Press Release: Just as the San Juan range is a hidden gem in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, so is the San Juan Ski Company, an ‘undiscovered’ snowcat skiing operation that bases out of Durango Mountain Resort in the southwest San Juans.
While most of the ski industry hype lauds resorts along or near the I-70 corridor, Colorado’s largest snowcat company, like the rugged and remote peaks of its namesake, is often overlooked by skiers and snowboarders visiting the state and Front Range recreationalists.
But it hasn’t remained a secret because it is small.
With almost 60 square miles of terrain, the San Juan Ski Co. has more permitted real estate than all Colorado ski resorts combined, is the second largest catski operator in the U.S., and rivals the third biggest catskiing outfit in North America by just a few hundred acres.
And it’s not a secret because it has lame or tame terrain.
The catskiing company has thousands of acres of kick-ass tree skiing and snowcat roads that lead to 12,500-foot peaks where short hikes access chutes and gnarly descents into alpine bowls. This year, the San Juan Ski Co. has opened its gates to “gnarvana,” and will guide steep clinic guests down never-before skied lines.
Also new for the 2012 season, the snowcat operation is offering guided backcountry tours (with snowmobile and skinning access) into some of the best high-alpine and tree skiing in the southwest. This area was once permitted for heliskiing and cannot be accessed by SJSC snowcats.
Nor has it remained a secret because it doesn’t have snow.
With annual snowfall of around 300 inches and a permitted area that encompasses over 36,000 acres, it is almost impossible for the snowcat operation to run out of powder; even if it hasn’t snowed for weeks. In fact, the San Juan Ski Co. guarantees clients untracked powder lines.
The snowcat operation has stayed under the media and public radar due, in part, to its location.
Fact is, the snowcat operation is difficult to get to. The nearest interstate is over 100 miles away. As a crow flies, Telluride is less than 20 miles away, but drive time from the resort town to the San Juan Ski Co. is at least two hours and entails motoring over a couple of mountain passes.
Also, Durango Mountain Resort, where the snowcat operation is based, isn’t a destination resort – yet. Although its recent expansion has opened several hundred acres of challenging tree terrain, the majority of its visitors are families from Southern states on their first-ever ski vacation.
However, it’s just a matter of time before the secret is out.
Every year, more and more powder-seeking adventure skiers and snowboarders are visiting the southwest San Juans; lured by snowcat and heli skiing, the steeps at Silverton Mountain, and backcountry skiing off highway 550 that bisects the mountain range and climbs over three major passes. And last month, Outside Magazine named Durango one of the best places to live.
In the meantime, skiers and snowboarders still have a chance to discover this secret powder stash at one of the lowest snowcat skiing rates in the nation. Full-day snowcat trips start at $250. Guided backcountry tours start at $225.