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Monarch Ski Area. Courtesy of Colorado Ski Country USA

First-Timer’s Guide to Winter in Salida

Salida's summer crowds thin when the snow starts flying. Come winter, you'll find moderate temperatures and folks who are still skiing, riding, and soaking up the town's burgeoning arts and restaurant scene.

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Salida sits at a comfortable 7,000 feet, hugged on all sides by mountains in a high-desert alpine bubble. The come-as-you-are river hamlet is home to Colorado’s highest concentration of 14,000-foot peaks, winter temps hover around 50 degrees, and the kayaks and bikes are never regaled to storage around here. Cultural beacons, brewpubs, indie shops, and the Arkansas River are just a few draws packed into Salida’s two square-miles. Here’s how to explore this quaint mountain town during the winter months.

The Odometer: 142 miles from Denver, one-way

Get Outside

Thanks to mellow temps and abundant trails—more than 500 hikeable and bikeable miles flank town—Salida persists as a wintertime homebase with a four-season adventurist menu.

During dry stretches, layer up and head to “S” Mountain facing town (just look for the big white S on the hillside) for iconic mixed-level Salida singletrack. If a powdery storm has just rolled through, rent a fat bike and hit Little Rainbow Trail or push your snowshoes up the rewarding three-mile out-and-back Waterdog Lakes Trail. Tap Subculture Cyclery for trail conditions and bike rentals.

Browns Canyon National Monument comprises 21,586 acres of Chaffee County canyons, rivers, and backcountry forests. The always-flowing Arkansas River and its resident trout move slower in the winter with a narrower feeding window and fewer bugs to snatch up, making for prime fly-fishing conditions. Salida’s full-service fly shops will lead you to winter’s finest honey holes.

Just 30 minutes west of Salida, Monarch Mountain boasts one of the highest elevation base areas in Colorado at 10,790 feet, luring winter purists with zero manmade snowmaking, 800 acres, 64 runs, and practically no lines. Down the road, Monarch Dog Sled Rides runs private tours through the pristine San Isabel National Forest.

Cap the day with a mineral-rich soak in one of the region’s four natural hot springs. Some of the hottest ground water in the state bubbles here. Visit sprawling Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, the indoor Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center, or rustic Cottonwood Hot Springs, just outside of neighboring Buena Vista. Or go au naturel on clothing-optional Wednesday nights at Joyful Journey, 32 miles south of town.

Arts & Culture

Salida’s Winter Farmer’s Market. Courtesy of Foodshed Alliance

Salida’s humming Certified Creative District unfolds across dozens of artist-owned studios and galleries. Rub elbows with the talent during Second Saturday Gallery Art Tour show openings, artist receptions, and live demos.

With sturdy railroad and mining roots, Salida is flush with historically significant structures. Stroll the state’s largest historic district, snapping selfies in front of murals cloaking stately brick buildings from the 1880s.

Visit CultreClash for contemporary artisan jewelry with Salida flair, the Maverick Potter for functional wares and hands-on workshop time, and the Salida School of Yoga for West African Dance and plant-based nutrition classes.

The SteamPlant Event Center is a renovated power plant pulsating with year-round film screenings, live theater, and jazz and symphony concerts. Don’t miss the Winter Farmers Market select Saturdays December through February in the Salida Scout Hut, where treasures include Instagram-worthy macarons, CBD bath bombs, and ranch-raised beef.

Eat & Drink

Courtesy of Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub

Enjoy some lattes, healthy breakfast bowls, and raved-about biscuits and gravy at Gathering Grounds. Be sure to snag a bag of homemade gluten-free granola for afternoon snacking. Husband-and-wife-run Tony’s on Highway 50 serves a behemoth breakfast burrito smothered in green chili. New all-day breakfast spot Robin’s is turning heads with its apple cheddar omelette with hemp hearts and a wholesome cilantro-lime avocado toast.

Woods High Mountain Distillery. Photo by Lisa Blake

Linger around the 60-sandwich chalkboard menu at Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop (the Don Draper is as sexy as it sounds with pastrami, horseradish havarti, roasted green bell peppers, caramelized onions, arugula, spinach, red onions, and mayo on sourdough). Small plates shine at the Fritz, a gastro pub famous for its bacon-wrapped dates, truffle fries, local brews, and rotating house burgers. Benson’s Tavern is a popular go-to for pub nosh, live music, and a happening beer garden. Play foosball while Moonlight Pizza preps your specialty pie or stop into stylish Little Cambodia on the river for generous bowls of pho.

Après ski (or bike) is best toasted over craft cocktails in the tasting room at Wood’s High Mountain Distillery or while sipping imperial stouts in the rural taproom at Elevation Beer Company in Poncha Springs.

Shop

Courtesy of Howl Mercantile

F Street is a sanctuary for antique picking and consignment rack scouring. Find the coolest vintage thrifts at Ruby Blues and higher-end chic scores at Free the Monkey. Sniff and sample your way through Vital Living’s bath and wellness goodies, handcrafted from scratch in Salida.

Only-in-Salida retail therapy continues at Howl Mercantile & Coffee, where artisanal and tailored small-batch goods intermingle with coffeehouse commodities. Salida Mountain Sports answers all snow gear and winter style needs. Bespoke cards and candles cute enough for your best friend and the softest on-trend comfy clothes are the lure at Yolo Clothing.

Epicureans will want to browse the Beekeeper’s Honey Boutique for granular honey pearls and confections and Scanga Meat Company for crazy good deals on locally farmed charcuterie trappings. Pick up thoughtfully curated kitchen toys for aspiring chefs at the Mixing Bowl.

Stay

The towering white-and-red teepee, which welcomes guests as they pull into the lodge, is from Colorado Yurt Company. Photography by Poul Ober

Salida presents plenty of creative alternative lodging. Hang out in the teepee and sun lounge at Amigo Motor Lodge, a funky 1950s retrofitted Fido-friendly motel. Take a class on chicken keeping or cheese making, pet the goats, and then retire to your suite overlooking the Sawatch Range at Mountain Goat Lodge.

Creekside Chalets’ woodsy cabins come stocked with winter comforts like private hot tubs and gas fireplaces. Recreationists appreciate the Simple Lodge & Hostel for its affordable downtown bunk options and full community kitchen.

If You Do One Thing…

Drive to the big “S” on Tenderfoot Mountain. The Salida High School senior class of 1932 built the iconic white “S” that watches over the valley. Follow dizzying Spiral Drive from town and corkscrew your way to countywide views from a retired fire lookout station.

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