Every year we set goals for ourselves, resolutions, changes, accomplishments that we want to achieve. I’m the father of a 7-year-old little girl, and I want to expose her to the world, and as much of what it contains. This year, I decided to embark on a mission to show my daughter all 50 United States. I haven’t seen them all, so it works out for me, too! So far, for her age, she’s seen a lot, but we still need to work on her actively engaging. Something more than absorbing museums. So, we booked a trip to Powderhorn Mountain for a family ski vacation.
Why Powderhorn Mountain?
Being Dallas-based, we don’t get much snow ‘round these parts, and my daughter has likely never seen an entire foot of powder before. Therefore, I’d been scoping out some snowy parts of the country to begin our mission. My wife noticed that we could cash in some points on a little out of the way place named Grand Junction, CO for a weekend jaunt, and we decided to see what we could do there. Colorado? January? Snow must abound!
After we booked the trip, my wife found a ski resort named Powderhorn, and saw that it offered incredibly affordable rates for snow tubing – $12 for 90 minutes for a kid – so we knew we found at least one great activity that involved snow. However, when we called to make reservations, Powderhorn informed us that due to low levels of snowfall, tubing wasn’t available. Indeed, all activities were being curtailed, and both hours and days open were shortened.
Powderhorn Mountain Lift Tickets and Lessons
Powderhorn Mountain was doing a pretty great special – $69 for two hours of lessons, rentals, and our lift ticket for the day. We jumped at it and made reservations.
Click here for a complete list of Powderhorn Mountain lift ticket prices. Lift tickets start at $71 per adult and $35 for children 7 to 12. Younger children, senior citizens, and military also qualify for discounts. Multi-day tickets are available with discounts on the 3- and 4-day passes. Powderhorn Mountain also offers discounted half-day passes and “EZ Rider” tickets for those who just want to use the beginner lifts.
What’s really cool is they also offer a 10-pack of tickets called the Powderhorn Mountain DECA Pack for only $199. You can use them for 50% off adult or children lift tickets. And they can be used for a group on a single day, or you can redeem them over the course of the rest of the season. This is a great way to get a season pass without the larger financial commitment.
Group Lessons at Powderhorn Mountain are available starting at $69 for two hours of instruction or 4 hours for $99. I was able to get my special deal by calling and speaking with the resort.
As much as we all love to book online, sometimes human interaction yields the best results.
Editor’s note from Lee: Before I buy lift tickets, I always check with Liftopia to see what deals they offer. Sometimes you can buy lift tickets for up to 80% off!
50th Anniversary of Powderhorn Mountain
Doing a little bit of background, I found that last year was the 50th anniversary of Powderhorn opening, and it had been purchased by skiing aficionados, as opposed to previous ownership groups that had been more real-estate focused.
This translated itself two ways – over the last couple of years, they’ve invested over $500mm in capital funds to improve the lifts, to double the capacity for snowmaking, and to add functionality to the resort. They’ve added the feature of downhill bike trails, making it a year-round resort.
I didn’t see the insides of any of them, but next to the resort, they have several condos and townhouses for rent. From what I understand, they’re managed by a combination of realty companies, and the resort itself.
The other way ownership translated into our experience was the customer service we received. We’d called ahead and spoke with the marketing director, Ryan, as I wanted permission to be able to write about our experience. His enthusiasm for Powderhorn could have possibly been chalked up to his role, but I found it echoed with every single person I interacted with that day.
From the person working the ski school desk to the gentleman that helped us with our rentals, to Scotty, the bartender. Customer service was superb, attitudes were complete smiles, friendliness, and everyone seemed to have a passion for where they worked.
I find that even if you like your field, without the right leadership in place, you don’t develop that kind of culture.
Experience With Lessons As First Time Skiers
Neither my wife nor my daughter has ever been skiing, and I’d only been 1.5 times (injury out of the gate on the second excursion), and not since 1989 or so. When we spoke to Alaina at the Ski School desk, she made sure we were placed with the appropriate instructors. When we went to get our rental equipment, the guys working that area were warm, friendly, and most important, very patient with us as we tried to figure out how to size our boots and skis. Considering our inexperience, the whole process could have been very intimidating, but they took great care of us.
After we were outfitted, my daughter joined a class with a bunch of other kids and quickly made friends, her favorite thing in the world to do. My wife and I were paired up with a gentleman named Rick Rodd, and a woman shadowing him, Keelin. The rest of the grown-ups in our party no-showed, so Rick and Keelin gave us close and careful attention. I think my wife described it best – Rick was like learning how to ski from your father, but without the baggage of having to learn how to ski from your father.
After some basics, Rick gave Keelin some areas where he wanted her to work with me, while he dedicated his attention to Alicia. Something about Alicia and Sophia – they’re both perfectionists. They hate making mistakes. It’s very stressful for them to not know how to be impeccable about anything they do. I was worried that falling, or not doing well would cause them to have a bad day.
I had nothing to worry about.
Rick’s teaching style worked very well for Alicia, and she picked it up well. I had been having a very good day at picking it up, so I’d managed to be a little ahead of Alicia, and we eventually hit the slopes.
Keelin said I’m naturally athletic, and who am I to argue with a professional?
As part of that, I spent time with Keelin on the lifts, and on the slopes away from Rick and Alicia, and I was able to ask questions about why she chose this job. She learned how to ski at Powderhorn, and the best part about it for her was helping to build a skilled foundation for people, and watching them develop the same love for the activity that she had.
Time to Eat at Powderhorn Mountain
When we broke for lunch, we got to see the inside of the lodge and refuel. We gathered up Sophia, my daughter, and went to see what they offered. The lunchroom and bar are in the same large area.
If you’re expecting fancy, you’re not going to find it.
It’s more like buffet tables and folding chairs. The food area has a flattop and some fryers, and the menu is your typical American fare of burgers, chicken tenders and fries. We weren’t expecting much. However, they also had a specials board, and I tried the cheesesteak and Sriracha wontons. We were very impressed with what they were able to do with what they had. I very much enjoyed our lunch. The bar area had live music going on, and a wonderful view of the Grand Mesa.
More Skiing Lessons at Powderhorn Mountain
After lunch, we rejoined our instructors and took advantage of the slow day at the resort to engage them in more lessons. Eventually, Alicia broke for the day, and Sophia and I did some daddy/daughter runs together.
I couldn’t match her speed!
I kept telling her to remember to turn into the slope to control her pace down the hill. She acknowledged me and immediately went careening down the snow, leaving me to worry if she was going to fly into the lodge at the bottom each time, only to see her stop on a dime at the base.
Apres Ski with Scotty the Bartender
When we were done for the day, Alicia and I had a drink in the bar, Colorado microbrews, and Sophia had a Shirley Temple. Scotty, the bartender, had a smile and a quick quip for each of his customers, and it was a nice way to end the day.
The Bald Thoughts
Considering our skill level, and the lack of open slopes due to weather, it’s hard to evaluate just how good the resort is for a broad audience. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and based on the pricing we saw, it’s a fantastic place if you’re not looking to drop a lot of coin.
There wasn’t a person working that wasn’t personable and engaging, from a ski lift operator to ski patrol that helped us at the top. The instructors were wonderful and worth every penny they charge, and more. My daughter squealed with glee on every run and begged to come back.
When we suggested that we may try other resorts out, she said no, she wanted to come back to Powderhorn. If we’re back in Grand Junction or Western Colorado, I will happily oblige.