With so many ski resorts in Colorado, how do you decide where to go? Some highlights from our day spent skiing at Powderhorn, and why my family loves this smaller ski area in Western Colorado. Plus, whether ski school is right for your kids? And where to stay and eat during your Powderhorn ski resort visit.
My family lives in Colorado, a state known for its outdoor recreation. Courtesy of those high altitude Rocky Mountains, the Rock Star of all outdoor sports here is downhill skiing.
I’m not a skiing fanatic. But it can be a breathtaking experience to get out on a snowy mountain, gliding through the trees on a pair of skis. As part of their Colorado Outdoor Heritage, I feel a sense of obligation to teach my children to ski.
Deciding Where to Ski in Colorado
We’ve visited some of Colorado’s larger, more well-known ski resorts in the past. At the base of these famous mountains, you’ll typically find a ritzy ski town, high-end gear shops, and fine dining options. On the slopes are skiers who have traveled there from all over the world, dressed in the latest ski fashions.
Exciting experience, but with a price tag to match.
What if you are simply looking for a place to take your family skiing, and are trying to keep the costs down? Perhaps you’ve got beginning skiers in your group, and honestly won’t be covering much ground anyways. A smaller ski area may be right for you.
Powderhorn ski resort may be smaller, but it comes with definite benefits. For starters, lift tickets are cheaper. And lift lines are shorter. Combine that with the fact that there are 42 trails, instead of 142, so it’s much easier to keep track of your party throughout the day.
All of this makes for a very friendly place to take your family, especially if your kids are learning to ski.
Powderhorn Ski Resort in Western Colorado
For my family, it was high time to explore our local mountain in Western Colorado, the closest ski area to where we live. Powderhorn is located on the gorgeous Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-topped mountain. Don’t let the “flat top” fool you, though. With an altitude of over 11,000 feet, this mountain can definitely support a Colorado-caliber ski area.
When we went in early January, they already had a nice base of snow. Trail run conditions were good and nicely groomed. It was a windy day, and we stayed primarily on the “bunny hill” (easy green runs, towards the base of the mountain nearest the lodge). But thankfully we didn’t run into icy patches, even later in the afternoon.
Powderhorn has a nice mixture of trail ability levels, with 20% for beginners, 50% intermediate, and 30% advanced. With my kids just learning to ski, we spent our day exclusively on green trails.
We could have taken the speedy quad to the very top of the mountain, as there is a winding green trail option from there back down to base. My daughter felt a little daunted at the length of that run, so we stuck to the shorter chairlift ride and 3 green runs that branched off from it.
This particular chairlift only rises a short way up the mountain. By the end of the day, my husband and I were a bit tired of repeatedly riding the same chairlift, and skiing the same short runs. But it’s just the phase we are currently in, and it worked well for our two young learners.
I’m sure it won’t be long before my kids are even better skiers than I am.
Ski School – Is it Right For your Kids?
My kids took their first ski lessons last winter. They don’t always listen to a parent attempting to be a teacher, so lessons worked really well for us.
I can tell my kids to “make a pizza” with their skis to slow down, and it’s just mom nagging them. A cool ski school instructor tells them? They are brilliant, and have just shown them an amazing trick!
Ski school generally breaks down into small groups, based loosely on ability and age of the children. This time at Powderhorn, my 11-year-old daughter decided to just hang out with her parents. My 6-year-old son opted for a morning session at ski school. His group was just 3 kids and had a couple of teachers, which provided lots of help and attention.
Ski school provides an excellent foundation in helping kids learning to ski. It teaches them some core techniques, which will serve them well as they build on their skiing ability. Ski instructors are typically pretty flexible and have a beat on when your kids are ready to tackle the chairlift.
We had claimed my son by afternoon but witnessed his classmate from the morning (still in ski school) riding the lift with a teacher later that afternoon.
Powderhorn Kids Ski School
Is there anything cuter than a bunch of mini skiers? They start beginner students off nice and easy, on the “Magic Carpet”. This slowly moving belt is super easy for them to scoot on and off, and rarely causes any wipeouts. It brought them just high enough on the hill to have a small section of gradual slope to slide down.
I liked the technique they used at Powderhorn ski school, gradually working on skills with my son and his two fellow ski school tykes. After they could control their speed a bit, the instructors placed some orange cones for them to attempt to ski around.
Although this is a fabulous opportunity for skiing parents to take some nice runs themselves, I did stay and watch my son at ski school awhile. It was fun to see him progress in just one morning. His turns definitely improved, and we were able to take him on the full run at the top of the green chairlift later that day.
And of course, each 2-hour ski school session includes heading inside to warm up and take a hot cocoa break.
Ski-in Ski-out from SlopeSide Inn
Affordable ski-in ski-out lodging is available right next to the Powderhorn lodge, at the SlopeSide Inn. We stayed at this property the night before skiing Powderhorn. With 2 bathrooms, full sized mattress bunkbeds, plus a queen sized bed, our room there could have accommodated a family with 4 kids.
It’s a nice option for an easy-going start to your day, eliminating the tiring hassle of packing all your ski gear into the car and trudging across a large parking lot. Instead, wake up, get dressed, and walk right out the door to the chairlift. Slick.
Powderhorn Ski Resort for a Day of Family Fun
Powderhorn is a charming ski resort, with a lot to offer families. As my kids grow in ability, we will be able to better explore more of the mountain. Just looking at a map, there are plenty of trails to explore for a full day on the slopes.
Ski, snowboard and helmet rentals are available right on site. If you’ve rented there before, they’ve even provided self-serve kiosks to look up your account. This time saver allows you to easily rent the same equipment you used last time.
A nice gift shop offers appropriate ski gear at standard retail prices. This saved our neck when my 6 year old looked down at the snow boots he was wearing and declared “I’m barefoot!”. One pair of kids wool socks and a great buy on some $20 Smith kids ski googles later, and we were ready to go!
Lunch at the lodge was pretty standard ski cafeteria fare. The sloppy joe was tasty and I liked the touch of shredded cheese and pickle slice, but it was a bit sweet for my palate. Everyone agreed the good sized “mini” corndogs were our favorite entrée. You can also get table service pizza, salad, and sandwich fare at the restaurant attached to the SlopeSide Inn.
The nearest airport would be Grand Junction, Colorado. An easy 50 minute drive away, and with a population of around 100,000, it offers numerous hotels and restaurants.
My family can’t wait to return.