Perfect pitches, empty slopes and airy aspens make Powderhorn a worthy addition to any Colorado road trip
Say hello to Powderhorn, the best small resort I’ve ever skied. A place that in the space of a few hours earlier this year reminded me that you don’t always have to go mega for a brilliant day’s riding.
Why all the love? Well, the trees for a start; they are some awesome aspens. Light, airy, not too packed, and with plenty of sidecountry to explore between runs.
Plus the pitch is just right (with no real flat spots), you don’t get cliffed out like some Colorado spots, and there are far less people here (with just 500 tickets sold on a busy day) than any of the biggie US resorts, so the powder holds a lot, lot longer. I was here for four days after the last decent fall and there was still plenty to be mopped up.
And even if the last of the snow ribbons have been polished off, you really can’t complain too much when midweek day passes can be picked up online for $50 (half what you’d pay at most big-name mountains in this part of the world).
Not convinced? Pah! Drive up from Grand Junction wine country and have a little gasp, as the valley vines give way to majestic Nevada-style rock faces, and the world’s largest flat-top mountain: the Grand Mesa.
Once you’ve parked up at the simple, no-nonsense base, clip in and blast down Upper Thunderbird (the forest run locals call Black Magic) or, better still, Mad Dog Glade. These trails (and other bangers like Sven’s Bend and Thunder Mountain) bite so hard you’ll be daydreaming about them for months.
And if I had a teleporter on my desk now (please, sort it out Mr Dyson and Prof Hawking), after Jackson Hole and Niseko, I think this place might actually be my third pick for a day’s skiing. Absurd I know, given its 1600-acre size and 1650ft of vertical. But the terrain (laced with lusty natural boulder hits that can’t help but make your ski libido go a bit Tanner Hall crazy), plus easy-going feel, and lack of people, make for a heady mix.
So why isn’t all of Colorado in on the secret? Mainly because it’s an extra couple of hours further from Denver than a ton of other goodies, like the Winter Park, Copper and A-Basin. And, even if you’re adventurous, and like smaller resorts, Loveland, Copper and Sunlight all pop up first as you’re heading west from the city along I-70.
Oh, and then there are the lifts. They’re a bit – how does one explain in technical ski jargon? Oh yes… crap. The quad (Take Four) and a pair (West End) are the only ones you’ll be using (there’s also a learner magic carpet and beginner two-man). And the 15 minutes or so it takes to get up to just under 10,000ft feels like a lifetime when you’ve come from the high-speed chairs of Breckenridge, as I had.
In short, you really have to want to come here…
However, there’s talk of a new and speedy quad (plus an extra 500 acres of terrain) and it looks likely to happen in the next three years, with serial ski entrepreneur Andy Daly now co-owner (you may have heard of a little company called Vail Resorts that he used to be president of).
All rather exciting. But best not wait. Come now, before the rest of Colorado realise what an amazing resort is right under their nose. FL