New2

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Isn't Hesperus out on 550 outside of Durango? I'm pretty sure I passed it on a drive, but I didn't see any lifts spinning and nobody there.
That's the one!
No, no. Hesperus is on US 160 West of Durango. Coming down from Purgatory, you probably didn't go by it. Ouray City, Silverton, Kendall Mountain, and Chapman Hill are all small areas at least sometimes-operational near the 550. And there are a few tiny long-abandoned ski hills... I'm not sure which one you would have noticed on this drive.
 
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bamaman

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No, no. Hesperus is on US 160 West of Durango. Coming down from Purgatory, you probably didn't go by it. Ouray City, Silverton, Kendall Mountain, and Chapman Hill are all small areas at least sometimes-operational near the 550. And there are a few tiny long-abandoned ski hills... I'm not sure which one you would have noticed on this drive.
That (Hesperus) is the one I'm pretty sure I saw. I just got my roads mixed. I drove down 550 on Saturday into Durango, then went West on US 160 towards Mesa Verde and Cortez. I then drove south out of Cortez down into New Mexico a few miles, then worked my way East in New Mexico and came back up some roads into Durango. This place was on a little side mountain on my left when I was driving towards Cortez.
 
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bamaman

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Red Mountain Pass is famous for eating cars and snowplows. You are lucky you survived that!

From the Durango Herald:
USA Today pronounced the Million Dollar Highway from Durango to Ouray one of the “World’s 12 Most Dangerous Roads,” a distinction Red Mountain Pass shares with the “Highway of Death” in Iraq and the “Death Road” in Bolivia....

Red Mountain Pass, per mile, has the highest avalanche hazard on the North American Continent. The narrow two-lane road winds through the mountains like a drunk crazily stumbling, and there’s no guardrail to protect cars attempting hairpin turns from hurtling into the jagged ravines that lie, stunning and ominous, hundreds of feet below.

Here's a litany of woe from the same article:
In 1985, an avalanche swept two people down a 400-foot embankment. “Miraculously,” the couple survived, though the husband told the Herald that their ensuing hospitalization somewhat marred their vacation.

In 1999, an avalanche buried four people – three highway workers and one motorist – alive beneath 40 feet of snow; they survived through the night, and rescuers retrieved them the next day.

In 1993, Fort Lewis College’s assistant basketball coach George LeSaltz skid off Red Mountain Pass. His Chevrolet pickup full of FLC players tumbled 100 feet down the cliff at a 45-degree angle until a freak snowbank “miraculously” interrupted its fall – sparing the players certain death and the Raiders (the mascot at the time) another setback in what was an already “difficult” season, according to the Herald.

In 2005, a minivan carrying six people careened over Red Mountain Pass, plummeting hundreds of feet down a 60-degree slope. Somehow, everyone survived, and “the miracle” was featured on NBC’s “Today” show. (CDOT’s Shanks said the family later starred in a seat-belt commercial.)

In 2011, Eric Petranek, a Bayfield resident, drove off Red Mountain Pass, escaping his 330-foot plunge and flaming car with only second-degree burns.

But on Red Mountain Pass, miracles aren’t for everyone.

In 1978, Lloyd Barry, a snowplow driver and father of three, retired, saying, “This is my fifth winter. Five winters on Red Mountain Pass are all I’m willing to risk. The way I figure it, after five, the odds of surviving get too short.”

Earlier that year, a snowslide killed Barry’s colleague, Terry Kishbaugh, 28, a husband and father of three.

“It took three months to recover his body. His truck was smashed like a toy,” Barry told the Herald.

Indeed, for decades, the heroism demonstrated by snowplow drivers and highway workers – Red Mountain Pass’ primary casualties – has awed and confused locals. In 1978, Caroni Adams McCallum praised the bravery of the men who maintain Red Mountain Pass in a letter to the Herald: “I am always surprised that the state highway department can even find people to apply for the job of clearing Red Mountain Pass. They take huge personal risk just so we can pass safely.”
I'm glad I read this after I drove it or I probably would have never attempted it. I like driving and nasty weather and bad road conditions don't bother me. But when someone else can come around one of those turns and slide into you and "push you over the edge" down 400 feet....well, that scared the crap out of me. Even though I saw the signs, I was never really concerned about avalanches.

Thanks for the post and interesting history. :thumb:
 

New2

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That (Hesperus) is the one I'm pretty sure I saw. I just got my roads mixed. I drove down 550 on Saturday into Durango, then went West on US 160 towards Mesa Verde and Cortez. I then drove south out of Cortez down into New Mexico a few miles, then worked my way East in New Mexico and came back up some roads into Durango. This place was on a little side mountain on my left when I was driving towards Cortez.
Yep, that was Hesperus. Sounds like a fun little side trip... Shiprock's pretty.
 

SBrown

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I'm glad I read this after I drove it or I probably would have never attempted it. I like driving and nasty weather and bad road conditions don't bother me. But when someone else can come around one of those turns and slide into you and "push you over the edge" down 400 feet....well, that scared the crap out of me. Even though I saw the signs, I was never really concerned about avalanches.

Thanks for the post and interesting history. :thumb:
"In 1993, a year after the third plow driver died at East Riverside, CDOT got serious about managing road-threatening slides and began a collaboration with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) that continues to this day. No one has been killed by an avalanche while driving the pass since, thanks to a mixed strategy involving teams of forecasters nerding out on the snowpack, gates that can lock the road shut when necessary, and explosives."

https://www.outsideonline.com/2158856/keep-your-hands-wheel-and-dont-look-down
 

UGASkiDawg

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Day 9 (Jan 22) - Went to bed the night before thinking the snow was over. Woke up to 6" of fresh light powder on the truck and still snowing heavily. I had already booked at place at Purgatory for the night and I had to do a stupid conference call with some people at 12:00 noon. So, I decided to clean off the truck and leave Ouray going down 550 toward Purgatory. The road was open over Red Mountain Pass, but it was snow/ice covered. That doesn't bother me driving, but this sure did below:

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No shoulder to your right and it drops straight off hundreds of feet. There are a couple places like this.

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Fortunately, traffic was light so I drove on the left hand side of the road up close to the rocks. I also am glad I brought extra underwear. They also have this neat Avalanche Lean To across the road. First time I've ever seen one of those.

View attachment 63584


Continued over Red Mountain Pass and as I neared the bottom, the snow let up and the sun started coming out. After getting by the "drop offs", traveling down Route 550 was just amazing. I was awestruck. Of all my visits in CO to date, this had to be the best scenery and views I've encountered.


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Finally, view out my condo window at Purgatory. Looking forward to ski days coming up.

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The San Juans are stunning and that road scares the crap out of me. The terrain you pass over Red Mountain Pass after you get up pass the drop-offs out of Ouray is jaw dropping gorgeous!
 

RJS

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Wow, I've heard of Red Mountain Pass but didn't realize that it is considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world. I just Googled it, and it sounds like at least two cars have gone off of Red Mountain Pass this winter, resulting in serious injuries and one death.
 
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bamaman

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Day 13 (Jan 26) - Took an off day and drove down past Mesa Verde, thru Cortez, down 160, then onto 491 into New Mexico and on to Shiprock. Took 64 East and then cut over heading back north before I got to Bloomfield (didn't come back north on 550). Just followed my GPS at this point to get back to Durango. Some pictures along the way

Mesa Verde in the distance
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Other pics on the drive

Drive A.JPG

Drive B.JPG
 

tball

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Thanks for the trip reports! I'm also very much enjoying them and looking forward to your Wolf and Monarch days. I'm making some presumptions, of course.

FWIW, I still think of CB as a gem and worth stopping by if you haven't been there. Or, if you haven't heard there are some folks down in Taos you might join for a day or two. Just some ideas. No spoilers with the trip plan, please!
 
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bamaman

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Day 14 - (Jan 27) - Left Purgatory to head to Denver to pick up my sons who were flying in that evening. Decided on Friday to skip Wolf Creek and in hindsight regretted it as I drove right by it and it looked very enticing. Maybe next trip. Drove 160 out of Durango over to Pagosa Springs and stopped for a few minutes. Then headed on over the pass and past Wolf Creek. Some amazing views. Continued on 160 then picked up 285 into Denver. Even though it was 7 hours, it wasn't a hard drive at all and the scenery was magnificent. IMO, if I lived on the front range, I wouldn't hesitate to occasionally head down to this area of CO every now and then for some different skiing. Basically two roads to follow, beautiful scenery, and an easy drive IMO.

Picture of Pagosa Springs hot springs:

Pagosa.JPG

Other pictures on the drive back to Denver:

drive1.JPG

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drive3.JPG

drive4.JPG
 
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bamaman

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Thanks for the trip reports! I'm also very much enjoying them and looking forward to your Wolf and Monarch days. I'm making some presumptions, of course.

FWIW, I still think of CB as a gem and worth stopping by if you haven't been there. Or, if you haven't heard there are some folks down in Taos you might join for a day or two. Just some ideas. No spoilers with the trip plan, please!
Unfortunately, I didn't get to Wolf or Monarch. I wish I would have stayed less time at Purgatory and gotten them in though.
 
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bamaman

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Day 15 - (Jan 28) - Picked up my two boys the night before at the airport and we drove to our condo at Keystone. My youngest son had developed a cold and a fever. But in the morning, he was better and was game to go to Copper. So the three of us headed over and began skiing around noon. The couple of inches of fresh powder was nice and we got some good runs in before closing time. It was pretty windy and temperature was dropping. So, the "bubble" on the American Flyer lift helped out. First time I've ever been in one of those. Made me feel like I should be busting out of it like the scene in "This is Spinal Tap".ogsmile

Anyway, had a nice day with my sons. I had not been to Copper in two years. And although I had a great time at all the other places, there is something special about Copper that still makes it my number 1 pick in Colorado. It has just about everything and the trails and terrain allow you to get long consistent runs. The only thing I was surprised by is the lift ticket price ($149 on liftopia times 3 of us). More now than Breck and Keystone. I guess they have to pay for those two new lifts ogwink.

Picture of my sons in the "bubble". Looks like they are underwater. ogsmile

boys.JPG
 

Jerez

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Great report! Sorry you are skipping Wolf Creek. We are heading there this weekend/week and it looks like big powder coming in...
 
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bamaman

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Great report! Sorry you are skipping Wolf Creek. We are heading there this weekend/week and it looks like big powder coming in...
Me too. On my original plan, I was going to do Wolf Creek. But I seem to forget that I'm 57 years old and still think I'm 20 and can go at the pace I did back then. So, after staying in hotels numerous nights, I found a great deal on ski in/out condo right at the base at Purgatory and ended up staying there for multiple days. Wanted to stay some place where I could cook my own food. So, in doing that, I ran out of time to do Wolf Creek and Monarch, which now I'm bummed about. Next time.

Hope you have a great time this upcoming trip there and you get some good snow. :thumb:
 
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bamaman

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Day 16-17 - (Jan 29-30) - What was supposed to be 2 ski days at Keystone and Breck with my sons ended up being tabled because my one son who came out sick relapsed and gave it to my other son. So, I had two sick boys who weren't up to skiing. :(

Day 18 - (Jan 31) - Dropped the boys off at Denver Airport at 11:30 am and then started my drive home. But first, drove up Loveland Pass and took some pictures.

Abasin

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Top of Continental Divide on Loveland Pass
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Then onward on the drive thru Kansas and the thousands of windmills

windmill.JPEG

Arrived home around 1:00 pm. February 1st. Safe and sound :golfclap:
 
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bamaman

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Summary of Trip - Final Report

I went on this trip for multiple reasons:

1. To ski some new hills in Colorado I had never been to before.
2. To visit parts of Colorado I had never been to before.
3. To reward myself for recent retirement.
4. To get a break from numerous responsibilities, including of taking care of my 96 year old mom.

I accomplished all four and I enjoyed myself immensely and got a good "reset". But this is a ski forum and this thread was primarily about ski hills and parts of Colorado outside Summit County (where I usually go). Hence, why I titled this thread "The Other Colorado".

So, here is my review of the mountains I skied and the places I traveled:

I went to five new mountains in the following order: Ski Cooper, Sunlight Mountain, Powderhorn, Telluride, and Purgatory.

Here's how I would rate them of how I enjoyed them and from the aspect of being from out-of-state. Of course, I'm writing this from an intermediate level skier's opinion and YMMV.

#1 - Sunlight Mountain - There was just something about this place that put a smile on my face. It seemed to have all levels of terrain with great vertical (2000 feet). The lift tickets are cheap. The people were super nice. And there is nobody there. The views are also fantastic on blue-bird days and they groomed numerous runs, but still left plenty of ungroomed trails. It also has a HUGE area for beginners and I wouldn't hesitate to take first-timers there. It is convenient to nearby lodging in Glenwood Springs. But it also has a nice homey and cheap ($80 night) B&B at it's base with a great host. All in all, I just had a great time there and there was really nothing negative to me about the place. Sorry @SBrown that I've let the secret out. ogwink

#2 - Powderhorn - This was a fun skiing mountain to me with great views and cheap lift tickets also. More of a resort type base with condos, hotel lodging, etc. But very small in scope to Summit County resorts. I stayed in a ski-in/out condo at the base for 2 nights for around $350. It's roughly 45-50 minutes from Grand Junction. The only negative I guess I experienced was it being crowded (relative to normal) on the day I went (Saturday of MLK weekend). People were complaining about the 5 minute lift line wait. But on the slopes, the mountain is plenty big enough to spread that out.

#3 - Purgatory - Although I had fun, Purgatory didn't meet up to my expectations. Looking at their trail map, I expected some great intermediate cruising trails. And though they exist, there are places where there are cat walks and flat areas to traverse. It also is a "rolling" mountain in many places. I guess I was expecting more long continuous runs without having to break because of the "benches/cat walks" that came across the trails. Would I go again? Sure. But for a day. Not for 4 days like I ended up staying because I was pre-expecting to enjoy it for multiple days.

#4 - Ski Cooper - Don't get me wrong. I ranked this last, but this is a fun hill. Because I went on a snow day, I couldn't tell you about the "views", but I've been told they are awesome. Cheap lift tickets, empty, and some nice beginner and intermediate runs. It's just not big enough nor does it have enough trails or vertical to justify making it a destination trip. But...that's not what this place is for. If I were a local, I would definitely go there every now and then. Or if I were taking beginners to learn to ski.

I'm excluding Telluride from my rankings because I don't feel like I could give a fair review as I went on a storm day with high-winds and very low visibility. So because of that, I'm not even going to try to rank it with the others as I just didn't get a "feel" for the place.

I started going to Colorado 7+ years ago for the skiing. But the more trips I make, the more I am just in awe of some of the scenery and I almost get just as much enjoyment experiencing that. Because of that, I really enjoyed my non-skiing days just driving around and exploring. I met some great people and saw some beautiful scenery that put a smile on my face....and that many people never get to experience in their lifetime. It's enough to humble a person and made me count my blessings. I ended up driving a little over 2000 miles in the state of Colorado alone (and over 4000 miles total) on my trip. And though I was scared sh**less driving in a snowstorm on Red Mountain Pass, I never had any close calls, breakdowns, or problems. All in all, I'd say it was a successful trip.:thumb:

Thanks to all who read this report and contributed as I learned much (and always do) from many of you who posted. Peace out till next time. :wave:
.
 
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Core2

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You need to go back and hit Wolf Creek then drive up to Monarch and Crested Butte or do the reverse. Also, Hesperus night skiing powder should be a bucket list item. Sorry to say it but you missed some of the best skiing in the area but not going to those but hey now you have a reason to go back?
 

KansasTraverse

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I appreciate and have enjoyed reading your informative thread. I recently returned from a month skibattical of sorts in Utah. The drive home allowed me to make a quick visit to Wolf Creek and Ski Cooper. After a generous helping of powder skiing for a month in Utah Wolf Creek presented a problem I never saw coming, too much snow. The lifties and staff warned me to watch out for flats. On my first drop into a tasty tree run I found myself stuck and had a marathon of a slog to get out. Perhaps I would have done well to hire a guide as it was my first time there? The steeper runs served me well, but even with 3'+ of fresh the moguls could be felt. I am sure Wolf Creek can be much fun on other days, but avvy control had the Alberta area closed and snow had not settled enough for me to obtain optimal float on lower angle with my Rossignol Soul 7's. I am a 46 year old advanced/strong intermediate skier and found myself in over my head figuratively and literally at times. Someday I hope to return to Wolf Creek as the staff and locals were helpful when I sought advice. I am sure I missed out on much terrain. My sentiments with regards to Ski Cooper are the same as your review. Hope my nugget of info helps in your future decision to give Wolf Creek a try.
 
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