The Colorado Plateau is located in the Southwest US, where the states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. While many visitors enjoy the rugged beauty of this area during the summer months, it is also an excellent destination for winter activities. With fresh white powder for skiing, frozen mountain trails for hiking, and mineral hot springs for relaxing, the white-capped peaks and old-growth forests offer a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. These small towns provide a perfect weekend getaway to reconnect with nature and experience the peaceful serenity of the mountains in ways that reveal the Colorado Plateau's treasure. The region's winter activities are just as exciting as the summer ones, making it an ideal year-round destination.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Crested Butte is a perfect example of a Colorado ski town located high in the Elk Mountains range on the western side of the Rockies. The town is dominated by the Crested Butte Mountain, which stands tall at 12,162 feet and is surrounded by the Gunnison National Forest. The community is home to the famous Crested Butte Mountain Resort, offering over 121 runs on 1547 acres of skiable terrain and 15 lifts, thrilling skiers of all experience levels. Visitors can also explore the surrounding forest's beautiful hiking trails and winter wildlife views. The Slate River Trail, which passes through a picturesque valley along the Slate River, is a must-visit spot for Nordic skiing enthusiasts. The Gothic Trail, which leads to the abandoned ghost town of Gothic, is also worth exploring. For those who enjoy ice skating, the Big Mine Ice Arena is located in the heart of downtown and is a popular spot for leisurely skating and local ice hockey games. For couples looking for a romantic retreat, try the Ruby of Crested Butte or the Purple Mountain B&B, which offer cozy rooms, chic amenities, and hearty gourmet breakfasts.
Silverton, a former mining town, offers an excellent opportunity to explore the rugged Animas River backcountry without the crowds. During summer, most tourists reach Silverton via the narrow gauge railway from Durango. However, during winter, the train only runs to Cascade Canyon (about halfway up the mountain), and the town can be accessed by Route 550, also known as the "million-dollar highway." Once there, visitors can choose between two primary resorts. The Kendall Recreation Resort is ideal for families with gentle slopes, while Silverton Mountain offers a more challenging, high-alpine experience for advanced skiers and snowboarders. Silverton Mountain has plenty of fresh, unspoiled powder, steep cliffs, and deep chutes that will test even the most seasoned adventurers. However, visitors should check with locals as only guided skiing and snowboarding are allowed at certain times during the season. Several trails, including the Ice Lake Basin Trail, offer a challenging hike through the San Juan National Forest in the winter months. Silverton Mountain is the perfect place to test your skills on steep mountain descents if you're looking for a weekend getaway to push your limits on the slopes. Here, you must rely on your instincts rather than following the crowd.
Taos, New Mexico
Taos is a renowned ski destination in the high desert region of northern New Mexico, surrounded by the Sangre De Cristo mountains. The town boasts adobe-style buildings and a vibrant arts scene. Several museums celebrate the rich history of the ancient Puebloans, among the area's earliest inhabitants. Taos is famous for its pristine mountain wilderness and epic snowfalls during the winter season, making it one of the best skiing spots in the world. With over 72 trails catering to every skill level, you can glide down the bunny slope with the kids or launch yourself off a cliff onto the fresh, unspoiled powder. Although skiing activities take center stage, some tourists prefer to snowmobile to remote areas to enjoy the abundant wildlife and scenic vistas. After a hard day on the slopes, try relaxing in the natural hot springs nearby. The Manby Hot Springs, about twenty minutes northwest of town, is a must-visit. If you plan to stay for the weekend, consider the upscale Blake at Taos Ski Valley or the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa, as both offer excellent accommodations.
Park City, Utah
The Colorado Plateau encompasses much of Utah, including the Wasatch Mountains. Park City is an all-year resort offering abundant outdoor activities on and off the slopes. As a former Winter Olympic site (2002), the town enjoys two prime resort destinations, Deer Valley and the gigantic Park City Resort (the largest in the country). Both resorts offer plenty of modern lifts and gondolas to ferry visitors to every area of the mountains, and many of the runs feature kickers and jibs for freestyling snowboarders and skiers who need to test their skills. There is a ton of fine dining, boutiques, and lodging to be had, but for a special moment, try the Snowed In Sleigh Company for a Western-themed dinner and then bundle up for a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow-covered hills. For couples wanting a romantic escape, The Chateaux Deer Valley is a perfect haven for the rest and reconnection many couples crave.
Greer, Arizona, is located in the White Mountains and has an elevation of 8,600 feet, making it the highest point in the state. The Sunrise Park Resort, owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, consists of three mountain peaks: Sunrise Peak, Apache Peak, and Cyclone Circle. The resort offers various outdoor activities that are perfect for families. Despite being a bit secluded (Phoenix is a four-hour drive away), the facilities are uncrowded, and there are no lift lines like the ones you often encounter at other Plateau resorts. The seven lifts connect 65 trails, including those on the 11,000-foot Apache Peak, with some of the prettiest scenic views you can imagine. There is a skiing school for beginners to learn, intermediate runs for better skiers to try, and even more advanced routes for experienced snowheads to challenge themselves. The resort also offers night skiing and tubing on many slopes, which is fun for families. After spending the day on the slopes, unwind at the Molly Butler Lodge and Restaurant, one of Arizona's top places to eat.
If you are new to skiing or just starting, Breckenridge is an excellent place to learn and practice the art of gliding down the mountain. The region has three base areas that are spread over five mountain peaks. The lower runs are relatively flat, whereas the higher runs are more challenging. Families with children will appreciate the wide, easy runs that offer plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the outdoors without feeling crowded. The Four O'Clock trail is the longest beginning run at 3.5 miles, featuring perfect blue-to-green terrain. The Bliss on Peak 6 or Whales Tail on Peak 8 runs are more complex and offer great views and steep descents. With plenty of access by lift or hiking, Breckenridge has plenty of trails to keep the weekend schedule full. The BlueSky Breckenridge is an upscale, kid-friendly condo that offers excellent amenities. If you visit in early December, enjoy the hilarious Race of the Santas, which involves 700 participants in red costumes running through downtown Breckenridge. In addition, the town comes alive during the holidays with vibrant lighting, creating magical nighttime views you will want to experience.
Dunton Hot Springs is an exclusive and intimate resort in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, approximately 25 miles southwest of Telluride. This restored ghost town provides couples with a secluded haven to relax and recharge. The resort offers old-fashioned log cabins, natural hot springs, and numerous hiking trails for guests to explore. Visitors can embark on an epic snow-cat journey to experience cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. Ride in a horsedrawn sleigh as the guide explains the local wonders. If peaceful solitude is important, there's no better way to spend the afternoon than sipping hot chocolate while snuggling next to a roaring fire at the Dunton River Camp Farm House. The private cabins, which are highly sought after for weddings, tend to fill up quickly, so it's best to reserve your spot as early as possible.
Telluride sits in a box canyon surrounded by towering peaks in the San Juan mountain range. This former mining community is likely the most scenic town in the Colorado Plateau, with views that make you forget about skiing or boarding to reach for your camera. With its nearly 21,000 acres of terrain and some of the best-advanced high-alpine runs anywhere, this area will get your heart pumping as you take one of the many lifts that reach over 11,500 feet. The entire town is a historical district with turn-of-the-century buildings. Many visitors stay at the Camels Gardens, where you can ski in/ski out, as the Oak St lift is next to the hotel. Still, if skiing is your priority, take the free gondola to the quaint Mountain Village, easily accessed by the fr gondola that runs between it and Telluride. The Village offers access to the slopes but has a more modern vibe with high-priced condos and hotels.
Bryce Canyon City, Utah
If you're seeking a tranquil, unique winter experience in Utah's backcountry, Bryce Canyon City and the nearby National Park offer some of the least crowded options. During the summer months, tourists flood the region, but the winter season provides a serenity to refresh the senses. Explore the raw beauty of snow-dusted sandstone pillars or hike through deep-walled canyons laden with ice. Whether backpacking, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing the trails, Bryce Canyon has plenty to offer the outdoor adventurer. As the region sits at elevations up to 9.000 feet, it receives plenty of snow during winter. Therefore, preparing yourself by dressing warmly, wearing waterproof hiking boots, and staying dry is essential. Many visitors stay at the Ruby Inn, just a mile from the Park entrance. The Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Hotel is nearby and offers a nice breakfast for the price.
These Colorado Plateau towns serve as winter wonderlands, with ethereal scenic beauty to enamor all visitors and plenty of activities to offer. Every town also comes with its own unique charm and attractions, making it difficult to choose between them. A longer winter getaway including two or more of these Colorado Plateau towns is thus ideal for those who wish to experience one of the most memorable winters of their lifetime.