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Rest & Relaxation

Photo: Michael Pierce Photography

Each of Pagosa’s bathing facilities offers its own unique take on the traditional soaking experience, and the savvy soaker does well to switch things up, experiencing how differently each place relaxes the spirit and heals the body.

While the mother spring’s water remains at a natural temperature of 144 degrees and is far too hot for a relaxing soak, all the facilities cool the water for bathing and recreational purposes.

In planning how to split your time and experience Pagosa Country’s healing waters, be sure to check the status and availability of each facility, if there are any special requirements that must be followed, and what amenities are available at the time of your visit.

Located on the main street of Pagosa Springs, the Overlook Hot Springs Spa offers soaking and massage services housed within old-world Victorian opulence. Offering indoor and outdoor pools, including a private tub room, massage and a steam room, the Overlook provides bathers an opportunity to soak while escaping the elements, or to take in the sights while soaking. 

Those sights are best soaked in from the pools located on the building’s roof, which give the Overlook its name and notoriety. With a panoramic view of historic downtown and beyond, the pools are a favorite with locals and visitors alike. There’s also a sauna and geothermal tub. Also outside, the Overlook’s courtyard features individual tubs, as well as a Jacuzzi. Inside, there are four open pools and a private pool room that can be rented by the hour by bathers who prefer to soak in a more intimate setting. 

Snacks and drinks (including beer, wine and champagne) are available for purchase to sate the appetites of soakers who prefer to ease aching muscles with a tasty beverage and absent a grumbling tummy. Additionally, the Overlook features changing rooms with shower stalls, steam showers and more.

Just around the corner on the east side of Hot Springs Boulevard is the Healing Waters Resort and Spa, offering a large outdoor swimming pool, both indoor and outdoor tubs, hotel rooms, suites, cabins, and pull-through RV spaces with full hookups. The ambiance here is down home, western and friendly. Through long years of service, the hosts have learned to satisfy the needs of the most discriminating guest.

The resort offers 100 percent mineral water in its hot springs amenities, which include separate men’s and women’s indoor baths.

Across the street, The Springs Resort and Spa, home to the mother spring, offers luxury hotel rooms, food establishments, two bars, a full-service spa and 25 steamy pools (the most in Colorado) on the banks of the San Juan River.  

A variety of therapeutic pools have temperatures ranging from 45 to 114 degrees, with waterfalls, mineral formations and other unique features. There is also a swimming pool of geothermal water with a temperature in the high 80s to low 90s. 

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Wolf Creek ski area

Photo: Rosanne Pitcher/Wolf Creek Ski Area

At more than 85 years old, Wolf Creek Ski Area is time-tested. 

Wolf Creek Ski Area is known for having the most snow in Colorado. The unique — yet successful — 2021-2022 ski season had consistent snowfall from October through the end of March with a number of prolific powder days, exceptional conditions and 362 inches of snowfall. 

Wolf Creek is eagerly anticipating a more “normalized” 2021-2022 ski season; however, public health will make recommendations, if any, later this fall and early winter. For more on what to expect during your time on the slopes, visit www.wolfcreekski.com.

Wolf Creek is known for having an exceptional variety of terrain, abundant snowfall and plenty of powder days. Wolf Creek has terrain that ranges from gradual sloping, wide green runs for beginners to excellent expert terrain that will give advanced skiers and boarders an in-bounds backcountry experience. Finding an intermediate groomer to cruise down to start your day isn’t hard to do, and tree skiing is endless.

Wolf Creek is unique in that the location of the ski area is in the beautiful Southern San Juan Mountains, eliminating the frustration of driving on a heavily trafficked corridor to ski. The ski area has the advantage of being located on U.S. 160 near the summit of Wolf Creek Pass, which is a beautiful and well- maintained mountain pass with three and four lanes of highway. 

Photo: Samuel Bricker/Wolf Creek Ski Area

The low-density skiing experience at Wolf Creek Ski Area makes Wolf Creek a destination hot spot for powder hounds, families and new skiers alike. 

Wolf Creek stands out from other ski areas in Colorado not only for being family owned and operated, but for also having affordable lift tickets and lesson options. Adding to Wolf Creek’s uniqueness is the phenomenal homemade food found in all eateries at Wolf Creek and convenient amenities that are complimentary, like paved parking and shuttle services.

For the past several years, Wolf Creek has undertaken construction projects to fine-tune and improve its offerings.

Major lift improvements started in 2013-2014 with the Treasure Stoke, a high-speed detachable quad lift. The previous Ctec Triple Treasure Chair was then transformed the following season to become a refurbished beginner and intermediate lift named Elma, with its purpose of assisting guests in returning to the base area and providing access to an area of the mountain that was previously underutilized. The Lynx, a covered conveyor lift, followed and helped redesign and compliment the novice skiers’ first day at Wolf Creek by transporting guests to the Lynx Adult Learning Center. The introduction of the Charity Jane Express to the Wolf Creek Lift System came in December of 2018, with the high-speed detachable quad benefiting all ability levels and bolstering a previously underutilized 55 acres. 

In the summer of 2019, the ski area added Orion’s Beltway — a trail cut to link both side of the mountain, making it the longest intermediate run at Wolf Creek.

Wolf Creek has always been a leader in maintaining sustainable business practices by purchasing renewable energy, using biodegradable oils in machinery and having water-free restrooms. 

The 2021-2022 ski season will be the 16th season Wolf Creek has used a form of renewable energy year-round, for day and night use. Wolf Creek is also a large supporter of the Penitente Solar Project in the San Luis Valley. 

Wolf Creek furthered environmentally friendly efforts by constructing an onsite electric vehicle charging station.  The charging station offers five connections with one being Level 3 (fast charge) and the remaining four being Level 2 (medium charge).

Additional information can be found on www.WolfCreekSki.com or by calling (970) 264-5639 or 1(800) SKI-WOLF.

Wolf Creek Ski Area Events

Dec. 2 Local’s Day

Dec. 5 College Day

Dec. 6 Local’s Day

Dec. 7 Local’s Day

Dec. 8 Local’s Day

Dec. 9 Local’s Day

Dec. 11 Fun Race

Dec. 24 and 25 Santa Visits Wolf Creek

Jan. 2 New Year’s Day Race

Jan. 9 Fun Race

Jan. 10 Ms. Monday Clinic

Jan. 11 Forever Young Clinic

Jan. 16 Martin Luther King Jr. Race

Jan. 18 Tuesday Turns Clinic

Jan. 19 United Way Day

Jan. 22 Camp Robbers

Jan. 23 Fun Race

Jan. 29 Camp Robbers

Jan. 29 Wolf Creek Giant Slalom Race

Jan. 30 College Day

Jan. 31 Ms. Monday Clinic

Feb. 1 Forever Young Clinic

Feb. 2 Local’s Day

Feb. 5 Camp Robbers

Feb. 6 Fun Race

Feb. 8 Tuesday Turns Clinic

Feb. 9 Local’s Day

Feb. 12 Camp Robbers

Feb. 13 Local’s Day

Feb. 13 Valentine’s Day Race

Feb. 20 President’s Day Race

Feb. 27 College Day

Feb. 27 Mardi Gras Race

Feb. 28 Ms. Monday Clinic

March 1 Forever Young Clinic

March 6 Jane and Pitch Tribute

March 6 Local’s Day

March 6 Tribute Race

March 13 Spring Fling Fun Race

March 20 Fun Race

March 27 Fun Race

March 29 Tuesday Turns Clinic

March 30 Local’s Day

April 2 Wolf Creek Super G Race

April 2 College Day

April 3 Local’s Day

April 3 Tentative Closing Day

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Something for everyone

Photo: Pagosa Nordic Club

Whatever your soul seeks — skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, fishing, snowmobiling, soaking in the hot springs, shopping, sleeping and satiating your appetite for food or drink — Pagosa Country offers choices that are sure to please you and everyone in your family or group.

Nestled at an elevation of 7,079 feet alongside the San Juan River, Pagosa Springs is surrounded on the east and north by the craggy spires of the Continental Divide, the Weminuche and South San Juan wilderness areas. “The most snow in Colorado” falls upon the majestic San Juan Mountains and Wolf Creek Ski Area more frequently than any other mountain range in the state. Yet, it is here in Pagosa that uncommonly blue skies prevail more often than not.

Alpine skiing

Wolf Creek Ski Area, considered by many as one of the best-kept secrets in Colorado, offers skiers and snowboarders an abundance of powder and packed powder on sun-drenched slopes. Guests love it because the lift lines are short, the runs are long and the prices are lower than most areas in Colorado. You will also find more snow here than just about anywhere else in the state. 

Throughout the ski season, the Wolf Creek Ski Area calendar is jam-packed with myriad activities designed for fun and families and all levels of expertise. The ski school is renowned for its excellence, and there are plenty of fun programs for skiers and boarders of all ages. 

Backcountry

Fans of snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, telemark and alpine touring often find themselves just plain giddy when they discover the beautiful, pristine backcountry areas available for their adventures. You can bring your own equipment, book a tour with an outfitter or rent whatever you need at a number of sporting goods shops in Pagosa. 

Beginner and more relaxed cross-crountry trails surround Pagosa Springs. For those seeking a “wilder” experience, there are cross-country trails in the vicinity of Wolf Creek Pass and in other parts of the San Juan National Forest. With plenty of trails and an abundance of snow, there are innumerable opportunities for the skilled and well-equipped backcountry adventurer.

Cross-country skiing

If alpine skiing isn’t your forté, the Pagosa Nordic Club undertakes an ambitious program to bring a variety of groomed classic cross-country and skate skiing opportunities to the Pagosa Springs area.

In town, the club grooms trails in Yamaguchi Park. Cloman Park and the Laverty Ranch, and the West Fork trailhead located east of Pagosa Springs offer scenic views. The Pagosa Ranger District grooms Coyote Hill and Wolf Creek Ski Area grooms Alberta Park for more Nordic skiing opportunities.

If you would like to improve your Nordic skiing skills, there are clinics held throughout the winter months and a number of family-oriented race events. For event and trail information, visit the club’s website at PagosaNordic.com.

Ice fishing

If braving the cold to catch perch, trout or bass is your sport, then try ice fishing at one of the spots favored by locals, such as Williams Creek Reservoir or Echo Lake. 

Numerous businesses and sporting goods stores sell fishing licenses and can give you the inside scoop on winter fishing.

Ice skating

During the height of winter, when a day on the slopes is (for whatever reason) out of the question, people trade in their boards for a pair of blades and head to the ponds.

Located at the eastern edge of town, just north of U.S. 160 next to the San Juan River and adjacent to the River Center shopping complex, ice skating is available to visitors and locals alike on the lower west-end pond at the River Center Park. 

The pond is usually groomed for skaters from about mid-December — just before the Christmas break rush — until mid-February (depending on weather conditions, of course). 

The Pagosa Multi-Purpose Pavilion Winter Ice Rink, located at South Pagosa Park on South 8th Street, opens for ice skating, hockey, curling and broomball.

Mineral hot springs

A long, relaxing soak in Pagosa Springs’ world-famous healing waters is the perfect way to end a day of winter fun. Visitors and locals alike laud the waters’ curative powers. Three mineral hot springs facilities are enjoyed by thousands of guests year-round. 

Holiday festivities

If you happen to be in Pagosa for the holidays, you’re in for a treat. Merchants traditionally roll out the red shopping carpets to help you find the perfect gifts, and the governments, businesses and nonprofits work to make the holidays magical. 

Christmas in Pagosa Springs is a special time of year with holiday lights twinkling throughout town. Santa sightings occur throughout December in town, at the visitor center, at Wolf Creek Ski Area and other locations. Join us for a downtown tree lighting on the Friday after Thanksgiving at dusk, as Santa arrives at the Visitor Center on a fire truck to greet kids and light a tree. Enjoy a self-guided tour of the festive decor displayed at many businesses and residential properties in the surrounding area. 

The annual Festival of Trees hosted by the Ross Aragon Community Center benefits numerous nonprofits in Pagosa Springs. Attendees can marvel in the beautifully and creatively decorated trees, enjoy the music and delicious food and get caught up in the “bidding wars.” It is certainly a festive night while benefitting our community nonprofit agencies. This year’s auction event is set for Dec. 3, with the public viewing set for Dec. 2.

As the winter season progresses, the community welcomes visitors for WinterFest, which is set for Jan. 21-23.

WinterFest blows the blahs out of everyone as challenging sports, fun games, contests and antics are held all over town. Colorful hot air balloons decorate the blue skies with a background of snow-capped mountains on Saturday and Sunday mornings from the west side of town. Enjoy the Sledz on Rez Race as homemade sleds “race” down Reservoir Hill. The Penguin Plunge brings the hardiest or craziest plungers out to take a swim in the frigid San Juan River — all to raise money for their favorite charity. The Nordic Club hosts a bb gun biathlon race for kids, novice or more-experienced cross-country skiers. If you are a cyclist, try your hand at the fat tire bike race. The Skis and Saddles Skijoring event returns this year. Watch the fast-paced action as riders on horseback take skiers through an obstacle course all while being timed. It is a family-fun weekend where you can participate or spectate. 

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Winterfest

Photo: Randi Pierce

WinterFest weekend is the time to visit Pagosa Springs, with all the fun activities going on in addition to the great skiing at Wolf Creek Ski Area. WinterFest 2022 is set for Jan. 21-23, giving the locals a little break from shoveling snow and allowing them some great fun. A number of activities are slated for the weekend where people can participate or enjoy the festivities through spectating.

A magical part of the weekend is the colorful hot air balloons that grace the winter skies — weather permitting. The snowy white mountains and the crystal blue skies make for a stunning backdrop to the multicolored balloons. Bring your camera, dress warmly and capture the splendor as the balloons mass ascend on Jan. 22 and 23. Both mass ascensions will take place from various locations on the west side of town where you may see a balloon take a skip and a hop on the frozen lakes.

On Saturday, the festivities include the Sledz on Rez Race, hosted by the Build Pagosa construction vocational group. Homemade sleds “race” down Reservoir Hill located downtown. Materials such as satellite dishes, wheelbarrows, kayaks or a crate are joined with skis or snowboards for imaginative sled creations. The crowd jeers and cheers as the sledders wield their way down the hill.

Another highlight of WinterFest is the Penguin Plunge, where hardy participants jump into the frigid San Juan River (approximately 32 degrees) as they raise money for their favorite nonprofit organization. The event takes place on Saturday around noon in front of the Visitor Center, where the plungers float down the river a bit and then go over “Davey’s Wave” for a full- body experience. Spectators can view the antics from the Riverwalk.

For the athletically inclined, there are several activities to participate in over the weekend. The Pagosa Nordic Club will host a Learn to Ski XC Ski Clinic Saturday, Jan. 22. The Red Ryder BB Gun Biathlon will be held on Sunday morning, Jan. 23, around 9 a.m. This event offers participants a cross-country course to fit your skill level. There will be 16 km competitive, 4 km citizens-youth and kid courses. Each skier shoots at targets, with BB guns provided, three times between ¼ ski distances.

An exciting addition to the WinterFest schedule is action-packed skijoring. This rapid-paced event will take place at the Archuleta County Fairgrounds/Western Heritage Event Center on Saturday and Sunday. Watch as horses pull skiers through an obstacle course and jumps while at a full-out run. This event will definitely keep your blood pumping.

Be sure to check The Pagosa Springs SUN and www.PagosaSUN.com for up-to-date information closer to event time. As WinterFest activities are subject to Mother Nature, all events are contingent upon weather conditions, including the launching of the balloons.

WinterFest is an interactive festival perfect for the family. You’ll not want to miss the fun.

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Running with the sled dogs

Photo: San Juan Sled Dogs

If you’re visiting Pagosa Springs during the winter season and looking for an adventure that involves man’s or woman’s four-legged friends, then Pagosa has the answer in two unique and fun businesses that thrive during the winter season.

Those businesses are Mountain Paws Dog Sled Tours and San Juan Sled Dogs. 

Mountain Paws Dog Sled Tours is owned and operated by Joy Marx and her husband, Michael. 

“Basically I have been working professionally for 9 years and before that, it was a hobby for 15 years. I had done a couple of week-long dog sled adventures in Canada,” Marx said. 

Marx runs two sleds and 21 sled dogs. Marx’s husband, Michael, helps out as a substitute guide when they get busy. The couple moved to Pagosa two years ago. 

“We really like it here. We are staying. We are not moving again,” Marx said. 

The sled dogs receive training from the time they are puppies. One of Marx’s dogs, a Siberian named Timber, began his training by greeting people and sitting in the sled.

“The first time I put a harness on him and hooked him up to the gang line, he was really nervous for about 5 seconds and then he said, ‘oh cool, this is what we are doing’ and took off. It’s ingrained, it’s just what they do. They love it,’’ Marx said. 

When it comes to teaching the lead sled dog, it can take a little longer. “Normally we have one of the older dogs kind of train the younger dogs to be a leader,” Marx said.  

  If the snow is less plentiful, Marx can also accommodate guests on tours that are pulled by the dogs in the Navajo State Park near the watchable wildlife pavilion, mile marker 19 off of Colo. 151. 

“I do have a summer cart tour where we teach the people how to harness and hook the dogs up,” Marx said. 

When the snow on the ground is plentiful, Marx likes to take guests on the trails in the Upper Blanco Basin area. 

“It is about 2.5 hours or longer and we go 6 to 7 miles, and what I do is I train the clients to drive the sled themselves. So with my sleds, they are not the big touring sleds, you can have one passenger and one driver per sled,” Marx said. “They get to know the dogs, help with the harnessing and the hookup, they follow me as the guide on the snowmobile and I make sure the people and the dogs are all good and I really get to experience the fun of it that way. It is a little bit more athletic of an adventure.”

  Marx recounted some of her more memorable client experiences. “My youngest solo driver was 9 years old. He was very proud to drive the sled himself with his mom and little brother in the basket.”

   She also noted, “We have had a number of engagements on the trail, That’s always fun! The guys usually make plans with me in advance and I take pictures of him asking. The girls have always said ‘yes.’” 

   You can contact Mountain Paws Dog Sled Tours at mountainpawsdogsledding.com or call (970) 819-5022.     

  For the family or larger group that may also be looking for a dog sledding experience, San Juan Sled Dogs welcomes you.

  Peter Bartels and his wife Morgan Buckingham, who Bartels said,“it’s all her fault” when asked how he and his wife got into the dog sledding business, run the organization. 

Bartels explained that his wife has been dog sledding for about 20 years and they have been running San Juan Sled Dogs for the past 11 years. “I think it’s wonderful, I love being with dogs. It’s challenging work for me, but it’s really her vocation, she is the driving force behind the company for sure,” he said. 

“We actually have two business partners that helped us start the company, Chris and Christina Bouchard. Then we have one part-time employee that helps out a little bit during the off season and while we are in the thick of dog sledding, we have three other employees that work with us. Our busy season is the week before Christmas all the way through spring break if the snow is still flying. We are usually pretty busy through the whole winter as long as there is still snow,” said Bartels

Most of the dogs That San Juan Sled Dogs use are rescue dogs according to Bartels. The company has 50 dogs. “Most of our dogs are Alaskan Malamutes but we do have a number of Alaskan Huskies, too. Huskies are smaller and faster than the Malamutes. We love the Malamutes because they have big personalities and they are super loving and even though they are slower, they are stronger. So, that means we can take out big groups, we can take out a big family of like 10 on a couple of different sleds,” Bartels added. “The great thing is we have all these working dogs who know the deal and so when we have puppies, they first start training with the dogs by running free out on a training run,” 

Once the puppies reach the age of three or four months, “we have these little harnesses and will leave a space open on the team to put the puppies in to run with the team and then we will let them loose again so they are not working too hard,” Bartels noted.

  When Bartels and Buckingham take clients out on a trip, they typically go about 3 or 4 miles. 

“Our first season, I was a little nervous because I hadn’t really done commercial dog sledding, I had done training with Morgan in Montana where we were doing long distance runs but that didn’t involve kids and older folks and everything, just seeing how happy all the people were just to be interacting with all the dogs. A lot of these people just really like hanging out with the dogs after the tour. With our dogs getting that much attention every day from all different kinds of people, I was surprised at how immediately rewarding that was,” Bartels said.

  San Juan Sled Dogs is an all-inclusive experience for everyone, Bartels explained. They do everything for the clients from taking pictures, transportation to and from town and handling large groups or families who just want to enjoy the dog sled ride and enjoy the dogs, too.

 You can contact San Juan Sled Dogs to book a trip by going to their website, sanjuansleddogs.com, contacting Peter via email at peter@sanjuansleddogs.com, or by calling (970) 507-0316.           

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