ward trail system on the south side of the Mesa is best suited for intermediate to advanced skiers. Other trail options include the West Bench Trail and Old Mesa Road — both are marked, but remain ungroomed.
During cold weather months, hiking doesn’t stop atop the Grand Mesa — all you need to explore its quiet, snow-covered groves is a pair of snowshoes and a thirst for adventure. Amateur and seasoned snowshoers alike can hike virtually anywhere cross-country skiers can go (see number two for details), including the groomed GMNC trail system, as long as snowshoers walk next to — not on — the groomed Nordic trails. If the only thing keeping you from fields of untouched snow is the lack of funny-looking footwear required to walk on it, rest assured Grand Junction’s Board & Buckle or nearby Mesa Lakes Lodge has you covered with rental equipment.
Photo by Steadily Shine Photography
Combine high-speed thrills with breathtaking vistas spanning from Aspen to Telluride to Utah, and you’ve got snowmobiling through 800-square-miles of the Grand Mesa National Forest. Because of its size, snowmobiling is arguably the best way to experience Grand Mesa’s expansive wintry landscape. An intricate network of snowmobile trails wind over and around the Grand Mesa, including the 120-mile-long Sunlight to Powderhorn Trail (SP Trail) stretching from Powderhorn Mountain Resort to Sunlight Ski Area near Glenwood Springs. Consider a guided tour or hourly rental from Mesa Lakes Lodge or Grand Mesa Lodge — both rustic cabin lodges can even accommodate sled heads overnight.
Whether it’s fun for the whole family, a group of friends or just the two of you, merriment can be had at the 36,600-square-foot Glacier Ice Arena. Grand Junction’s only indoor ice rink offers up a bevy of entertainment, including hockey, figure skating, public skating, and broomball. Don’t have your own blades? Fret not — rentals cost just $3. With public skate admission starting at just $6, there’s no reason not to lace up those skates and hit the ice. Not much of a skater? Let the Colorado Mesa University Mavericks or the new Grand Junction Coyotes (JHL) do all of the work — both hockey teams call Glacier Ice Arena home.
More than 25 percent of Colorado anglers spend their winter's ice fishing, and for good reason — wetting your line early in the season can yield the biggest return, but keep in mind the ice is still forming and could be somewhat thin. Biting fish can be found within an hour drive from Grand Junction November through February. Find Snake River cutthroat trout in most of the frozen lakes atop Grand Mesa, rainbow trout in the Vega Reservoir, yellow perch in the Rifle Gap Reservoir and kokanee salmon in the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Remember, a fishing license is required year-round, so be sure to purchase a fishing license online or stop by a licensed agent like Cabela’s before making your way out onto the ice.
A beloved winter tradition that is just as exhilarating now as it was when you were a kid — the only difference is that this time around those blockbuster crash and burns might ache a little longer. A great place to go sledding is the old Mesa Creek Ski Area, known by locals as “Old Powderhorn,” just off the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. Drive roughly three miles past Powderhorn Ski Resort and you’ll see the parking area on the south side of the road. With sleds, kids (and maybe a hot toddy) in tow, trudge up the hill and enjoy the ride down — be aware, the slightest snowdrifts could send you airborne!
Modeled after its trail-riding cousin, fat bikes keep MTB enthusiasts active well into the winter months. These non-motorized, all-terrain alpine bikes transform shallow pitches into technical descents and make falling on snow-laden routes a lot less painful. Equipped with big burly tires designed to handle soft surfaces like snow and sand, fat bikes can be ridden on the Lunch Loop or Fruita trails, or almost any trail that can accommodate snowmobiles. Both Brown Cycles and Ruby Canyon Cycles stock fat bikes for rent, so just be sure to pack in your cold weather gear and a GPS or map and you’ll be ready to ride.
If you're looking for a reprieve from all the snow and going on a hike with your favorite pair of hiking boots and a light jacket sounds like the perfect winter day, then explore what else Grand Junction has to offer!