A look at some of the paths less traveled
Like Los Angeles or New York, one of the most common things you will hear folks complain about when it comes to skiing is the traffic that we must endure to get to our beloved slopes. Part of it is the world we are living in, and a consequence of that world is to be in a rush! But let’s face it, when, like in Colorado, most of the ski areas are served by one road, this doesn’t bode well for anyone when things get gummed up. Nothing like a 4–7-hour drive to really test how much you love skiing, not to mention the crowds that might be encountered on the mountain.
With that in mind, we’re going to explore a couple of the scenic byways which you might use to get around some of the traffic, or they might take you somewhere wonderful you’ve never been!
Serving 3 ski resorts (and one cross-country ski area), the Enchanted Circle is in the northwest of New Mexico, which has at its centerpiece the majestic Kachina Peak in Taos. Easily accessible via I-25 from Colorado, you’ll notice immediately that you’re not about to encounter anything resembling the usual ski traffic. In fact, you’ll be surprised when you see another car coming the opposite direction, particularly later at night.
Though Taos gets most of the attention (see a detailed writeup on it here), the area is also home to Red River, Angel Fire, and the Enchanted Forest Cross-Country ski area. Rugged mountains covered in sagebrush are contrasted against scrubby pines, and while the snow can be inconsistent from year to year, fresh NM powder is nothing to scoff at!
Highway 285, Colorado
Ok, so this one may not be as practical if you’re not intent on taking a decent detour, but 285 serves as a nice, scenic alternative to the spaghetti junction that I-70 often resembles on a winter weekend. The highway can serve as a route to the Summit County Ski areas via state highway 9, but it’s also a nice way to get down to some of Colorado’s hidden gems – Monarch, Crested Butte, and Wolf Creek are magnitudes less crowded than the front range, and at Wolf Creek especially your odds are good for a bonanza powder day.
US Route 24, Colorado
I did mention the scenic route earlier, and route 24 belongs on this list strictly for that reason. Traversing the Rockies, the route connects Leadville (home to the quaint and wonderful Ski Cooper) with 285 to the south, and I-70 to the North. The route is an excellent way to see the appropriately named Mount Massive (the picture does not do it justice). Your author recommends passing through in the daytime or on a moonlit night, and having appropriately epic music to accompany the journey.
You may have noticed, dear reader, that most of these routes serve some part of Colorado, or near to it. And some of that is due to the physical conditions that tend to make a good ski resort – see the slot canyons in Utah as an example. With these, there is simply one way in and out, and not always the luxury to take another route. Fortunately, there are resolutions in mind: in the case of Utah, it’s to build a gondola for Little Cottonwood Canyon (serving Alta and Snowbird) to handle the at-times paralyzing traffic. As we all know, more ways out does not equal less traffic, but sometimes it’s nice to have a backup if you’re not in a huge rush and just want to keep moving!