What Do We Do Around Here in the Winter?

By Kathryn R. Burke

Nordic skiing at Top of the Pine. Courtesy Ninah Hunter.

[December 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage]

HERE IN SOUTHWEST COLORADO, we’ve got mountains, we’ve got snow, and we’ve got lots of days with bright-blue skies overhead and plenty of fluffy white powder below—an unbeatable combination for most Coloradans (and our winter visitors) who love to play outside in any season.

When you say “Colorado” and “snow” in the same sentence, the first thought that comes to mind for most folks, especially winter visitors, is ski. Like in Telluride. But we’ve got way more winter sports than downhill skiing. Ice climbing, skijoring, and snowmobiling, and ice hockey all offer heart-pumping, adrenalin-filled action and draw spectators as well as participants, with annual prize-winning contests. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, ice skating, and hiking offer quiet snow adventures where you can enjoy the scenery at a slower pace.

And, of course, after any and all of snowy activities that can leave you a little chilly, there are our famous hot spring pools. We’ve got public pools—soak in a bathing suit or your birthday suit—and numerous private pools in places like the Wiesbaden (which also has a vapor cave), and Ouray’s Box Canyon Lodge, where you can soak under the stars with breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains.

Ouray Snow Adventures

Ice. Box Canyon Falls and Visitor’s Center are closed for the season, although the falls are accessible for walk-in visitors. Take care, though; icy conditions may exist. Rotary Park Ice Rink opens late December. Get out your hockey sticks! Ouray Ice Park: Opens around mid-December, and offers a great opportunity to get in some practice before the big event in January, Ouray’s world-renowned Ice Festival, which takes place this year January 23-26. (ourayicepark.com)

Snow. Ironton cross-country, groomed ski trails open mid-December (weather permitting). Trails are maintained by the Ouray County Nordic Council. (ouraynordic.org/) Top of the Pines also offers nordic skiing. (topofthepines.org/nordic-skiing)

Lee’s Ski Hill opens mid-December, as does Vinegar Hill, which is fun for all ages. Bring your sled and fly down the hill. (See article in October issue of the Silver Stage.) Ouray Perimeter Trail is open year-round, but icy and snowy conditions may exist, so take care. The Uncompahgre River Trail remains open all winter, depending on snow load. Be careful though, the ice can make hiking dicey.

Hot Springs. There are five natural hot springs in Ouray and Ridgway. Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings in Ouray has an outdoor pool and indoor vapor cave. Guests at the Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs and Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs  can enjoy private soaking along with luxury lodging. Orvis Hot Springs between Ouray and Ridgway offers private and public, naturally landscaped soaking pools as well as lodging and camping.

Ouray Hot Springs Pool is open Monday through Friday, noon to 9 P.M., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 A.M. to 9 P.M. Check their Facebook page for holiday hours and temps. (facebook.com/OurayHotSprings)