3 Things to Do in Leadville This Winter

Snowshoeing, Downhill and Nordic skiing, oh my!

At 10,151 feet above sea level, Leadville, Colorado is the highest incorporated town in the United States, and it’s a history buff’s dream with stories that could (and have) filled pages. However, despite its elevation and seeming remoteness, it’s under two hours from Denver, making it a perfect winter getaway.

I’ve been to town a half-dozen times, but never when there’s lots of snow on the ground. In fact, earlier this month, Leadville’s own Ski Cooper was already measuring 105 inches of snow (that’s more than eight feet). Our December trip was filled with tons of snow play.

Leadville, Colorado

When it comes to outdoor sports, Leadville is the place to go, and, in fact, if you don’t do at least one outdoor activity while you’re in town, you’re doing it wrong.

If I were to cover all the fantastic ways to explore Leadville in the snow, I’d be writing a book, so here are just three ways to enjoy this historic town in winter.

Downhill at Ski Cooper

Ryan and Heidi at Ski Cooper in Leadville, Colorado

Located just 15 minutes outside of town, Ski Cooper is Leadville’s very own ski area. With lift tickets a quarter of the cost of most Colorado ski resorts, it’s an affordable place to ski with the family.

Founded in 1941, Ski Cooper is one of the oldest ski areas in Colorado and steeped in history. It served as the training site for the famed 10th Mountain Division during World War 11 and hosts a yearly celebration where some of the men who were enlisted in the 10th Mountain Division still attend despite being in their nineties.

If you enjoy backcountry skiing, the Chicago Ridge Snowcat Tours at Ski Cooper provide all-day access to 2,400 acres of skiing. If you want to enjoy the scenery of Chicago Ridge without skiing, they offer scenic snowcat tours as well.

The mountain currently offers 400 acres of skiable terrain but that will soon increase as Ski Cooper undergoes an expansion to the backside of the resort. The new terrain will ready for the 2019-2020 season.

This ski area provides a chill atmosphere and no lift lines, and skiing there means that you’ll be taking turns on snow that’s fallen from the sky onto the mountain. That’s right, with a base at 10,500 feet above sea level, they don’t make snow at Ski Cooper because it falls at a rate of about 260 inches each winter.

Snowshoe & Nordic Ski

Tennessee Pass Nordic Center in Leadville, Colorado

With around 100 miles of groomed trails to cross-country ski or snowshoe, Leadville is a destination for people who love these two sports. Just about every local we chatted with during our recent trip told us about their favorite winter trail in the area.

Groomed by volunteers from the Leadville Cross Country Ski Council, the Mount Massive Golf Course is a year-round destination for lovers of outdoors sports. The Mt. Elbert Grill is located inside the clubhouse and opens for breakfast and lunch on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays. A $7 donation for cross-country skiing at Mount Massive Golf Course helps maintain the trails.

Leadville’s Mineral Belt Trail is one of the town’s most unique features. This 11.6 mile-paved loop around the town provides year-round entertainment. The all-season, non-motorized ADA accessible route has numerous access points and six miles of the trail winds through the historic Leadville Mining District. Loved by dog-walkers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers, Mineral Belt Trail grooming information can be found here.

Tennessee Pass Nordic Center in Leadville, Colorado

There are literally hundreds of places to get out on snowshoes and skis in Leadville, but the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center is ideal and has rental equipment, not to mention freshly-made pies and coffee. Located in the same parking lot as Ski Cooper, it’s the perfect place to visit if one part of your group wants to downhill and another wants to cross-country, snowshoe, fat bike or tube.

Ski Cooper allows snowshoeing too, but you will need to purchase an Uphill Access Pass. This pass is $20 and good for the entire Ski Cooper 2018-2019 season. Holders of the pass can go uphill at Cooper via other means than lifts (skinning, hiking, snowshoeing, etc.). Learn more here.

Categories: The Heidi Guide