San Juan Mountains, United States
When to go
It’s said that skiers who fall in love with Colorado in the winter will really fall in love with it in summer, when the technicolour wildflowers bloom, melted mountain snow floods into the rivers and sunny blue skies are all around. Spring is known as the ‘mud season’ due to the melting taking place on the mountains.
PlanesThe region’s main air hubs are Durango, Cortez, Telluride and Montrose, but don’t expect international flights to reach here – get to Denver instead and pick up a connection with United Airlines (www.united.com). Other airlines serving the area are Great Lakes Aviation (www.flygreatlakes.com) and Frontier Airlines (www.frontierairlines.com).
AutomobilesThis patch of the Wild West stretches far and wide, so it’s best to pick up your own wagon at the airport; there are rental desks at both Durango and Cortez airports. In winter, make sure you request snow chains and four-wheel drive.
TaxisTaxis aren’t really an option around here – the distances are too big for a meter to master. Hire cars are best.
Adrenaline-seekers can get their fill with the one-day heli-ski excursions around the Telluride basin at 10,000 to 14,000 feet – some of the highest elevations in North America. Professional ski guide service including state of-the-art powder skis or snowboard, poles, an avalanche transceiver and safety orientation is provided. You’ll be packed off with a gourmet lunch and snacks from Dunton Hot Springs’ kitchen, and be picked up and returned directly from town by helicopter.
And skiers of all levels can take to the slopes with two days ski passes, ski rental and transfers for world-class downhill skiing in Telluride (a 90-minute drive from the resort). This legendary mountain – with over 2,000 skiable acres, 127 trails and 18 lifts – is known for its crowd-free, wide open runs.
At a lower elevation (but no less exciting), embark on a full-day guided snowmobiling adventure (including a warm picnic lunch) to the snow-blanketed alpine meadows inaccessible by car during the winter. Tours vary from groomed trail rides to aggressive back country trips, and knowledgeable guides educate guests about the area’s history and natural wonders.
No matter what adventures your stay has in store, relax with a 75-minute signature couples body-scrub treatment and massage in the secluded bath house.
With its old village dance hall, bath house and saloon, former mining town retreat Dunton Hot Springs seems to come straight from the set of a Golden Age Western. Make your home on the range for five nights in the Well House cabin – the most requested accommodation at Dunton Hot Springs. Built around its own hot spring, it has a cosy wood-burning stove, a raft of a king-size bed and a bathroom with shower. Revive après-ski with a dip in the private plunge pool inside or soak up the clear mountain views from the spacious deck outside.
As for the dining as part of your stay, recently named #4 Best Hotel for Food Lovers by Bon Appetit magazine, and, with an in-house merlot (Sutcliffe Vineyards), this is some fine campfire fare. The menus change daily based on guest preferences, and all food is sourced locally, regionally and organic whenever possible for the extravagant family-style meals served in the saloon.