Natural hot springs near Colorado ski resorts

It was a powder day in ski country and you left it all on the mountain. Your quads burn. Your calves have been reduced to rubber. All the muscles you’ve neglected since closing day last year are screaming in protest. What’s a skier or snowboarder to do?

Find a natural hot springs.

There’s something magical about soothing weary muscles and reliving the day’s exploits on the mountain at a hot springs. The water is toasty and the crisp air is thick with steam. You spent the day enjoying nature’s gift from above – snow – so now enjoy nature’s gift from below, water heated by geothermal forces deep underground.

Call it a perfect Colorado day. Here are five places to have one.

Wolf Creek Ski Area — Pagosa Hot Springs

If you’ve ever skied this southern Colorado mountain when it got 2 feet of snow overnight — it happens a lot when storms come out of the desert Southwest and slam into the San Juan Mountains — you know what it means to feel the leg burn. And with some of the best hike-to terrain in Colorado to boot, you’ll be ready for a soak.

The Springs Resort and Spa in downtown Pagosa Springs is like a water park for hot springs, a 30-minute drive from the ski area. There are 25 pools in a lovingly manicured resort along the San Juan River, ranging in temperature from pleasant cool dips to so hot it’s hard to stay long. The mineral-rich water will soothe body and mind, though the sulphur smell will live on in your swimsuit for a long time to come. You can stay in the resort or to save money buy a day pass and stay at one of the more affordable hotels in town.

Day passes: $49 for adults, $25 for children,

Winter Park — Hot Sulphur Springs

Winter Park offers some of the closest big-mountain skiing for Denver area residents, 3,000 acres of terrain ranging from easy groomers to the legendary steeps of Mary Jane. From top to bottom it’s nearly 3,000 vertical feet. Do that a few dozen times and you’ll be ready for a soak.

Most ski commuters turn around and head back to the Front Range after a day at Winter Park, but head in the opposite direction of the traffic and your day will only get better. Located in the town that bears its name, Hot Sulphur Springs offers 21 pools of varying sizes and temperatures to soak weary bones. It’s only a 35-minute drive from the ski area. Lodging is available, so why not stay and save the I-70 traffic for another day?

Day passes: $20 for adults, $14 for children,

Steamboat — Strawberry Park Hot Springs

This northwest Colorado gem is a bit far from the Front Range for most day trippers (though plenty do make the 3-hour drive each way to get at the soft, light powder Steamboat is known for.) The resort offers a staggering 3,668 feet of vertical from top to bottom and nearly 3,000 acres of terrain, enough to leave even the most seasoned riders with an apres’ ski limp.

Fight the urge to collapse in your condo or hit the bar and hop in your car for the thrilling drive to Strawberry Hot Springs. It’s a short trip but you’ll need snow tires and four-wheel-drive when the road is snowy, which it usually is between November and April. Located in a gorgeous and meticulously groomed wooded valley, with six pools of varying size and privacy for your soaking pleasure, you just might wonder if you died on the slopes and went to heaven. Shuttles are available if you don’t have the right vehicle, as is lodging at the hot springs.

Day passes: $20 all ages (cash only),

Snowmass — Glenwood Hot Springs

They go big in the Roaring Fork Valley around Aspen. Let’s face it, American skiing was pretty much invented around here. So go big too at Snowmass Mountain, where you can ski 4,406 vertical feet in a single run or spread out and explore 3,342 acres. It’s one of the largest, most family-friendly resorts, a perfect destination for skiers with kids.

If the kids enjoyed the skiing, just wait until they see the pool. Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is a 40-minute drive from the ski area, but go and you’ll understand why many families stay in Glenwood Springs instead of Aspen or Snowmass. It’s the largest hot springs pool in the world, 405 feet long and 100 feet wide, more than enough room for the kids to splash while the adults relax. You can stay at the resort or one of the more affordable hotels in Glenwood Springs, or, of course, drive back to Snowmass.

Day passes: $36 to $25 for adults and teens, $22 to $18 for children (prices vary during peak periods),

Monarch Mountain — Cottonwood Hot Springs

This hidden central Colorado area is perched high on the Continental Divide west of Salida. It’s smaller than a mega-resort, about 1,200 feet of vertical on 800 acres, but that just means you’ll get more runs in. Plus they don’t make snow so what you’re skiing is natural Colorado powder, and Monarch gets plenty of it. It’s close enough to the Denver area (about 2.5 hours) for a long day trip. With no condos or boutiques, this is skiing like it used to be.

Instead of racing back home, make some time for a dip. Cottonwood Hot Springs is located in a snowy canyon west of Buena Vista on Cottonwood Pass (don’t worry the road is plowed to here.) There are a half-dozen pools with a natural feel, bubbling with water rich in 15 elements and minerals, with temperatures ranging from 94 to 106 degrees. It’s 45 minutes from Monarch.

Day passes: $24 for adults and $20 for children on weekends and holidays, $20 and $18 Monday-Thursday,

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