Winter Wonderland in Southern Colorado

If you have read any of my posts then you know how I feel about Southern Colorado. But, most of those posts are aimed at escaping the Arizona summers and finding refuge in the mountains. Want a recap? Find them here.

Between Ouray, Telluride and Durango there are ample winter activities to keep you entertained. Living in the desert has so many perks but often it is hard to get in the winter spirit when the sun is always shining and the weather is balmy.

An escape to Colorado is a great way to experience some cold weather and feel festive.

Last winter we did an ice climbing / ski trip to Ouray and Telluride. I have been to Ouray so many times but only in the summer. It was so much fun to see it during the winter. It is truly beautiful year round.

Ouray is nestled in the mountains about an hour and forty five minutes from Durango and forty five minutes from Montrose. It is known in the summer for the hot springs, jeep trials, hiking and views. The main street has a ton of restaurants and breweries. In the winter it becomes a destination for ice climbing.

Day One:

  • Drive to Colorado; night out in Ouray

It is a 8 – 9 hour drive to Ouray from Phoenix. We left early in the morning and arrived in time to pick up some family members in Montrose. Montrose and Durango are the two closest airports. Be sure to keep an eye on the road conditions especially if you are planning on taking Red Mountain Pass.

The town of Ouray is stunning any time of year. I had never been there in the winter and was completely blown away at how festive and beautiful it was.

We grabbed dinner at Brickhouse 737 which is one of my favorites. We strolled over to KJ Wood Distillers for a night cap before heading back to our airbnb.

If you are staying in Ouray I recommend staying close to the downtown. There are a ton of restaurants, breweries and shops all within walking distance. You really can’t go wrong. If you have time stop in and check out The Outlaw. Mickey spent a summer bartending there in college. It is near and dear to his heart and is locally owned and operated. Walking in there is like taking a step back in time in the best way.

Day 2

  • Ice Climbing

Ouray is a world renowned ice climbing destination. They host the ice climbing championships there every year. Oddly enough we were there during the championship.

Mickey treated us to a guided tour with San Juan Mountain Guides. I will say that ice climbing was not something I was great at but it is super fun to try. Even if climbing isn’t your thing I highly recommend going down into the canyon to check it out. It is beautiful and just sitting there bundled up watching other people climb is really cool.

After an exhausting morning of climbing we went back to our airbnb and hung out watching the ice climbing championships on TV marveling at how easy these climbers made it look. It was snowing and just sitting in the cabin with the fire going watching the snow fall was glorious.

We walked around the town and called it an early night. Off to Telluride the next morning.

Day 3 and 4:

  • Drive from Ouray to Telluride
  • Ski / Snowboard

If you have read this blog then you already know that I love Telluride. For more summer activities check out my blog about camping in Telluride.

It is about an hour from Ouray to Telluride depending on the weather. While Telluride has become more popular over the years I still think it has a small town charm to it compared to a lot of the bigger resorts closer to Denver.

If you do not like to ski or snowboard there are still many things you can do. This is another reason I love Telluride. The mountain is connected to the town via the Gondolas. If you want to go out shopping, check out the town or hit up a brewery you can simply hop on the Gondola and don’t have to worry about traffic or parking.

We had two days of great weather and riding. It was an absolute blast!

Winter activities are some of our favorites. I think that The San Juan Mountains in Southern Colorado offer a unique experience where you can do more than just sit at a resort. There are ample opportunities to back country ski, cross country ski, snow shoe etc etc. The drive is easy from Phoenix. And while this trip was done in my 4runner and staying in resorts/ airbnbs , you can easily use a van and camp at any of these locations.

Close by Options:

  • Ski at Purgatory
  • Hang out in Durango
  • Check out the hot springs at Pagosa Springs, CO. Tack on a few days of skiing at Wolf Creek (Pagosa Springs is the closest town to the mountain)
  • Experts only: check out Silverton, CO and their mountain. Book a backcountry heli trip
  • Soak in the hot springs in Ouray
  • Get a guide for back country skiing / snowboarding
  • Snow shoe
  • Treat yourself to a spa day or two in Telluride
  • Cozy up in a cabin and enjoy the winter wonderland for a few days

These are all so close that you could make a really fun week long road trip. If you were really feeling up to it you could head over to Moab and check out Arches and Canyonlands in the winter. Which is my favorite time to see that area!

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. We wish you all the fun adventures as we head into 2022!

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