By Kristen Lummis, www.braveskimom.com
Thanks to some El Niño love and a significant investment in snowmaking, Powderhorn Mountain Resort opened last weekend with an 18-inch base, two weeks ahead of schedule.
While this is great news for western slope skiers and riders, it’s also good news for everyone looking to experience a unique Colorado resort this season. Make this the season you ski Powderhorn.
A Special Season at Powderhorn
A western Colorado favorite, Powderhorn is the local resort for the Grand Junction area, as well as for skiers and riders from Rifle, Delta, Montrose and more. With 1600 skiable acres, much of it preserved as aspen glades and powder stashes, Powderhorn has always been a great place to ski and ride.
This season, however, is special. Over the summer, the resort replaced a 4-person chairlift with a Leitner-Poma high-speed quad for quick bottom-to-top mountain access.
This lift, dubbed the Flattop Flyer in a naming contest, is just one of the many investments the resort made in 2015. Others include acquisition of a winch cat to improve upper-mountain grooming, enhanced early season snowmaking and development of a summer mountain and downhill biking park.
All told, the ownership team of Andy Daly and Gart Capital Partners is investing $5 million on these year-round improvements.
The Flattop Flyer
If you’re wondering about the name of Powderhorn’s new high-speed lift, it’s a nod to the resort’s unique geography.
Powderhorn is located on the northern side of the Grand Mesa in eastern Mesa County. Known as the world’s largest flat-topped mountain, the Grand Mesa tops at over 11,000 feet and forms a significant geographic barrier to storms crossing the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau. This means snow. Storms hit the Mesa and drop the good stuff, generally about 250 inches per year.
Powderhorn has 1650 vertical feet and is served by five lifts. About 600 acres of the resort are groomed, with the rest open for exploration. Pristine stands of perfectly spaced aspen lure tree skiers, as well as those looking to score powder stashes days after a storm.
In addition to enthusiastic alpine skiers and snowboarders, there is an active uphill and telemark community at Powderhorn, as well as plenty of freestyle riders building their skills in the resort’s three terrain parks. Youth and adult racing involve many from the local community, as does a full calendar of special events, parties and fundraisers throughout the winter.
The Flattop Flyer was a long-time coming, and a dream come true for Western Slope skiers. By cutting ride time in half, to six minutes, the Flattop Flyer essentially doubles the amount of skiing guests can make in one day.
Daily adult lift tickets are $69, $58 for teens, $34 for kids 12 and under and just $17 for the six and under set. Seniors over 65 are $58, while over 75s are just $36.
Winter, Wine and More
Powderhorn is about four hours west from Denver on I-70. It’s definitely not a day trip for Front Range skiers (although the local airport is served by several major airlines).
Still, its location is an attractive draw.
Visit Powderhorn as part of a western slope road trip (think Aspen/Snowmass, Sunlight, Powderhorn, Telluride or Crested Butte in one amazing circuit), or come expressly to experience Powderhorn, the Grand Mesa and Mesa County.
In addition to downhill skiing and riding, Powderhorn has a tubing hill and the Grand Mesa offers up 54 km of groomed cross-country skiing trails.
Maintained by the Grand Mesa Nordic Council, the trail system is supported by local donations and is a “must-ski” for visitors willing to click out of their alpine gear and exchange their fat boards for skinny skis.
And while there is both hotel and condo lodging at the resort, Powderhorn is teaming up this season with the Wine Country Inn in nearby Palisade, Colorado. Palisade is the hub of Colorado’s wine country with two-dozen wineries and countless vineyards. Book a night at the Wine Country Inn and receive 2 lifts tickets, 10% off rentals and lessons, an afternoon reception featuring local wines and a Wine Country breakfast for $205 per person, double occupancy.
Another option is to bring your skis and your bike.
The Grand Junction area is home to marquee mountain bike trail systems at 18 Road, Loma and Lunch Loop. It’s also the home of the Tour of the Moon on the Colorado National Monument, a famous road cycling route. And while the roads and trails are sometimes snow-packed in winter, they often clear, making it possible to ski in the morning and bike in the afternoon.
Of course, you can just focus on skiing and riding and save the biking for warmer days in the resort’s new bike park.
Make this your season to visit Powderhorn, winter and summer. Enjoy!