Skiing and Snowshoeing season in the San Juan Mountains is about to begin!
November is upon us, and Mother Nature has been smiling on Southwest Colorado. We have gotten some wonderful storms: just enough snow to coat the mountains, followed by beautiful sunshiny days that entice any one looking out a window to go out and enjoy.
Skiing in the San Juan Mountains is an amazing adventure, made perhaps even more of a once in a lifetime experience due to the reputation for extreme avalanche danger. The Ouray Nordic Council works through the winter months to maintain wondefulyy groomed trails, and maintain the most up to date information on the conditions of popular winter sport areas. Following a brautifully groomed trail does not in any way depreciate the wonder of the San Juan skiing or snow shoeing experience.
A division of the Ouray Trail Group, the Nordic Council is a group of families and individuals dedicated to maintaining not only the Ironton Park Trails, but a varity of other trails in the Ouray North Corridor to be accessible for winter recreation. Through the support of these families and local businesses, Ouray County can boast a variety of scenic areas for snow shoeing, cross country skiing, and other winter sports.
Of course, anyone can help. For a very small annual fee, you can become a member of the Ouray Nordic Council. Not only will you be helping to maintain the trails we all enjoy, membership has other benefits. The opportunity to win some great prizes not the least of which.
This year, the annual Nordic Council Dinner is going to be an event worth attending:
On Tuesday, November 12, 2013, be sure to meet with old friends and new to show your support of an organization worthy of our respect.
For just $10.00 per person, attendees recieve:
Not only does the Nordic Council focus on providing safe, well maintaned trails for skiers and snow shoers, they also focus quite seriously on the safety of every individual who chooses to adventure in the San Juans. Avalanche safety is tantamount to their mission, and members are eager to share safety tips as well as the optimal skiing and snowboarding options given the time of your visit.
Regardless of whether you choose to join, be sure to always check with them prior to going on an expedition. The best part of a trip in the high country is to go to a spot that is at its peak for whatever activity you have in mond.
At the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs, our goal is to help every one of our guests enjoy the beauty of Ouray and the surrounding area safely. There is of course, no comparrision to a long soothing soak in one of our mineral hot spring tubs following a morning spent in the peaceful splendor of one of our awesome Cross Country Ski trails.
Let us help you to enjoy everything the San Juans have to offer, as you enjoy a special getaway of perhaps one day, or longer.
Weehawken Creative Arts Centers offers a plethora of learning and fun to Ouray County!
Filling a void in Ouray County for years now, Weehawken Creative Arts centers is a non-profit organization that seems to have encompassed all that defines this small County in Southwest Colorado. From visual arts to horticulture, this organization defines the arts based on the needs and interests of its community. Ballet, Poetry and culinary classes abound, as well as photography and woodworking. Zumba Dance classes are held daily, and Karate for adults and children offer opportunities for the community to express themselves while getting a great workout!
Of course, in addition to traditional dance and acting classes, one cannot forget the beauty of the area all around. Recognizing this, in conjunction with San Juan Mountain Guides, Weehawken is offering several Outdoor Winter Workshops. Beginning this weekend and operating through March, celebrate the beauty of the San Juans while participating in one of these four hour courses designed to open your eyes to the fantastic world of Ouray Sports.
Intro to Ice Climbing for Adults:
January 22, 2012, February 26, 2012, and March 16, 2012 9am to 1pm for Adults ages 16 and up
Have you often wanted to try this sport, but felt intimidated by the ice? This is a four hour course designed to teach the basics of ice climbing. The course will include instruction on crampon and ice tools use, introductory movement skills for ice, and basic top-rope belay skills. This is an excellent way for individuals to get a taste of ice climbing, learn some fundamental techniques, and experience the Ouray Ice Park. All equipment and boots are included in the course tuition. Students need their own appropriate winter clothing.
Price Member: $60.00
Introduction to Ice Climbing for Youth:
January 23, 2012, February 5, 2012 and March 9, 2012 9am to 1pm for ages 11-17
A great way for the young ones to learn the basics of Ice Climbing in a safe environment. This is a four hour course designed to teach the basics of ice climbing. The course will include instruction on crampon and ice tools use, introductory movement skills for ice, and basic top-rope belay skills. This is an excellent way for individuals to get a taste of ice climbing, learn some fundamental techniques, and experience the Ouray Ice Park. All equipment and boots are included in the course tuition. Students need their own appropriate winter clothing.
Price Member: $60.00
Introduction to Backcountry Ski Touring:
January 21, 2012, February 25, 2012 and March 17, 2012 9am to 3pm for ages 16 and up
Backcountry Skiing is one of the most exhilarating ways to experience the Uncompahgres in the winter, however, as with all outdoor activities, it is a good idea to know the fundamentals of safety and equipment. This will be a one day introduction to the fundamentals of backcountry skiing in the San Juans. It will include instruction in ski equipment selection and usage, basic snow and avalanche recognition skills, avalanche transceiver use, ski technique for uphill and downhill travel, and tour selection and planning. This is an intensive intro session. Field session will occur on Red Mountain Pass. All ski and avalanche equipment is included. Students need their own appropriate winter clothing.
Price Member: $60.00
So come on up to Ouray for the weekend, and experience the great outdoors while learning a new awesome sport, then come home to the soothing mineral hot springs tubs at the Box Canyon!
As you travel highway 550 between Ironton and the summit of Red Mountain Pass along the Million Dollar Highway, you encounter three famous mining tunnels. Two of these, the Meldrum Tunnel and the Joker Tunnel, will be discussed in future articles. However, the most famous of the three tunnels was the Treasury Tunnel. It is located near the top of Red Mountain Pass and today it is part of the Idarado Mine complex of more than 100 miles of tunnels between Red Mountain Pass and Telluride. The entrance to the Treasury Tunnel is behind the large metal door against the hillside across the highway from the Mining Overlook near the summit of Red Mountain Pass.
W. J. Hammond, Jr. founded the Treasury Tunnel Mining and Reduction Company in 1896. To create the Treasury Tunnel Mine, Hammond consolidated a number of his mining claims, including the Stumper and Old Ozzie. The tunnel was originally called the Hammond Tunnel and is located on the Stumper claim. Soon after the tunnel was started, the Silverton Railroad built a 2000-foot spur track from the Yankee Girl sidings to the Treasury Tunnel. The Treasury Tunnel branch had an unusual switchback at the bottom of the canyon that was built over a branch of Red Mountain Creek followed by a second crossing of the creek before ending at the Treasury Tunnel Mill.
Hammond hoped the treasury Tunnel would allow him to tap the gold deposits that were known to exist between Red Mountain and Telluride. By 1900 it had been driven over 2000 feet toward Telluride. In 1901 the prominent mining engineer Frederick Ransome said the following of the Treasury Tunnel project: “Without expressing an opinion on this particular enterprise, it may be pointed out that, in so far as the projectors of long tunnels count upon finding richer or more abundant ore than is indicated near the surface, they are playing a game of chance in which the probabilities are decidedly against them.” However, the mine operated with some profits for about ten years and then shut down when Mr. Hammond left the area to return to Pittsburg. The photo shows the mine soon in 1905. (Photo courtesy of Ouray County Historical Society)
In the mid 1920’s the Million Dollar Highway was upgraded for automobile traffic and moved to the west side of Red Mountain Creek. This put the Treasury Tunnel on the main road for the first time. In 1930 Ralph Kullerstrand and Joe Condotti bought the old Treasury Tunnel. They reconditioned the mill with some machinery obtained from the Mountain Top Mill in Governor Basin and built a tramway from the YankeeGirl dump uphill to the Treasury Tunnel Mill. However, wood and metal in the dump required digging by hand, and this doomed the project from the beginning. Once again the Treasury Tunnel and its mill stood silent.
In the mid 1930’s the San Juan Metals Company bought the Treasury Tunnel from Kullerstrand and Condotti who used the proceeds from the sale to build a ski lodge in Ironton Park. In 1937 a new modern mill was built and in 1939 Newmont Mining took over the Treasury Tunnel and formed the Idarado Mining Company to operate the mine. They consolidated many of the old mines including the Barstow, Black Bear, Virginius and the Tom Boy.
During World War II the tunnel was extended to over 8000 feet and large quantities of lead and zinc were mined for the war effort. The old Meldrum Tunnel was extended on the Telluride side of the mountain and, until recently, it was possible to enter the Treasury Tunnel and come out in Pandora near Telluride. The two tunnels were more than 500 feet different in elevation so a shaft connected the two tunnels. As the mine expanded so did the tailings ponds to the north. The Idarado Mine purchased part of the Ironton Town site, and the large tailings pile along the start of the Corkscrew Pass road began to grow with 800 tons of ore processed per day. The slurry pipe bridge across Corkscrew Gulch, still intact today, was once the longest suspension bridge in Colorado.
In 1956 the Treasury Tunnel Mill was shut down and all milling operations moved to the Telluride side of the mountain at Pandora. The so-called “graymill” at Pandora still stands today. For many years the Idarado Mine led Colorado in the production of lead, zinc, copper, gold and silver. The Idarado Mine ceased operations in 1978 and in the 1990’s a massive reclamation project routed water drainage around the mine dumps and covered the tailings piles with rock and dirt followed by revegetation. Between 2001 and 2005 more than 3000 acres of Idarado property on Red Mountain Pass was purchased by the Red Mountain Project and returned to Forest Service control.
About the Author: Don Paulson is the curator at the Ouray County Historical Society and Ouray County Museum. He is also a retired Professor of Chemistry where he specialized in organic chemistry. Don is an active member of the Ridgway Railroad Museum, and an avid hiker, 4WD (jeep) enthusiast, and photographer in addition to his duties as curator for the museum.
I can’t think of a more beautiful area to stop and smell the wildflowers than Ouray County. At every turn you stumble across quite possibly the most picturesque spot you’ve ever seen in your life. Then, a little farther down the road, you again stumble across quite possibly the most picturesque spot you’ve ever seen in your life. Generally there’s a postcard-worthy stream nearby. And wildflowers. A big blue sky over red canyon walls. And it just goes on and on.
For a great adventure, try to picnic in one of the following gorgeous meadows at the base of incredible mountains.
Box Factory Park
Head toward Ridgway and then travel west toward Telluride on Highway 62. Look for County Road 9 as it exits the highway on your left. There is also be a sign that says West Dallas Creek. When you start out on CR9, you will go through the private property of designer Ralph Lauren’s Ranch. The Double RL Ranch is approximately 22,000 acres of perfect views. This dirt road winds up and splits at a fork and you’ll want to stay to the right as it turns into CR9A. You’ll drive along a mesa above Stough Draw, pass through old-growth aspen groves, and enjoy gambel oak as you get closer and closer to Mount Sneffels. The road gets narrower toward the end, crosses some small streams, and can get marshy after a rain, but the payoff is worth it. You’ll know the picnic spot when you see it…the road ends in a magnificent field called Box Factory Park with one of the most amazing views of Mount Sneffels I’ve ever seen. The mountain is perfectly framed by a grove of aspen that you will enjoy walking through. Peaceful, off the grid, and a beautiful spot to enjoy your lunch.
Head toward Ridgway on Highway 550 and after you go through town, be on the lookout for CR10 and the sign for Owl Creek Pass, which will turn off the highway on your right. Follow the signs and be sure you take the right fork in the road on CR8 – right will take you up Owl Creek Pass and left will take you back out to the highway.
Courthouse Mountain and Chimney Peak will dominate the view in your windshield, as will all of the Cimarron Mountain Range. When Chimney Rock fills up your view and you feel close enough to touch it, you’re almost at the summit. Deb’s Meadow is just below the summit, so if you reach the top of the pass, you’ve gone too far. You can’t miss it though…it’s the only open field you’ll pass on the entire journey. The meadow is on the left and there’s a circle “drive” you can take to park. This is your picnicking destination for the day, complete with a gurgling brook -- Cow Creek. Aspens line the corn lily-covered field and the view of Chimney Rock is astounding. Walk to the middle of the field – watch your step, it can be marshy in spots - and roll out your blanket. And if this spot looks familiar, you may recognize it from the famous shootout scene at the end of “True Grit,” where John Wayne charged across on his horse, guns in both hands, reins in his teeth. It’s a picturesque little spot and you’ll enjoy imagining the Duke was there in 1968 filming the only movie that won him the Academy Award.
If you enjoy history and want to eat your lunch in a real ghost town, travel out of Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway toward Silverton and spend the afternoon in Ironton. Ironton is located in a huge valley called Ironton Park, and was a natural shipping point for the mines in the Red Mountain Mining District, just up the highway. Established in 1883, it thrived for many years before fading away, like most mining towns do. The former townsite is very easy to find. On the north side of Red Mountain Pass, just after you descend the switchbacks, you will find a large clearing to your left. The town was located just to the east of U.S. Highway 550, with the old main street running parallel to the present road. There are a few houses still standing, some with aspen trees growing out of their living rooms. Follow the dirt road that runs parallel to the highway (you’ll only be 200 yards or so away from the Million Dollar Highway) and you’ll continue to find more homesteads and structures. A picnic table is among them. Enjoy your lunch and walk around the ruins set against a beautiful mountain backdrop. A creek runs behind the homes. As you explore, imagine life in the 1800s and the families that once called these crumbling remains “home.” Be sure to listen to the wind. It has stories to tell.
Part 2: Best Off the Beaten Path Picnic Spots in Ouray County identifies two other great choices for a summertime picnic adventure in the San Juan Mountains
About the author: Marion Zachary is a website designer, photographer, videographer and four-wheel drive enthusiast who attempts to spend every spare moment in the San Juan Mountains. Her website featuring her Colorado adventures with her Australian Shepherd, Rio, is filled with incredible information on jeeping roads and 4WD trails near Ouray.
Join the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership at the San Juan Mountain Mining Conference to be held in Ouray, CO on April 27, 2011 in the Ouray Community Center from 3:00pm - 8:00pm.
Presentation Topics include:
- Water quality of Red Mountain Creek (pictured)
- Understanding the Idarado clean-up
- Watershed restoration and navigating liability
The Partners and Guest Speakers include:
- Mountain Studies Institute
- Trout Unlimited
- CO DRMS
- Lake Fork Valley Conservency
- Animas River Stakeholders Group
- Kerber Creek Restoration Project
- Willow Creek Reclamation Committee
- Western Hardrock Watershed Team
- Mosaic Community Project
- Colorado NPS Pollution Program
The cost of the event is $25 which includes dinner. For more information or to RSVP contact Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our hotel in Ouray, Colorado, the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs, will provide a rate of $69/night + tax for those who want to participate in the conference and stay overnight in Ouray. Just mention the Mining Conference to secure your group rate when you make your reservation. Contact us at (970) 325-4981.
We received an update from the USFS in Montrose today and the conditions are not surprising if you live in Ouray Colorado but might shock those that have heard of epic snowstorms in the Colorado high country. Ouray CO has had plenty of moisture but unfortunately, it has been too warm so it comes to us in the form of rain. But, on a positive note, today's weather is mostly a frozen margarita or a slushy as the rain is beginning to turn to snow. We still may have a white Christmas at the Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs after all!
The following information is from the USFS Ouray Ranger District:
For holiday recreation, here is the snow report... In a nutshell, conditions are generally very poor.
- Dave Wood XC Ski Area: Not enough snow to ski.
- Ironton Park XC Ski Area: Enough snow for skiing designated trails, and good quality. Not yet being groomed. Off-trail skiing not recommended.
- Miller Mesa: Not enough snow to ski. You would have to walk a couple of miles up CR 5 to reach good snow. Do not attempt to drive it beyond the winter parking area -- the road is very, very icy (I learned this first hand).
- Red Mountain Pass: Enough snow for backcountry skiing, but rock skis are recommended as there is no base yet. Check avalanche and weather reports before visiting this area -- avalanche danger has been very high!!!
- Uncompahgre Plateau Snowmobile Routes: Enough snow for snowmobiling on unplowed roads, but not enough for cross-country travel (where permitted). Leaving the road is inadvisable, as there is not enough snow to allow passage over surface obstacles. As of Tuesday, snowmobile trails were not yet being groomed. Dave Wood access is good. Other access points are unknown.
- Owl Creek Pass Snowmobile Route: Not yet being groomed and not recommended. Access is very poor due to warm, wet conditions. You must travel a long way on muddy, icy roads on either side of the pass to reach adequate snow.
Try these websites for more information:
Colorado Avalance Information Center: http://avalanche.state.co.us/index.php.
National Weather Service: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/gjt/.
NRCS SNOTEL: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snotel/Colorado/colorado.html.
The good news is that the natural hot springs in Ouray are warm as ever and we welcome everyone to come down for a great soak.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone from all of us at the hotel.
Look for the Latest information for Southwest Colorado Fall Foliage
2011 Fall Foliage Update
2010 Fall Foliage Update
Fall foliage season in the San Juan Mountains near Ouray seems to be early this year. The aspens glisten with a beautiful mixture of both yellow and green leaves. The weather along the Million Dollar Highway has been fantastic; with little wind, the leaves remain.
At Crystal Lake along US Highway 550 near Ironton, the reflections have been excellent and you can capture a stunning image with Red Mountain 1 & 2 as well as the mountain flora. This morning, we found frost on the grasses close to the lake so be sure to bring your gloves and coats if you want those pictures. If you are happy with afternoon sun, then, just bring sunscreen! Continue your journey towards Silverton and you will see even more foliage. There are lovely orangey aspens as you near town. Silverton is nearing its peak. However, other grand stands of aspens are just as green as ever south of Silverton.