By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Splurge: "For lodging, I would go with the Palace Hotel in historic downtown Salida; they recently did a huge remodel, so it has the antique furnishings but with modern amenities," Astor says. For high-end dining, he suggests Laughing Ladies or the Fritz. "Even on the splurge side of things, it's good to know that there's nowhere in Salida you couldn't walk into wearing your outerwear and fit right in. It's a pretty casual town."
Ski bum tips: "Monarch's day passes are some of the cheapest anywhere, so just by coming here you've made a proper ski bum choice," says Astor. "For lodging, try Simple Hostel in downtown Salida, where a bunk can be as low as 25 bucks a night."
Drink locally: "All the runs at Monarch eventually push you back to the Sidewinder Saloon, which in my opinion is the very best ski bar in the country," Astor says. You'll find three Elevation brews on tap at the Sidewinder, including the Little Mo' Porter (named for Monarch) and other local favorites like Señorita Horchata and False Summit. "Basically, our entire economy revolves around recreation, beers, wine and spirits," Astor says. "Here in the Arkansas Valley, we have a crazy-high concentration of breweries and distilleries for how small the population is. So in addition to Elevation, he recommends visits to Deerhammer Distilling in Buena Vista and, in Salida, Wood's High Mountain Distillery, Amicas Microbrewery and the Moonlight Brewpub.
POWDERHORN MOUNTAIN RESORT
"I'm pretty stoked to see Powderhorn getting some new life under new ownership over the past couple of seasons," says Danny Wilson, head brewer at Palisade Brewing Company. "Powderhorn's a fun family mountain in a great mountain community that is definitely worth the trip, but it had been neglected for a long time and is finally getting some much-needed lift improvements and an overall facelift."
The West End and Easy Ryder lifts were both upgraded over the summer, while snowmaking capabilities were increased, and a new restaurant, the West End Grille, is opening on the mountain this season. Opening day is December 12. "Powderhorn is a great mountain for families and kids, but what really makes it stand apart is the gladed skiing and our famous boulder fields, which pile up like pillows after a good storm," Wilson says, noting that Powderhorn has also been thinning out beetle-kill trees on the mountain, making the tree-skiing experience even better. "I'd say Mad Dog's Glade is my favorite run, but really, you'll have some fun on just about any run here."
Splurge: Wilson suggests the Goldenwoods Condominiums and the SlopeSide Ski Club and Hotel for lodging right at the mountain. "A lot of people also love the Wine Country Inn here in Palisade." He also recommends the extensive network of snowmobile and Nordic ski trails on the Grand Mesa, as well as nearby ice fishing and year-round fly-fishing opportunities. "Other than that, I'd mostly recommend drinking: That's what we do around here in the winter, and we do it very well, indeed."
Ski bum tips: "You're not going to pay more than $100 a night anywhere around here, but if you're really looking to save some money, there are several very nice budget motels in Palisade that will get you a bed for half that without looking too hard," Wilson says. "Winter is not the peak tourist season here, so you can find some great bargains, even at some of the nicer bed-and-breakfasts in the area. And we offer a ski bum special — a beer and a bowl of soup for $5 — to anyone who rode Powderhorn that day."
Drink locally: "We share a parking lot with the Peach Street Distillery, Buck Canyon Winery and the Colorado Alternative Health Care marijuana dispensary, so you can do all your stumbling right here, like we do," says Wilson. "Here at the brewery, we're best known for our Dirty Hippie, a dark American wheat beer, and this year we're also canning our Hula Hoppie. Some seasonal beers to watch for include an 11 percent ABV imperial porter coming out in mid-November and an imperial black pilsner coming out in January. We've also started a new barrel program that we've been having some fun with, and should have some nice small-batch beers coming out over the next few months."
PURGATORY AT DURANGO MOUNTAIN RESORT
"Purgatory's a much larger ski area than people from the Front Range might realize, and everybody in Durango skis or snowboards," says Dave Thibodeau, co-founder and president of Ska Brewing, who does a bit of both. "Most of the tourists tend to stay on the front side of the mountain, but on a good snow day, most of the locals will bomb right for the backside of the mountain, over to Lift 8. Once you're back there, you can get some really great tree runs — Paul's Park and Poet's Glade are some of my favorites — or really long, fast cruisers. There are also some new chutes they've opened in the last few years, called McCormick's Maze and Hoodies, and those are really fun."
Get as far west as possible on the backside of the mountain or as far east as possible on the front side, Thibodeau suggests. "The fringes on both sides are where the harder runs are. On the front side, my favorite run is Styx, partly because it's one of the last runs that still has its old name from when all the runs used to be hell-themed. The locals still use the old run names — and we still call it Purgatory, not Durango Mountain Resort — so don't get confused if you hear people talking about 666 and stuff." Purgatory at Durango Mountain opens on November 29.