Schussing down the slopes of western Colorado takes on new meaning if you're flat on your back strapped to a stretcher. I learned that ski patrolers take it easy with a patient in tow, but moving at 10 mph feels much, much faster. Now skiers can experience the sensation for themselves — without breaking anything — during Powderhorn Mountain Resort's Ski Patrol Ski Along. The tab for two: $75 per person for a two-hour, behind-the-scenes experience; $55 for one night at the Grand Vista Hotel and $130 for dinner with wine at Bin 707 Foodbar. Excludes airfare to Grand Junction, Colo., and a rental car.
The name Bin 707 Foodbar hints at the area's flourishing wineries. Executive chef Josh Niernberg told me he sources about 70% of the food in-state, with dozens of local vintages sharing the menu with seasonal plates. Consider starting with Colorado elk tartare ($16), followed by Colorado lamb tenderloin ($34). Just outside, you'll find one of the scores of sculptures that are part of downtown Grand Junction's "Art on the Corner" project.
There's plenty of territory for Powderhorn's nearly 60 ski patrolers to cover, with more than 40 trails and a 1,600-foot drop from the 9,800-foot summit of Grand Mesa. The ski patrolers welcome guests to join them for a two-hour ($75) or four-hour ($95) introduction to their duties, whether aiding snowboarders with sprained thumbs, splinting skiers' banged-up legs or checking for avalanche risks. When not in use, the rescue sleds provide participants with an unusual journey down the mountain as other skiers gawk. Reservations required: (970) 268-5158.
THE LESSON LEARNED
Powderhorn is very different from Aspen or Vail, with modest après-ski activities and zero nightlife. I discovered that the resort shuts down shortly after dark. But consider one of the guided snowmobile tours (from $149) offered by Grand Mesa Lodge, about 15 miles east of the ski resort.
Powderhorn Mountain Resort, 48338 Powderhorn Road, Mesa, Colo.; (970) 268-5700. Season opens Dec. 15.
Grand Vista Hotel, 2790 Crossroads Blvd., Grand Junction, Colo.; (970) 241-8411. Wheelchair accessible.
Bin 707 Foodbar, 225 N. 5th St., Grand Junction, Colo.; (970) 243-4543. Wheelchair accessible.