Let’s Play in the Snow!

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, a fine way to play in Western Colorado

By Ninah Hunter, senior editor

The author and THE Annabel Clarke with their dog Ziggy. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing at Ironton Park. Photo courtesy of the author.

[Western Colo. | January 2020 | By Ninah Hunter]

Around the Western Slope, our snow is dry, powdery, and sparkly. More often than not, we enjoy clear, sunny, bluebird days, perfect for playing outside in the snow. And there are so many ways to play in it!

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing offer some of the best opportunities to get out on the snow at little-to-no cost. There are plenty of places to enjoy these sports with endless options—depending on what looks and feels like fun at the time. Here are a few of the more popular cross-country skiing and snowshoe playgrounds.

Ouray County. Ironton Park, about 6 miles south of Ouray, is in the Red Mountain Mining District. The green beginner trails are groomed for both classic and skate skiers with plenty of room for those who wish to snowshoe. The trails meander through and past the historic ghost town of Ironton where several buildings still stand. The intermediate blue trails are ungroomed. Ironton is also dog-friendly.

Priest Lake is located very near Ironton. The groomed trails feature a variety of interconnected loops over rolling terrain through the forest. It is also dog-friendly.

The North Corridor is an easy, dog-friendly, scenic 2-mile loop in Ouray following along both sides of the Uncompahgre River with foot bridges at either end. Trails are groomed when conditions permit.

Ridgway. It’s hard to beat the outstanding beauty and mountain scenery of the trails at Top of the Pines. Groomed for classic and skate skiers, these trails travel through an open meadow then loop up and through a forested area. There’s a separate snowshoe trail from the parking lot to the meadow. Dogs are not allowed except on Thursday and Sunday.

The author and her sister, Barbara Hunter, cross country skiing at Top of the Pines. Photo courtesy of the author.

Telluride. The Trout Lake Trail follows the historic Rio Grande Southern Railroad line from Lizard Head Pass to Trout Lake. Trails are groomed for classic and skate skiing and snowshoeing is also permitted, as are dogs.

The Valley Floor Trail System extends through the Telluride Valley along open, rolling terrain from the Town of Telluride to the Lawson Trailhead on the west end off of Highway 145. Snowshoeing, walking, and biking are allowed on designated trails. Dogs are not allowed.

The Mountain Village Trail System, covering 8 miles of groomed track, is open to skiers, hikers, snowshoers, bikers, and dogs, and is free to all users.

The Topaten Trail System is located at the top of Lift 10 at the Telluride Ski Resort (Telski). Single-use lift passes can be bought for $25. The resort also offers guided snowshoe tours into areas inaccessible on skis and snowboards.

Montrose. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is another special experience in the winter with its jaw-dropping vertical views of the canyon below. The road is open to the Visitor’s Center. From there, South Rim Road is closed to traffic and groomed for classic and skate skiing and snowshoes. You can also snowshoe on the separate hiking trails of either Oak Flat Loop or Rim Rock Trail.

If you’d rather have a bit more play than exercise, there’s always sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, or just making snow angels, throwing snowballs, or building a snowman.

Ninah Hunter is a Real Estate broker and avid outdoorswoman. Visit her blog at RidgwayLiving.com to learn more about her exciting adventures.