Skiing in Durango Colorado
from the CAIC
Back country skiing is very popular in Durango
and there are miles upon miles of slopes in the
national forest that enthusiasts can get out in the un-
crowded back county to enjoy. For people wanting a
different experience there are guided snow cat tours
that will take you into the mountains and
let you loose on awesome un-
touched powder fields. Back
country skiing is a bit more
serious than going onto regular
ski slopes and can be dangerous
if you do not have adequate
training in snow and weather
conditions. Guided trips are well
worth checking out and can help
you learn more about being safe
and having fun at the same time.
Telluride Ski Resort is about 111 miles (depending on which route you choose) from Durango and is a very
large luxury resort. This ski area has a vast amount of terrain and the slopes stay fairly un-crowded all year
round even during peak season holidays. The mountain has about 41% Advanced to
Expert, 36% Intermediate and 23% beginner which gives it a good split for ability
levels to keep everybody happy. When you see a double black diamond on the trail
sign, they mean it! The steeps here are STEEP and the bumps are some of the best
in the nation so if you like to ski moguls Telluride might be right up your ally.
Wolf Creek ski area is about 80 miles East of Durango on highway 160 and boast the most snow in
Colorado. They have about 20% expert, 25% advanced, 35% intermediate and 20%
beginner slopes and usually has the best conditions earlier and later in the season
than many areas in the state. Wolf Creek has some great "drop ins" where you can
hike along some of the higher ridges until you find the bowl or glade area you want ski
and on a powder day, it's epic.
When to Ski
When to ski in Durango Colorado? Snow can
begin to fall in the San Juan Rocky Mountains as
early as October with skiable conditions being
available in November. This of course depends on
Mother Nature and conditions are about as
predictable as.. well… the weather. Most ski areas
are open (more or less) just after thanksgiving and
usually have full coverage by Christmas. The
highest average snowfall for southwest Colorado is
late January through March so planning a trip
during these months gives you the best chance at
getting a good powder day. Look for higher crowds
during holidays like
Years, Presidents Day
and Spring Break so
make reservations well in advance during these time periods. Most ski resorts close
shop in April but skiable conditions remain in the high country sometimes as late as
July. Just depends on how much you want to hike to earn your turns. Look for
chutes and couloirs to ski in the mountains near Molas pass, red mountain pass
and wolf creek pass and be sure to check our link to the avalanche and weather
conditions for the Durango area. Back country is great fun but can be dangerous in
bad conditions or to the inexperienced so use common sense and caution.
Durango has a lot to offer skiers of almost any ability level and lots of fun after the
run things to do. So wax the stix, slap on some sunscreen and Go Outdoors!
On a fun note. Skiing has created its own slang words that have been used in the sport for a long time and
we have listed a few of them here in no particular order.
Stem Christie - Turning where both uphill edges of the skis skid the turn. Sliding the skis outward from your
Parallel turn - Keeping both skis "parallel" to each other and rolling both uphill edges of the skis into the
snow creating an arcing or carving turn.
Power wedge - Also known as: snowplow or pizza. Usually taught to beginners to control speed where
the tips of the skis are brought together and the tails pushed apart forming the shape a V.
Milk Run - Making your first run of the day.
Pow Pow - Also known as powder. Light, fluffy snow that is usually un-tracked.
Mashed Potatoes - Light snow mixed with heavier snow and chunks that is usually tracked up.
Crud - Usually left over mashed potatoes that have some sun glazed ice or other ice debris mixed in.
Corduroy - Snow that has recently been nicely pressed by a snow cat and has long even lines running
down the slope. Also known as a groomer.
Prerelease - This is where your ski binding lets go of your boot usually at an un-wanted time.
Hip Check - Also seen in hockey where you purposefully run into somebody using the hip to knock them off
Straight Line - To ski down a slope very fast without making any turns to slow down.
Hollywood - To ski under or very near a chairlift in full view of its occupants usually on a difficult trail. If you
fall or flail on the way down it becomes nightmare on Elm Street for you but still remains entertaining for the
people on the lift.
Tuck - A skiing position used primarily by downhill racers where the head is lowered (and usually stuck in a
helmet) and the thighs are brought close to the chest to improve aerodynamics. Sometimes performed by
non-downhill racers incorrectly which makes them look goofy.
Poach - To sneak out of the ski area boundary or closed areas in order to get freshies. Usually results in
un-wanted attention from the ski patrol whom do not like you poaching in their territory.
Bono - Hitting a tree while skiing.
Planker - Word used to describe a skier.
Pinhead - Skiing on telemark skis, usually an enthusiast. Skis are also called "pins".
Silverton Mountain resort is located about 48 miles north of Durango in Silverton Colorado and
they also have just one chairlift but what a great lift it is! This area is "no frills and all thrills". If you like
extreme terrain and big mountain runs in plenty of powder this is the place for you. Silverton
Mountain caters only to the advanced, expert and extreme sports enthusiasts and is the highest ski
area in North America so if you like your runs steep and deep check it out!
Ski Hesperus is located about 12 miles west of Durango on highway 160 and is an
outstanding place for beginner to intermediate skiers. They have one chairlift that effectively
covers all the terrain and 80% is lit up for night skiing!
Durango Mountain Resort is about 24 miles North of Durango and has approximately 35%
Advanced, 45% intermediate and 20% beginner trails. They have just about everything a family
visiting may need from lodging, lessons, rentals, transportation, restaurants, and entertainment.
The great thing about Durango mountain resort is that it is so close to town. You can finish tearing
up the slopes and head back into town to enjoy some of the local nightlife!
Places to Ski
There are plenty of ski areas nearby and each has their own unique "ski environment" that will give people
an opportunity to try some different terrain.
In the past, Durango has contributed much to the rich history of the sport of skiing and even after
generations have come and gone, is still leaving its mark today. So long as the winter snows fall, Durango will
welcome the thrill of the hill, the rush of the steeps and the brisk splash of powder across the face. The DuranGo
Outdoors Winter Activities Page provides a brief history of skiing in the Durango area as well as other activities
that visitors might enjoy as well as the Calendar of Events for seasonal or local activities.
"Growing up in Durango I started skiing at a very young age (5 years old)
beginning in the mid 1970's and have had the privilege to see trends and
advancements unfold here. Durango has some of the greatest areas for children to
learn how to ski with some of the best instructors in the nation. I remember
shredding my gloves on the rope tow at the in town ski slope Chapman Hill (Calico
Hill at the time) and getting my first lessons at Ski Hesperus where I cut my first
parallel turn. In grade school our outdoor track
was converted to a Nordic ski trail and my junior
high through high school offered skiing for
physical education! Durango Mountain Resort
(Purgatory at the time) was my all time favorite
hang out every weekend or school break from lift
open to mountain close. We would not even stop
skiing to eat instead elected to munch while riding
on the lift so as not to miss out on any of the
freshies. Most of if not all of my friends skied and
their parents either skied or were involved with the
ski industry here in Durango which re-enforces
how this community loves the sport. We dig it!"
© DuranGO Outdoors