Pagosa Springs Winter Adventures
By: Kent Jensen
My family loves to vacation and play in Colorado. Recently, our stay in Pagosa Springs stands as a highlight and remains one of our favorites. It’s a must see when you plan a trip to the area. Pagosa Springs – the Great Pagosah – is the Ute word for “healing waters”. It is this area’s namesake and centerpiece. The actual springs are a perfect place to relax after a full day of outdoor adventure. The Springs Resort and Spa (military discount below) felt like a natural wonder and a spa wrapped together. You have the choice of any of 30 different temperature hot pools set between Yellowstone-like rock formations and the San Juan River with stairs leading you right into the 32 degree river water if you want. Even though I’m over 1000 miles away now, the springs still call to me. Check out the Ute history behind the springs and the plethora of healthy minerals that abound. Although many visit just for the springs, it’s just the tip of the metaphoric iceberg of fun available here.
Set in the high desert, framed by rugged mountains, this place has mild summers, four distinct seasons, and as much as 75 feet of powder in a single season – wow. It’s no wonder that Wolf Creek consistently competes for the deepest, freshest powder in Colorado. Despite owning these stats, this resort has not sold its soul to big business. Wolf Creek is locally owned, operated, eco-conscious (100% wind powered) and still has a non-corporate home-town feel. I was carrying my family’s skis (Summit Ski and Sports – 10% military discount) up to the lift and a patroller hurried over and asked to help. We chatted and I asked him for recommendations for myself and my beginner children. He pulled out a trail map, gave it to me with personal insights for what I wanted. I’ve never had anyone at any other ski resort take the initiative like that. Their willingness to accommodate goes beyond just friendly staff. Wolf Creek lodge has a picnic building for brown baggers – such an amenity is becoming rare in the commercialized resorts where you have to buy their $15 hamburger to sit inside the warm lodge while you take a break or eat your brown bag lunch in a snow drift outside. In every way, it’s a community playground every city wishes it had in its own back yard. Wolf Creek may not boast the largest vertical, but you can find terrain for any taste – my favorites included a frolic down “Tranquility’s” natural half pipe and a fun drop into the Waterfall Area to catch some great steeps. It’s an amazing resort with terrain for any skill level to enjoy and yes I can’t help but say it again – arguably the deepest resort powder in Colorado.
Pagosa Springs’ winter experience isn’t limited to Wolf Creek. The locals here don’t just tolerate snow; residents embrace it, weaving it into daily life. Nordic trails abound around the schools and throughout the town; many locals make it their means of commuting. We enjoyed a brisk jaunt around the Turkey Loop under the tutelage of local guide, Giuseppe Margiotta of the Pagosa Nordic Club. It was a couple hours of relaxed gliding before the mountain panoramas, enjoying the music of mountain silence. It became clear to us why most here appeared healthy – who wouldn’t get out and be active every day when literally surrounded by opportunity.
I just mentioned how much I enjoyed the silence of Nordic skiing. Now sometimes I’m a bit of a snob, favoring sports where I move by my own power and enjoy the solitude and quiet of the mountains. That being said, I was surprised about how much fun I had during an afternoon of snowmobile touring with Wanna Ride Snowcountry Adventures ($10 military discount). Buzzing around in circles through the play area, whipping around corners, getting airborne and then having powder fly over the windshield as I sank deep under the surface before popping back onto the top, floating on the powder could not have been more fun. It was a rush, not to mention we were surrounded at all times by amazing scenery.
If I haven’t hit on something appealing yet, don’t worry, Hart’s Rocky Mountain Retreat (10% military discount) can make the wiliest city slicker want to stay. If you’re looking for a family getaway, there is really no better way to enjoy than a cabin in the woods. Three bedrooms, beautiful vaulted ceilings around a roaring open fireplace with picture windows opening on every side to wrap around panoramas of the San Juan Mountains. By far one of the most appealing places I’ve ever stayed – it really hurt to give the key back when we had to leave. No matter what you seek in a winter mountain vacation, you’ll find something in Pagosa Springs.
The great Pagosa Springs, CO,