16 Ways to Enjoy Durango this Winter

Make Durango a Colorado destination for playtime this winter. And with so many possible activities, it's hard to choose just one — so don't!

A snow sculpture with a winter resort in the background
Snow sculpture at Purgatory Resort
A group of children snowshoeing with snowy mountains in the background
Snowshoeing at Purgatory Resort
Kids skiing down a snowy mountain with pine trees in the background
Kids skiing at Purgatory Resort
Snowmobiles glide across the snow with trees and mountains in the background
Snowmobiling near Durango

Here are 16 ways to enjoy Durango's wintertime splendor:

1. Skiing at Purgatory Resort

Bring your families and enjoy the slopes at Purgatory Resort — without crowds — in southwestern Colorado's jagged San Juan Mountains. Just minutes from historic Durango, Purgatory offers varied terrain perfect for every level. Plus, kids aged 10 and under ski free with a Power Kids pass.

2. A winter train ride

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a year-round staple for many Durango visitors. Be sure to plan a trip around THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride — running mid-November through early January — for the holidays. Or, hop on a Cascade Canyon train for a five-hour scenic trip through the San Juan National Forest. It offers views you can't get any other way. 

3. Snowdown Festival

Back in 1979, Snowdown Festival was born to liven up Durango's cold winter months. Each year the town shows up for an epic costume party and partakes in crazy contests, like mini-golf through 13 bars, a joke-off, stuff the outhouse and, the best of the best, The Follies (a comedy/variety show). Getting tickets for one of these shows is an event in itself and, if you’re lucky enough to go, you won’t be disappointed! Most activities are rated PG-13 (or worse), though there are family-friendly activities as well. Past festival themes include Steampunk Snowdown, A Black Tie Affair and Comic-Con.

4. Sleigh rides

No magical, winter vacation would be complete without a sleigh ride through the rugged San Juan Mountains. Cozy up under warm blankets with a steaming hot chocolate as you take in the amazing Colorado scenery. It's an experience you'll never forget. 

5. Snowmobiling with a guide

There's no better way to enjoy the San Juan Mountains, La Plata Mountains, San Juan National Forest or Weminuche Wilderness in the winter than from a snow machine! A guided snowmobile trip will give visitors an opportunity to see a snowy section of the Rocky Mountains that few have an opportunity to experience.

6. Snowshoeing

Get outside in Durango's beautiful backyard for a snowshoe excursion. Not only is it good exercise, it's always a great way to take picture-perfect family photos. Rent snowshoes from shops in town or take a guided trip for the local perspective. 

7. Dog sledding

Head to Durango Dog Ranch for a once-in-a-lifetime dog-powered sled ride. Talk about a photo op! Dog sledding happens daily and trails are located within 30 minutes of downtown.

8. Hot springs

Relax your muscles in Durango Hot Springs Resort & Spa's toasty mineral water after a long day of snowy adventures. Only 7 miles north of town, this popular hangout boasts mineral-infused pools. luxurious spa services and a sauna.

9. Ice fishing at Vallecito Lake

Once Vallecito Lake is frozen over, it will soon be thick enough for ice fishing! Try your hand at catching a fish with a beautiful backdrop and then swing by the Lake House or The Rusty Shovel for lunch or dinner.

10. Nordic skiing

Cross-country skiing is a popular winter activity in Durango, with almost 2 million acres of San Juan National Forest to explore. Fun fact: Most Nordic trail systems are free to the public (unless otherwise attached to a ski area). Rent gear from a Durango shop — like Backcountry Experience — before you go.

11. Animas River Trail

Running along Durango's Animas River, the Animas River Trail boasts 7 miles of beautiful views for walkers and bikers. Hop on the winding pathway for a fun way to explore in town.

12. Backcountry skiing

If you love skiing — but want to take it to the next level or experience something new with a guide — consider heading to the backcountry. Purgatory Snowcat Adventures is the largest backcountry skiing and snowboarding operation in Colorado with access to over 35,000 acres of expansive terrain.

13. Ice skating

Chapman Hill, the in-town ski slope, also houses an ice-skating rink. Rent some skates and spend the afternoon tiring out the kiddos.

14. Snow tubing

If racing down a mountain with your feet strapped together is not your idea of a good time, consider snow tubing at Ski Hesperus or Purgatory (or bring your own tubes and find a gentle slope in the surrounding wilderness). Note: Due to an unexpected and major mechanical failure, Hesperus will be unable to operate for the 2023/2024 season.

15. Downtown exploration

Downtown Durango is full of charming things to see and do. Grab lunch at one of its numerous farm-to-table restaurants before exploring the world-renowned galleries for some retail therapy.

16. Beer

Explore the depth of Durango's craft beverage scene with visits to four beer favorites — Ska Brewing Co., Animas Brewing Company, Steamworks Brewing Company and Carver Brewing Co. 

Bonus option

Make someone pull you around in a sled!

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A version of this article originally appeared on Durango.org.