Colorado Hotels & Lodging Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding The Rockies: Colorado Hotels & Lodging Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding The Rockies
We’re in the throes of spring break madness here at most Colorado ski resorts and frankly I’m left wondering how a family of four does it these days. Between the price of lift tickets, lunches, instruction and overall travel expenses, a family ski vacation in Colorado can represent as much as a down payment on a house. I’m fully appreciative of the ski getaways I did with my family when I was a kid but still we went mostly to down-home ski areas in western Massachusetts and upstate New York, all a far cry from the destination resorts of the West. Mom and Dad would pack my bunch of brothers and me into the station wagon along with a picnic basket loaded with Mom’s homemade submarine sandwiches and peanut butter cookies and off we’d go for a fun day on the slopes.
Not a ski day goes by that I don’t feel a pinch of nostalgia for those simpler times, so I was especially thrilled to discover Powderhorn Mountain Resort, a terrific little ski area on the western slope of Colorado just a short drive from Grand Junction. I skied there recently with my dear friend Paula, another northeastern gal who shares the same fond memories as I about family ski trips of a more modest scale, and was delighted to discover the many charms of this little-known resort. From the parkas and pants for rent at the ski shop, to the cubbies and lockers for boots and other belongings to the sack lunch room to the enormous deck at the Sunset Grille to the lift tickets at half the price of major resorts, I loved the vibe of this place from the get-go.
Paula and I were lucky to have arrived just after a huge storm, so the snow was creamy and fresh—apparently a not-so-unusual occurence here, hence the name Powderhorn. We did a grand tour of the mountain and discovered its long, loopy runs, excellent tree skiing and quirky boulder fields, something I’m sure are a blast if you dare to plunge within. (I didn’t.) From all this fun terrain you look out upon expansive views of the Grand Valley flanked by the magnificent Book Cliffs in the distance. Woo-hoo! What a neat little ski area.
We enjoyed some of the best burgers I’ve ever had at the Sunset Grille and there, too, everything across the board was at least half of what you’d pay at the big-name resorts. For me, the only drawback here is that there aren’t any fast-moving lifts. Not yet. Although there are plans in the works for a high-speed quad, perhaps for next year. Two main lifts service this excellent terrain, so just be prepared to chill on the chair in between runs. Two other lifts service the beginner area. One of my fellow ski instructors—a top PSIA (Professional Ski Instructor of America) trainer told me that Powderhorn is an excellent teaching mountain for beginners, a tidbit of information that further reinforced my belief that Powderhorn is a great choice for a family ski vacation. Yes, take the family here before you hit the big leagues. You might just like it so much, that you’ll keep coming back for more. There’s an impressive vertical drop to be experienced at Powderhorn once everyone’s ready to tackle the blacks.
For a real taste of Western-styled home cooking, go to Wagon Wheel Restaurant, just outside of Powderhorn in Mesa. Paula and I savored our meals and the quiet time we spent here as we reminisced some more about our childhood ski memories. I had chicken fried steak, a classic country dish that I had never tried and it was fabulous. Paula had rib eye and together we polished off a delicious bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from nearby Plum Creek Winery. (The whole bottle cost less than the price of two glasses of decent wine in most fine restaurants.)
For more fun sipping and shopping, stop in Palisade to visit some of Colorado’s best wineries. Paula and I hit Meadery of the Rockies this time around and were enchanted by the delicious assortment of wine—all made from honey—here. Their array of honey-based products—-from hand cream to candles to sweets—will also leave you buzzing about the store gathering gifts for all. Leave plenty of time for tasting and be sure to ask the meaning and the origin behind the word “honeymoon.” This, and so much more, will likely endear you to honey and most especially honey wine.
For more on Colorado’s Wine Country, read Perfectly Palisade: Colorado’s Wine Country.