Why the Western Slope Is Colorado’s Undiscovered Winter and Spring Utopia

From cozy cabins to remote backcountry lodges, there’s no shortage of unique adventure ideas in Colorado’s Western Slope region.
Snowmobile in winter (Photo: Shutterstock)
Photo: Shutterstock

Colorado became one of the most popular family vacation spots in the U.S. during the pandemic, and with winter still in full swing all eyes are once again turned to the Rocky Mountain State. In the Western Slope region—a.k.a. the west side of the Continental Divide—you’ll find popular resort towns like as Aspen, Glenwood Springs, and Telluride all bursting with fresh powder. But don’t think those crowded tourist towns and family resorts are the only spots in the Western Slope with great outdoor adventure options for winter family vacations.

Colorado’s Undiscovered Winter and Spring Utopia

From cozy cabins to remote backcountry lodges, there’s no shortage of unique adventure ideas in Colorado. Here are some of the best things to do a winter or spring getaway in the Western Slope region.

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1. Snowmobiling and Nordic Skiing at Electric Mountain Lodge – Paonia, Colorado

Situated about 9,200 feet above sea level, Paonia gets a ton of snow in the winter and spring. The remote Electric Mountain Lodge is located 19 miles from Paonia (and 77 miles from Aspen) right at the gateway to the massive Grand Mesa National Forest, the largest flattop mountain in the world. Winter and early spring bring incredible opportunities to spot moose, elk, and bear against blankets of snow. 

Getting to the lodge during the snowy season is part of the adventure. The remote location is accessible December through March by helicopter or a nine-mile snowmobile ride. Good thing Electric Mountain handles the transportation—just park your car at the marked gate and the lodge takes care of the rest. Don’t worry about bringing extra water, juice, or snacks, etc., either, because the lodge has a full kitchen and there’s a kids’ menu for picky eaters. The food on the farm-to-table menu is fresh and locally sourced. Plus, there’s live music on the weekends starring local Colorado musicians.

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The main Electric Mountain Lodge building is adjacent to a large game room with pool, darts, an ever-popular massage chair, hot tub, and sauna. There’s plenty of room for cards and board games. For your overnight accommodations, choose from one of the premium rooms with either a king or double beds, walk-in shower, television, WiFi, coffee maker, mini fridge, microwave (plan on bringing popcorn and hot cocoa), and plenty of nooks for all your gear. The five cabins can sleep two to eight people. 

But the real reason to visit Electric Mountain Lodge is its easy access to some of Colorado’s best backcountry terrain for snowmobilers of all skill levels. The lodge arranges all your snowmobile needs and has loads of maps, and you can even hire a guide from the lodge if you’re unsure about going off on your own. Electric Mountain grooms miles of trails that lead to fields of fresh powder. The lodge also has access to 200 miles of groomed trails for snowshoeing and Nordic skiing, plus a tubing hill with inner tubes for use on site. 

Dogsledding is one of the many unique adventures offered by The Gant (Photo: The Gant)
Dogsledding is one of the many unique adventures offered in Colorado’s Western Slope region (Photo: The Gant)

2. Half-Day Guided Snowmobile Trips with Altitude Outdoor Adventures – Cedaredge, Colorado

Located in another part of the Grand Mesa, Altitude Outdoor Adventures runs four-hour guided snowmobile tours through the stunning wilderness from December through April. This is a perfect day trip for novices just starting out and experts who don’t have the time or budget for a longer Colorado winter getaway. Pair the adventure with ice fishing for trout that you can happily cook up for dinner. 

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3. ATV and Jeep Escapades – Grand Junction, Colorado

The best part of Grand Junction is its high alpine desert, where there isn’t much need for snow to enjoy winter activities. The sun on the Western Slope is strong and winter days can easily climb into the high 50s and lower 60s Fahrenheit. 

Choose a two or three-night stay and make your base camp the new Hotel Maverick on the campus of Colorado Mesa University. The hotel has king bunk rooms—great for families—and loads of amenities, including an outdoor pool, hot tub, bicycles for rent, a neighboring skate and bike park, disc golf, and hiking and walking trails right from the lobby door. It’s also a pet-friendly hotel and has a café on the main level.

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And while Grand Junction always welcomes snow, there’s no precipitation needed for some of the most intense ATV, Jeep, and off-roading adventures in this part of Colorado. Located on the main highway through town, Adrenaline Driven Adventures is one of the most comprehensive off-road outfits in the region with the largest breadth of access to state forest areas. From steep canyons and rolling sand dunes to views of wild horse and elk herds, going with Adrenaline Driven Adventures makes for a thrilling day for all ages.

Choose from guided or self-guided off-road tours with about a dozen different kinds of vehicles, including Jeeps and dirt bikes. There’s endless adventure without any of the worries that come with 100-degree summer days. 

4. Outrageous Off-Slope Adventures at The Gant – Aspen, Colorado

The lower outdoor heated pool at The Gant (Photo: The Gant)
The lower outdoor heated pool at The Gant (Photo: The Gant)

In Aspen, The Gant has long been a family-favorite because of its spectacular location and residential-style accommodations featuring full kitchens, dining rooms, cozy wood-burning fireplaces, and private balconies, along with premier resort amenities. The Gant has a collection of 140 privately owned, professionally designed luxury condominiums with individual entrances, legendary “Gant Vans” and attentive, engaging local concierges. 

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For incredible off-slope adventures, The Gant partners with NOMAD, Inc. to offer thrilling, out-of-the-box outings like Rocky Mountain flightseeing, dog sled tours, and heli-snowmobiling. For example, a day with NOMAD could include a snowcat excursion where guests take a 20-minute scenic helicopter flight to Crested Butte for a snowcat ride into the wilderness—a memorable opportunity to experience extraordinary terrain followed by lunch and après in a luxurious cat barn.

The Gant also coordinates private guided snowshoe tours through Ashcroft Ghost Town with Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. You could also go ice-karting on a frozen lake in the Roaring Fork Valley. The adventure options are virtually endless.

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Julie Bielenberg
Julie Bielenberg is an award-winning journalist and photographer based in Colorado. She is a national leader in agritourism and publishes more than 50 editorial assignments annually for over a dozen outlets.