Powderhorn Skiing - What to Expect

If you look at the Powderhorn Trail Map, and study it closely, you still might not know how this mountain skis or rides until you've been here. And while this page is no match for the live activity, we want to help you understand this mountain a little better and get you closer to knowing Powderhorn skiing like a veteran of the hill.

Powderhorn Ski Terrain

By the numbers, Powderhorn Skiing breaks down into:

  • 50% Intermediate
  • 30%Expert
  • 20%Beginner

This is all on 1600 permitted acres with 1650 feet of vertical. Here is a note about the acreage.

By pure acreage, Powderhorn is as big as Wolf Creek, and bigger than Crested Butte, Purgatory, Arapahoe Basin, and Aspen, just to name a few. But Powderhorn skis small. It is going to feel more like 800 acres or more like Monarch, if you have been there. This is in part because the terrain is pretty steep and there are no mid-mountain lifts. Just don't like your eyes get too big, as there isn't that much terrain to gobble up as you might expect. 

The terrain is pretty quick in the main part of the mountain. There are not too many shelfs or plateaus that typically exist to slow people down. Most of the blues ski very fast. This is not the steepest nor the fastest in Colorado, but it skis faster than average because of how the terrain is shaped and how they groom it.

They list 63 trails or runs on this mountain, but I only count 33. If you find 30 more runs on your trip here, please send them to me. I am curious to know.

Powderhorn Chair Lifts

Second, the chair lifts are VERY slow. I timed Take Four, which is the main base lift. It takes 14 minutes--without stopping--to go from top to bottom. The West End doesn't go as high, but it is no faster. This is incredibly slow and you will feel it. If you look at the below screenshot from my Trace Snow app, you will see I was on the lifts for 1:52 and skiing for 38 minutes. That means I spent 3 times as long on the lifts as I did skiing. Now, to be fair, I ski pretty fast, as you can see by the sustained 39mph. 

But still, these lifts are slow and that will mean two things to you. One, if it is blowing or snowing or otherwise cold, that can be a long time to hunker down and stay warm. Two, there is no way to ski this entire mountain in a day. The lifts just won't allow for it. So keep this in mind and set your expectations.

Powderhorn Intermediate Terrain

As we noted above, intermediate terrain dominates the mountain. It may not look like it, just from a view of the trail map, but trail maps are always out of proportion because they are working in finite space trying to put 3-dimensional material on a 2-dimensional plane. Trust me, when you get here it will seem like the mountain is mostly blues. They are pretty steep and run fast on the main part of the mountain. Tenderfoot, which is Powderhorn's longest trail, is not really a blue. It will run like a green. It is very slow--to the point of poling--at the top. The whole West End of the mountain is much slower than the main side. So if you find the main portion too fast for your ability, migrate over to the west side where you will find everything more to your liking.

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Powderhorn Expert Terrain

Most of the expert terrain at Powderhorn has been pushed to either side of the mountain. There is some in the middle, but the majority has been sequestered to the edges. The black runs here are pretty steep and often icy from the north-facing mountain. If you want some bumps, they have bumps, but not in any huge supply. There are some solid glade runs that will remind you of Aspen Highlands or Sunlight. Their expert terrain is in good proportion and has enough difficulty to be a challenge for almost any skier.

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Powderhorn Beginner Terrain

I take issue with the reported amount of beginner terrain at Powderhorn. Even though volume can be tricky to discern on these maps, you can see it's not that possible to get to 20%. Nevertheless, most of the beginner terrain is very close to the base with the exception of Boardwalk, which is the easy way to get to West End Lift, and Stagecoach which is a very slow, switchback run. If you are a beginner, you will be tracing the same run over and over or you will need to step up into intermediate terrain, which isn't that difficult, but can ski very fast.

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