Opportunities for winter sports activities abound in and around Ouray. Within walking distance of town, numerous trails provide cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing access, or just hiking, to take in the special charm of our beautiful valley blanketed in snow. A short drive in either direction will open up more challenging winter backcountry terrain along with miles of groomed Nordic track.
Although some south-facing slopes and trails may melt off early, snow conditions for skiing and snowshoeing are generally reliable from early December until well into April. Be aware that the snow in the San Juans is extremely powdery, which makes for heavenly turns downhill but hellish trail breaking and postholing on the way up. Clear, deep blue sky days prevail, but beware that the weather can change rapidly. Dress appropriately in layers of synthetic material (cotton holds moisture and can cause serious hypothermia problems) and don't forget your sunglasses and sunscreen.
Ouray County Nordic Council
The Ouray County Nordic Council is a division of the Ouray Trails Group, a local community-based, non-profit organization composed of skiing and hiking enthusiasts. The organization is dedicated to encouraging safe, enjoyable hiking and other low-impact outdoor recreational activities in the San Juan Mountains and helping to protect the beauty and other resource values of this area. Please visit the Ouray County Nordic Council for more information.
The San Juan Mountains are noted for their often unstable snow conditions which, when combined with their steep slopes, makes for extremely hazardous avalanche areas. Avalanches may occur on any slope steeper than about 25o if loaded with snow, so no terrain can be considered completely risk free. Even small hillocks or roadside grades can pose as much of a hazard to the hiker or skier as the larger, more easily recognized avalanche chutes. Therefore, if venturing off the relatively safe groomed trails, you should learn to recognize and avoid potential avalanche slopes and terrain traps, carry and know how to use avalanche beacons, probes and a shovel, and of course, never ski or snowshoe alone. Before setting off on any outing, check out the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) in Durango for current mountain weather, snow and avalanche conditions in this area.
If you don't have the proper equipment, both cross-country skis and snowshoes can be purchased or rented in Ouray at Ouray Mountain Sports on Main Street. If you wish to call ahead of time, you can contact them at 970.325.4284.
Remember that venturing into the winter backcountry is inherently hazardous and you are traveling at your own risk, even on groomed trails. Prepare yourself accordingly and don't exceed the capability of the least experienced in your party.
Purchase a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Card, available from local merchants for $3 per year, which helps reimburse the local Search And Rescue for rescue costs. Respect private property and historic structures. And, above all, enjoy yourself and our beautiful San Juan Mountains.
Cross-country Ski areas Ouray
Beginner - conditions vary
Ouray Uncompahgre River Park Trail- North Ouray
Ridgway State Park
Beginner to intermediate-Marked & groomed trails
Ironton Park- Hwy 550 South of Ouray
Beginner to intermediate-Unmarked trails
Miller Mesa -Cnty Rd.5, Ridgway
Intermediate to expert-Unmarked trails
Ouray Amphitheatre- Hwy 550 South of Ouray
Uncompahgre, San Miguel, and Gunnison Rivers! Offering 5 different rafting/kayak trips as well as Stand Up Paddle boarding on still and river waters. Also an approved outfitter for motor boat rentals at Ridgway State Park!
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