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Snow Sports - Beyond the Lift Line

Fat biking to a San Juan Hut

Visitors can enjoy Ridgway’s small-town hospitality, while accessing world-class skiing and snowboarding at the nearby resorts in Telluride, Silverton, and Durango. For solitude and pristine powder, nothing beats the backcountry slopes and meadows of the San Juan Mountains around Ridgway. Alpine skiing and snowboarding as well as Nordic (cross-country) skiing, snowshoeing, and other snow sports are available throughout the winter plus for a few weeks before the resort lifts open and after they close.

Winter is a great time for adaptive sports, and our area is a popular home and destination for athletes with limited sight, hearing, and mobility seeking outdoor recreation. As a hub of established adaptive sports programs, several sports are available to youth, veterans, and family members with various athletic abilities.

World-Class Ice Climbing

Jim Donini, former president of the American Alpine Club, calls the Ouray Ice Park “the best venue in the world to develop ice-climbing skills,” and it’s easy to see why. The Ice Park is home to more than 200 ice and mixed climbs, most within a 15 to 30 minute walk from downtown Ouray.

There are many opportunities to pick up the sport; Peak Mountain Guides offers instructional courses and private climbing. You might also attend one of the many seasonal clinics that have something for every group from beginner to expert, kid to adult, able-bodied to amputee.

The Ice Park is an engineering marvel, utilizing a gravity-fed plumbing system that routes more than 150,000 gallons of water a night to “farm” and maintain the famous blue ice. The park has been supported by memberships and the city of Ouray; more information is available on their website.

The man-made ice climbing venue is operated in a spectacular natural gorge in Ouray, just 10 miles south of Ridgway. Each winter, the park hosts the Ouray Ice Festival to celebrate the Park and raise funds for its operation. Despite the high cost of maintenance, the park has been free and open for public use. In nearly 20 years of operation, it has become one of the premier ice climbing venues in the world.

The range’s steep relief and deep gorges provide a superb venue for climbing. Roads carved into the sides of mountains throughout Ouray’s rich mining history provide stunning access to that terrain today. Classic ice climbs, such as Bird Brain Boulevard, Stairway to Heaven, and the Ames Ice Hose, along with natural waterfalls such as Bridal Veil Falls and extensive alpine terrain, make the San Juans a hub for world-class climbing.

Know Before You Go: Local outfitters rent winter equipment such as alpine touring skis, fat bikes and snowshoes. In the backcountry, safety gear is a must, including helmets, avalanche transceivers, shovels, and probes. Outfitters also offer avalanche safety courses and guided excursions.

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How to Enjoy Ridgway Like a Local

Residents and businesses take great pride in our community and surrounding open spaces. We invite visitors to consider ways to minimize impacts and maximize local benefits. Traveling responsibly means educating yourself on outdoor recreation best practices, local ethics and community expectations.
  • Know Before You Go
    Be prepared and be informed about your destination.
  • Stick to the Trails
    Protect our natural land￾scapes by staying on the trails and roads.
  • Trash the Trash
    If you pack it in, pack it out.
  • Leave It as You Find It
    Camp in designated areas only.
  • Be Careful with Fire
    Follow seasonal restrictions, and keep campfires small and manageable.
  • Keep Wildlife Wild
    Leash your dogs, pack out waste, and don’t feed wildlife.
  • Share Our Parks & Trails
    Try out the lesser-known paths and sites, and minimize noise.

Be Prepared for Adventure

The San Juan Mountains are a rugged, steep mountain range rising to just over 14,000 feet. These beautiful public lands offer adventures year round. If you are interested in exploring the San Juans, be prepared for challenging terrain that sometimes requires technical expertise and knowledge of the area.

Come prepared by doing research online to find maps, rules and helpful guidance from public agencies and user-generated websites. Utilize local expertise when you get into town by stopping in at our local gear stores. We highly recommend working with our local guide services that employ experts who can help you achieve your goals for world-class recreation. You can also take a course in: backcountry skiing, avalanche safety, rock climbing, ice climbing, and other valuable outdoor skills.