Southern and Western Colorado

Wolf Creek is the only lift-serviced area in this region that averages over 300 inches of snow per season, and elsewhere individual storm totals over one foot are infrequent. However, high altitude and predominantly north-facing exposures contribute to excellent snow quality and preservation, and skier density is low compared to the areas closer to Denver. Skiers interested in the steepest terrain should wait until February for sufficient coverage and March for the highest average snowfall; March is the safest bet because the area is vulnerable to drought. Taos is listed here but is just far enough away to have a somewhat independent weather pattern.

There are two tables below: The first contains all the statistics while the second contains summary information plus comments and analysis.
The color-coded areas link to my detailed Resort Guides published in First Tracks Online.


Explanation of Column Headings
Home Page and Other Regions

SOUTHERN and Lift Serviced   Season Dec.-Mar. Percent Percent Average        
WESTERN Altitude Season Standard 6+ Inch High Mths Low Mths Maximum Direction of Exposure
COLORADO Range Average Deviation Powder Days GE 90 in. LT 30 in. Base Depth North East West South
                       
Aspen Mtn, Colo. 11,190 7,945-11,212 253 51 9.7% 3% 21% 69 50% 27% 23% 0%
Aspen Highlands, Colo. 11,100 8,000-11,800 252 58 9.8% 4% 30% 75 57% 33% 10% 0%
Crested Butte, Colo. 10,150 9,100-11,875 255 71 9.8% 6% 38% 66 45% 10% 45% 0%
Gothic, Colo. 9,400 N/A 361 95 14.2% 22% 19% 79 N/A
Monarch, Colo. 10,790-11,950 286 65 11.1% 5% 22% 75 35% 55% 5% 5%
Purgatory, Colo. 10,000 8,793-10,822 268 70 10.2% 7% 30% 83 65% 20% 15% 0%
Red Mt. Pass (Silverton), Colo. 11,090 N/A 300 63 11.7% 8% 16% 90 N/A
Sunlight, Colo. 7,885-9,895 235 55 9.5% 3% 35% 67 60% 15% 25% 0%
Snowmass, Colo. 11,000 8,220-11,835 295 60 10.8% 5% 19% N/A 60% 25% 13% 2%
Telluride, Colo. 11,170 8,725-12,570 280 58 10.9% 5% 23% 77 50% 10% 33% 7%
Wolf Creek, Colo. 10,642 10,350-11,775 392 101 15.1% 27% 18% 132 65% 35% 0% 0%
Taos, N. Mex. 11,200 9,207-12,481 258 72 9.7% 5% 31% 96 65% 20% 15% 0%

SOUTHERN and Lift Serviced      
WESTERN Altitude Season Weather Restrictions, Powder Potential  
COLORADO Range Average and Other Considerations Best Time to Ski
         
Aspen Mtn, Colo. 11,190 7,945-11,212 253 Very well protected. Fierce local competition for infrequent deep powder. February/March for maximum coverage. March best snow month
Aspen Highlands, Colo. 11,100 8,000-11,800 253 Mostly well protected. Still maintains lower skier density than Aspen Mt. despite new expert terrain, high speed lifts and extensive tree skiing. As above
Crested Butte, Colo. 10,150 9,100-11,875 255 Well protected except peak T-bar runs. Outer Limits and Teocalli bowl best bets for powder. February/March. Extreme terrain usually limited before February.
Gothic, Colo. 9,400 N/A 361 Popular backcountry area and with good reason: Location windward of Crested Butte gets 100 inches more snow per year average. Similar to Crested Butte, but more consistent and greater snowfall.
Monarch, Colo. 10,790-11,950 286 Located on Monarch Pass, a popular backcountry spot. Good snow conditions because of extreme elevation. Sweet upper glades protected in storms. February/March.
Purgatory, Colo. 10,000 8,793-10,822 268 Well protected, but limited glade and no open bowl terrain. February/March.
Red Mt. Pass (Silverton), Colo. 11,090 10,400-12,300 300 Very high highway pass, gets abundant light, dry, avalanche prone San Juan Mountains snow. Nearby backcountry-oriented Silverton ski area gets about 10% more snow. Guides required midseason but unguided permitted in spring with avalanche gear. February to April.
Sunlight, Colo. 7,885-9,895 235 Reasonably well protected February/March.
Snowmass, Colo. 11,000 8,220-11,835 295 Well protected except Hanging Valley and Big Burn. The hiking required to reach Hanging Valley and Cirque allows powder to last longer than other Aspen areas, but challenging terrain is less accessible. Same as Aspen. Hanging Valley and Cirque may not be reliable before February.
Telluride, Colo. 11,170 8,725-12,570 280 Well protected. Significant additions to high alpine terrain over the past decade. Good steeps, prime skiing areas during frequent late season dumps. March for maximum coverage, preservation, highest average snowfall.
Wolf Creek, Colo. 10,642 10,350-11,775 392 Powder haven due to highest snowfall in Colorado and remote location. Snow magnet to storms from south and west but blocked out from northern storms, explaining high but volatile snowfall. Anytime except early season drought. March highest snowfall
Taos, N. Mex. 11,200 9,207-12,481 258 Very well protected. Recent Kachina Peak expansion above tree line. Needs six+ foot base on some expert runs. Rivals Snowbird, Mammoth and A-Basin in altitude, steepness and north exposures for snow preservation March for maximum coverage, excellent preservation

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