What to do in Dillon, CO during the winter months
Winter in Summit County can be a long and merciless stretch of time. Months upon months of sub-freezing temperatures, relentless snow and deep blizzards well into May are an important part of what makes the area so special. Love it or hate it, these natural forces aren’t changing, so the best one can do is make the most of them. Luckily in Dillon, there are a plethora opportunities available to do just that.
Heading through Dillon, one of the first things one notices is the jaw dropping view of Lake Dillon and surrounding mountains. Dillon borders the over 3,000 acre reservoir that encompasses a great portion of the area. A thick layer of ice covers the lake in the winter, opening the door for many different pursuits, such as ice fishing, snowkiting, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Off the lake, a variety of trails exist in Dillon for your exploring pleasure. If heading out anywhere in Dillon, remember that layering is important, as high and low temperatures can vary greatly throughout the day.
From roughly Thanksgiving-mid April, Lake Dillon provides excellent ice fishing. Kokanne salmon are some of the most commonly caught fish, along with arctic char, rainbow trout and the occasional brown trout also in the mix. The inlet where the Snake River meets the lake has historically been a hot spot for catching fish. Check with the Dillon Ranger District or local fishing shops for ice thickness before heading out on lake.
It’s rare for a day to go by in Dillon when there isn’t at least slight breeze. The best way to take advantage of this is by snowkiting. Snowkiting is similar to windsurfing in that the participant is harnessed to a kite. What’s different is that it occurs during the winter on frozen lakes and ponds, and an option for wearing skis while kiting is also available, which according to Colorado Kiteforce, is the easier option for learning. Snowkiting is an excellent sport for learning to windsurf, or practicing freestyle maneuvers for skiing and snowboarding while off the hill. The southern part of the lake closest to Summit High School reportedly provides the most optimal wind conditions. Also, remember that wearing a helmet is just as important as on the mountain, as only a thin layer of snow lies on top of ice.
Cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, and snowshoeing
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are wonderful wintertime sports for those looking to get a cardio workout, or just take in some pleasurable sightseeing. If looking for more of the latter, crossing the icy depths of Lake Dillon is an excellent choice, with amazing panoramic views as far as the eye can see. The Dillon Nature Preserve is a great location for both exercise and sightseeing, through general hiking, skiing or snowshoeing. There are two trail loops at the Preserve, covering over two miles of meadows, forest and rock outcroppings, and scenic views. The Old Dillon Reservoir, Tenderfoot Mountain, Straight Creek and Oro Grande Trails, are other notable routes that contain easy to moderate terrain.
When accessing trails in the High Country, it’s important to consider the snow depth in relation to your chosen mode of transportation. When snow is deep, cross-country skiing and hiking by foot can be extremely challenging. For these situations, snowshoes with a sizable surface area are recommended. If doing any activity in the high alpine areas, be sure to always check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to make sure snow conditions are safe and for info on suggested gear for the day.
“A lot of times people think that if they’re not downhill skiing, they won’t have to worry about avalanches, but that’s not the case. We’ve had a number of situations with slides involving people snowshoeing or hiking. It can happen pretty easily on trails with steep faces coming down on either side of them,” explained Cindy Ebert of Dillon Ranger District.
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