Powderhorn, CO: 01/19/20

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Powderhorn, CO: 01/19/20

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Jan 20, 2020 5:31 am

After yesterday at Sunlight, I drove an hour to Grand Junction's hometown hill, Powderhorn. For those who haven't been to that part of Colorado, as you head west on I-70 from Glenwood Springs, the landscape quickly transforms into a high desert similar to southern Utah or New Mexico. Here are shots from the last 20 minutes of the drive to Powderhorn:
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I don't have much to add to what Tony covered in his 2013 TR other than to say that I had a great day. While Powderhorn's vertical drop of 1,650 feet isn't overwhelming on paper, it seemed to ski larger than that and there are many acres inside that map, allegedly 1,600/although that sounds high. In addition to all the rolling blue squares, there was more challenging terrain than I'd expected, especially if you like trees. Two lifts serve the entire ski area; the one on the looker's left is a HSQ that was installed three years ago; the one on the right is a really slow double. People were really happy to have the new lift as previously you were looking at 15-minute rides on both sides of the mountain.
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The most unique part of the Powderhorn experience is that it's literally where the desert meets the mountain, on the edge of what's reportedly the world's largest flat-topped mountain, the Grand Mesa. Visually, it reminded me a lot of skiing at Pajarito near Los Alamos, NM. My pix don't convey the breathtaking vista but here's what I have:
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It was a busy day there -- full parking lots and locals said it was at 100% capacity; however, as a single I skied onto virtually every chair and I'd often have to wait several minutes for someone to ski by me on trails to use as a photo subject. Powderhorn didn't get quite as much snow as what I skied the previous day at Sunlight; however, conditions were good on-piste with only a few scratchy spots in high-traffic areas. Offpiste it was quite nice.

Looking toward the West End sector:
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Aspen groves all over the mountain that were fun to hop into:
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A dumping ground for boulders becomes a quasi terrain park -- reminded me of Corvatsch at St. Moritz:
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I ended the day with a Shock Top and watched the end of the Chiefs/Titans game:
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Re: Powderhorn, CO: 01/19/20

Postby EMSC » Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:29 am

That's pretty much what I figured was stop #2. Spectacular scenery over there for sure.

While I've never skied Powderhorn, I've definitely been in the area at other times of year:
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Re: Powderhorn, CO: 01/19/20

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Jan 20, 2020 3:11 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:It was a busy day there -- full parking lots and locals said it was at 100% capacity

Powderhorn is the local hill for Grand Junction, sort of like Bridger Bowl for Bozeman and Montana Snowbowl for Missoula, similar sized towns. That means they can be busy on weekends.

Sunlight by contrast is a dead zone. The local population base is tiny and 99% of those passing through are on their way to/from Aspen. Plus for a big ski complex, Aspen has minimal crowd issues itself.
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Re: Powderhorn, CO: 01/19/20

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Jan 20, 2020 3:57 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:Sunlight by contrast is a dead zone. The local population base is tiny and 99% of those passing through are on their way to/from Aspen.

The day I was at Sunlight; they were likewise at 100% capacity in the parking lot and at the base lodge; however, on the hill it was very quiet.
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Re: Powderhorn, CO: 01/19/20

Postby Sbooker » Mon Jan 20, 2020 4:18 pm

Nice reports. These lesser know ski areas look to be a great experience.
I assume these areas are most reliable for decent conditions mid season? For us that have to work around holiday times like Christmas and Easter they're not a reliable enough?
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Re: Powderhorn, CO: 01/19/20

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:55 am

Liz and I skied them on Dec. 30-31, 2013. But we made our decision on Dec. 22 to hit the road for Colorado based upon snow that had fallen by then. Sunlight gets a little bit less snow than Aspen and I'd guess Powderhorn less than Sunlight. And yes since both areas top out around 10,000 they are not going to be as good in spring as the numerous Colorado areas that go well over 11,000.

James has so far optimized his Colorado weekends. In December he hit the bullseye of a big dump at Monarch when most of the Front Range was still low tide. And this past weekend was the MLK holiday, so best to avoid the high profile places.

James has been a bit of a road warrior for these trips but it will get easier in spring when Loveland and A-Basin at 12,000+ are in their prime. He can daytrip those from Denver.

jamesdeluxe wrote:The day I was at Sunlight; they were likewise at 100% capacity in the parking lot and at the base lodge; however, on the hill it was very quiet.

I don't remember the precise details. Skier density was definitely lower at Sunlight, but it was a cloudy day with some fog and snow flurries while it was sunny at Powderhorn. So no surprise the small lodge at Sunlight was packed. I have a vague impression Powderhorn's parking lot was bigger than Sunlight's. I'm sure James knows whether that's correct or not.
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Re: Powderhorn, CO: 01/19/20

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Jan 21, 2020 6:46 am

Tony Crocker wrote:There's no question Sunlight belongs on the list of "best uncrowded areas." I'm guessing it's a notch ahead of Powderhorn in terms of both terrain quality and lack of crowds.

I was pleasantly surprised by Powderhorn's terrain and wouldn't rank it behind Sunlight. In any event, they've both been added to my list of preferred western locals/off-the-beaten-path areas, along with Snow King, 49 Degrees North, Santa Fe, Pajarito, Sundance, Loveland, Norquay, and Monarch. I obviously still have many more such places to ski in coming years.
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Re: Powderhorn, CO: 01/19/20

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Jan 21, 2020 2:01 pm

I have slightly higher standards for terrain quantity/quality, lack of crowds and/or abundant snow than James. :stir:

My list: Castle Mt., Apex, Red Mt., Silver Mt., Brundage, Lost Trail, Discovery, Grand Targhee, Powder Mt., Sunlight, Wolf Creek. Solitude has been removed from this list due to the impact of the Ikon Pass. For many of the others I have seen annual skier visit numbers that validate the impression of very low skier density. Sundance was on the list until I found out how low the skier visits were for Silver and Targhee, which are larger areas with far more snow. I can see putting Sundance back on to replace Solitude.

I was told by a Colorado local when this topic was under discussion on the Epic Forum that Monarch can be busy but that Sunlight is almost never busy. Wolf Creek is an odd case. It's a zoo during Christmas and Texas spring break but very quiet the rest of the season.

Santa Fe and Loveland fall into a similar category as Bridger/Montana Snowbowl and Powderhorn as being local weekend spots for a moderate sized population base. In the case of the two Montana areas there is not enough lift capacity to handle the weekends without noticeable lift lines. Santa Fe was definitely hopping that Saturday we were there last March.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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