History buffs and cross-country skiers get a twofer at the Ironton Park Ski Area
Cross-country skiing the Ironton Park Ski Area is less a ski or snowshoe in the park than it is a journey through history. The Nordic ski trails bypass the historic ghost town of Ironton, founded in 1833. This once bustling community is now a decrepit array of buildings that are still in good enough shape to elicit images of the bygone era when precious ore was bullied from the mountainsides.
Find the parking lot on the east side of Highway 550 roughly seven miles south of Ouray just north of mile marker 85. The short loops in the valley are groomed, dog friendly and connected to the 2.1-mile Town Site Loop.
Loops and Trails
All Nordic skiing and snowshoeing starts at the parking lot. From there, the options are to either head south then southwest along the slopes of Red Mountain or directly southwest toward the ghost town, reached in about a mile. At the ghost town, after exploring the buildings of the town site, a short ski south will eventually turn east toward Red Mountain and across an old bridge crossing a creek.
The trail eventually trends north and leads back to the parking lot. There are options to leave the Townsite Loop and explore other loops or to add an out-and-back segment to the day. Venturing off the main loop to gain higher ground is worth it. From vantage points you can enjoy splendid views of the valley and Browns Mountain, or continue on to visit old mine sites.
The Ouray County Nordic Council grooms the trails, a service that asks for donations to fund equipment. Visit the website to find out more information on the Ironton Park Ski Area, including a map of the loops and trails.