I’ve come to this remote pocket of America's wild west, in Southern Colorado not to run from the law, but to experience winter at Dunton Hot Springs. Snow season may be the best kept secret at this former mining town turned rustic-luxe.
I’ve come to this remote pocket of Southern Colorado not to run from the law, but to experience winter at Dunton Hot Springs. Snow season may be the best kept secret at this former mining town turned rustic-luxe, all-inclusive resort nestled in the San Juan Mountains. From December through early spring, the collection of 13 hand-hewn log cabins looks like the set of a Clint Eastwood film trapped in a snow globe.
The names of Butch Cassidy and his sidekick, the Sundance Kid, are etched into the saloon’s rustic wooden bar beneath my glass of George Dickel whiskey. A few sips warm me for an afternoon of adventure. This year, former Olympic cross-country skier Wendy Wagner helped Dunton design a 5-kilometer Nordic course that can be reached in the comfort of a cherry-red snowcat or by snowmobile. I opt for the latter and within 20 minutes find myself in snowy solitude gliding behind the Nordic tracks guide, Josh Butson.
Today, we’ve embarked on what Josh jokingly refers to as the Dunton triathlon. Back at the lodge, skis are swapped for snowshoes and we high-knee our way past the stables along the aptly named Winter Trail which winds through pine- and aspen-covered hills.
We finish our trek at the base of a frozen waterfall, the final setting for today’s activity trifecta. Josh helps me strap on crampons, buckles me into a harness and hands me ice axes. I stare up, daunted by the wall of glowing blue ice. But with Josh’s instruction (“Swing, stick, step…and don’t look down”), I inch my way up like a polar Spiderman. The reward for my alpine efforts: a steamy soak in the mineral-rich waters of the property’s 19th-century Bathhouse.
Last season, the resort also introduced a European-inspired Winter Wonderland experience at neighboring Dunton River Camp; the perfect antidote to my adrenaline-fueled first day. After a breakfast of poached eggs and root vegetable hash, I bundle up and meet Pat and Paul. These sturdy Percheron draft horses were recently hired to pull guests around snowy meadows in a vintage sleigh. I snuggle up in blankets and let the silence of nature lull me into a state of tranquility during our hour-long jaunt.
Back at the farmhouse, mugs of thick hot chocolate act as a sweet amuse bouche ahead of a traditional fondue lunch. Skewers of potatoes and mushrooms get dipped in bubbling Gruyère while cubes of elk tenderloin and tri-tip cook in porcini broth. A pot of melted chocolate accompanied by marshmallows and berries follows. I cozy up by the fire, completely satiated, and wonder if the healing powers of Dunton’s magical hot springs remedy food coma? Only one way to find out.