Get Close to Heaven with a Winter Getaway in Southwest Colorado

Often referred to as Million Dollar Highway, the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway (HWY 550) is an epic scenic corridor that runs from Durango to Ouray. Famed for its beautiful summers and falls, winter is just as spectacular. Within a thirty-mile stretch outside of Durango, you will find everything you need for your winter fun from a ski resort that averages 260 inches a year to a world-class hot spring wellness retreat. Find your pocket of heaven with a winter getaway in Southwest Colorado with this travel itinerary that is sure to keep the wintery blues at bay. 

Find Your Freedom to Ski at Purgatory Resort

winter getaway in southwest Colorado, skiing at purgatory

Skier Jessica Hughes taking advantage of no crowds during First Tracks Brunch. Photo by Christian Ridings with Purgatory Resort.

Let’s face it, the slopes in Summit County get more crowded by the minute, not to mention a day there could cost you an arm and a leg, which you really need for skiing. But slopeside at Purgatory Resort you’ll find is “Close to Heaven, and Fun as Hell.” 

A true local’s mountain, Purgatory, or “Purg,” as the locals call it, has fought to keep not only the resort’s name but its independent character as well. While the name “purgatory” signifies death and hell and being caught in a state of limbo, the name may be unpleasant at first, but it’s a sense of pride for nearby residents who fought hard for the namesake’s return after it had been renamed “Durango Mountain Resort.” 

Purgatory Resort offers a unique blend of terrain with steep tree skiing trails, roller coaster slopes and wide-open groomed cruisers, making it a viable playground for all levels. Averaging 260 inches of snow a year, Purgatory is known for its consistent powder that covers 1,600 acres of skiable terrain and 107 trails. Eleven lifts drop you in at some of the best ski terrain in Colorado with a vertical drop of 2,029 feet. 

And the best part? Lift tickets start at just $9! The resort works on a rolling lift ticket price, where on any given day the lift price could be as low as $9.

winter getaway in southwest colorado

Skiers taking a break during brunch at Dante’s for First Tracks Brunch.
Photo by Issac Dean with Purgatory Resort.

One of the best ways to experience the mountain is with their First Tracks Brunch ski package. Reserve your spot and be one of a limited number of people to board Lift 1 at 7:30 am, before the resort opens to the public, and ski a few laps before the mountain opens. Top off skiing in solitude with a mountainside-plated brunch and champagne at the Backside Bistro. Tickets are just $39 + your lift ticket price. Feel like you have the entire mountain to yourself with quiet corners to dip into, make first tracks and enjoy the snow in solitude – how it was meant to be.

Soak at Colorado’s Newest Hot Spring Wellness Retreat

Durango Hot Springs

One of the hot springs pools with a view at Durango Hot Springs. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

If you’re a true Coloradan, then you know the best winter weekend is to follow your ski with a soak, which is easy to do with Durango Hot Springs just 20 minutes up the road. Coming off the heels of a three-year, $14 million renovation, the Durango Hot Springs is now the state’s newest hot spring wellness retreat. With its latest improvements, the resort now features 32 hot springs mineral pools, two cold plunge pools, a resort-style swimming pool, five private cedar Ofuro tubs, a full-service day spa, bathhouses, saunas, dining and drink options, botanic gardens in summer and more. 

The use of the resort’s geothermal mineral waters has been documented back to 1000-1200 A.D. To this day, the mineral-rich geothermal waters remain at the heart of the historic Durango Hot Springs. Unlike any in the world, these unique waters contain over 32 distinct minerals found naturally in the human body, without the sulfur odor associated with hot springs. 

But that’s not all, Durango Hot Springs has introduced the world’s first mineral hot springs that use new technologies to enhance the purity and health benefits of its healing waters. This is done by adding 1 trillion Nanobubbles of medical-grade oxygen to each liter of water. Doing this enhances the water’s ability to oxygenate the body and skin, aiding in skin repair and recovery. When you’re in the waters, take a look at your skin underwater and you’ll see the oxygenated bubbles hard at work. 

Durango Hot Springs

Cedar Ofuro tubs are available by reservation only for your private soak. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

Treat yourself to an entire day of relaxation by booking a massage appointment, sitting in the sauna and reserving a private Ofuro tub. Plus, when you book any spa service, you gain access to the spa facilities – perfect for an elevated experience at the hot springs. 

And only a 20-minute drive from Purgatory Resort, the Durango Hot Springs is the perfect add-on after a long day on the slopes.

Cross Country Skiing at the Durango Nordic Center

winter getaway in southwest Colorado

Views from the Twilight Lake Loop, a beginner trail, at the Durango Nordic Center. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

For those who want a break from the downhill or just want to try something new during your winter getaway in Southwest Colorado, check out cross-country skiing at the Durango Nordic Center. Located directly across from Purgatory Resort, the Durango Nordic Center offers 23km (roughly 14 miles) of trails, groomed daily. No matter your ski style, classic skiing, or skate skiing, you’ll find a trail that fits your skill level. 

Nestled at the base of Engineer Mountain and the Twilight Peaks, the Durango Nordic Center provides you with stunning views, no matter what trail you take. Plus, they also feature 5 km of trails maintained for snowshoeing. 

Rentals are available on-site, making it easy to pick up your skis and go.

Snowmobile through the San Juan Mountains

snowmobiling in the san juans, winter getaway in southwest colorado

Snowmobiling in the San Juan National Forest with Snowmobile Adventures.

If your idea of fun in the snow is not on skis, then hop on a ride through the pristine San Juan National Forest with Snowmobile Adventures. Located on Purgatory Resort property, the snowmobile rental company offers direct access to miles of snowmobile trails.

Sled through 35,000 acres of terrain and 75 miles of trail in the backcountry, just beyond Purgatory resort. The tour begins just steps from the slopes and meanders past the boundary lines and into the San Juan National Forest. From here, you’ll ride through the trees of towering pines, taking turns and popping out for scenic vista views. The tour ends with playtime amongst the vast open meadows behind Purgatory Resort where you can let loose and rip through the snow for one hell of a ride. 

Sleigh Ride in the Snow

sleigh ride in the snow at Bears Ranch

Scenic sleigh rides at Bears Ranch. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

Give your legs and adrenaline a rest and take a relaxing sleigh ride amongst the snowy San Juan Mountains at Bears Ranch. Located just 10 minutes south of Purgatory Resort, Bears Ranch is nestled at the base of the majestic Hermosa cliffs, offering beautiful alpine mountain views amongst a picturesque mountain scene.

Your old-fashioned sleigh ride begins with a cup of hot cocoa inside a rustic warming hut. Then it’s off to the trails, where you’re whisked away by a horse-drawn wooden sleigh, wrapped in a blanket, gliding through the pristine snowy wilderness and around Lake Haviland where you can enjoy the quiet and stillness of winter.  

Where to stay

During your winter getaway to Southwest Colorado, if you plan to ski more than one day, plan to stay at the base of the ski area in the village. You’ll find plenty of ski-in, and ski-out options including the Purgatory Lodge and a variety of home rentals for larger groups at the base of the ski area.

Or if you prefer to stay in town, Durango is a short 30-minute drive to the resort. One of the best historic hotels in Colorado is the Strater Hotel.

Where to Apres and eat

winter getaway in southwest Colorado

The Nugget is an apres ski spot for food and drinks—photo by Jessica Hughes.

Purgatory Resort offers multiple dining options, both on and off the mountain. Down the road, between Purgatory and Durango Hot Springs, the James Ranch Grill is your go-to for farm-to-table dining. Dine in or take it to go, or stop in at their market and stock for the slopes. The hot springs also offer an on-site food truck – the Mountain High Food Truck. 

And if you’re feeling social and looking for a local hot spot to hang out for your apres ski crowd, stop in at The Nugget. Its colorful colors draw you in from the road and keep you hanging around with its friendly vibe.  

Or if you’re staying in town, Durango boasts the “most restaurants per capita,” so you won’t have a hard time finding anything. But a few notable favorites include Ska Brewing, Eolus, 636 Main Ave. and Sage Fresh Eats.

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