Winter Rambler: Powder stashes at Ski Granby Ranch
January 18, 2017
The last two weeks have been epic for skiers and snowboarders in Colorado.
Intense snowstorms have deposited multiple feet on mountain passes while ski resorts in Grand County have been blessed with an abundance of the fluffy white stuff. But if you're among the legions who flock to the lift lines after a big dumper you know how bittersweet these deep blankets of pow can be. It's no secret when it snows hard and heavy in the high country that sometimes it can feel like half of Denver is waiting for the chairlift with you.
That is why, when the powder is fresh, I like to head to Ski Granby Ranch. The terrain at Granby Ranch is not as advanced or expansive as that of Winter Park but it offers plenty for even skilled riders to tackle. The best aspect by far of Ski Granby Ranch is the hidden powder stashes that can reliably found for days after a big storm.
Ski Granby Ranch caters to families and beginner/novice riders. In my experience the crowds are always reasonable, even on the high traffic weekends. The type of riders that frequent Ski Granby Ranch are often out-of-state vacationers which means that much of the in-bounds off-trail territory is completely untouched. As such you can unusually find freshies if you're willing to do just a bit of exploring.
The best place to find deep untouched snow is on the resort's West Mountain. The West Mountain holds all of Granby Ranch's advanced black runs. The difficulty factor means most visitors stick to the East Mountain and the beginner and intermediate terrain offered there. Lift lines up the Conquest, going up the West Mountain, are almost unheard of and from the top you can easily access some great lines. My two favorite cuts are through the trees on Rimfire and Dean's Glade.
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The Rimfire run is the shorter of the two. From the top of the West Mountain you will want to head skiers left for a couple hundred yards down the Jackpot catwalk to the place where the trail splits into three different directions. Stay on the center trail and continue working your way skiers left along the trail. You will find yourself above a lightly wooded slope with small stands of trees clustered towards the bottom left of the hillside.
Pick a line from the top of the glade and head down through the powder. Be careful as you descend. There is a small shelf halfway down the slope where the terrain drops off suddenly. Skilled riders will be able to handle the descent even at high speeds but if you are just getting your sea legs you will want to take it easy until you know the location of the drop.
After dropping down from the shelf you'll soon find yourself back on the Jackpot catwalk, a fairly tight blue run that drops gradually to the Resort base along the north ridge of the West Mountain. The Rimfire powder run takes only a few seconds to complete, but you can be back at the Conquest lift within moments to catch a ride back to the top for round two.
Probably the best spot for consistent powder stashes is Dean's Glade. The Glade is a black-level tree run that descends the entire distance from the top of the West Mountain to the bottom catwalk that takes riders back to the chairlift. From the top of the lift you can access the Glade either from the catwalk that leads skiers right or by heading down Desperado, directly underneath the Conquest lift, and cutting skiers right into the Glade through the trees.
The upper portions of the Glade provide little clusters of trees that are spaced far enough apart they will work your turning skills, but are sparse enough that you won't be struggling just to avoid hitting a tree. The entire area is a powder playground with plenty of natural bumps and terrain features to test those skilled enough to try for a little bit of air.
As you descend down Dean's Glade be cautious. Closer to the base the Glade becomes steeper and the trees more tightly clustered. A steep narrow creek bed sits skiers left towards the bottom of the run so keep that in mind as you ride down and as always, stay safe out there.