Meadow Mountain Is a Snow Haven

Get out to Meadow Mountain near Minturn for winter fun.

Every winter adventure on Meadow Mountain is a special experience, but there’s something even more memorable that’s captured when you go in the early morning or at the edge of evening. 

Dusk was falling on this January day as we ascended up the slopes of the recreation area, located in the Colorado mountains near the quaint town of Minturn. Meadow Mountain is known as an outdoor haven that sits a little away from the bustle of nearby ski resorts, offering a sanctuary of expansive land and sky for all who explore it. 

In the 1920s, the land was used for lettuce farming, and its now protected by the U.S. Forest Service. In the winter, many routes travel up through the meadows toward the top of the mountain, where the Line Shack sits. Once you reach it, you can take of your skis or snowshoes, step inside, have a snack and warm up with the wood-burning stove. It’s one of the places that creates perfection, and its worth the work to get yourself there. 

Ascending Meadow Mountain. Photo by Kim Fuller.

It took us about two hours to reach the Line Shack on this February trip. We were on skis with skins to go uphill, working hard to earn our turns through what promised to be pillowy power on the downhill. We took a pretty direct route — up the steep and long hill to start, then up through the forest toward the top of the ridge. 

Another winter track option is often broken closer to the Forest Service office, just north of the trailhead, where the building backs up to the hillside.

The area does allow snowmobiles, although man-powered and machine-driven genres generally maintain their distance from one another. While Meadow Mountain is considered the backcountry, it’s a safer place than many to explore, simply because there are often other people around, and also because the mild angles make for very low avalanche danger. 

We didn’t see or even hear any snowmobiles on this day, and there was nothing but peace and quiet to meet us as we reached the top of Meadow Mountain. The light was radiant, and slowly softening into a beautiful sunset. Once we stopped moving, we quickly stripped our skins and added our warmer layers. Even so, the air was perfectly crisp and we started to catch a chill. Our hearts, however, stayed warm. The Line Shack will always welcome you, whether you’re there for a five-minute turnaround, or if you settle in for a picnic lunch or evening libation. 

After we bundled up and clicked our boots into our skis, we floated our way down, in and out of trees and through fresh, knee-deep snow on every turn. Like most of the memories made on Meadow, this was one that we’ll truly cherish forever. 

Meadow Mountain ski down. Photo by Kim Fuller.

To access the Meadow Mountain trailhead from Vail, travel west on Interstate 70 to exit 171 for Minturn. Exit and turn right (south). Just past the interstate, there is a large parking lot on the right. The trail begins from the south end of the parking lot near the white house.

From the trailhead sign, you can follow the tracked road that winds behind the site house at the end of the parking lot. This road climbs gradually through open snow meadows, aspen and spruce-fir forests. 

If you know the summer routes, don’t always assume you can follow them in the winter, since sometimes you can cross avalanche terrain. The summer hiking and mountain biking trail is 4.5 miles, one way. Mileage is cut off in the winter, with more direct snow routes, but the elevation gain of just over 2,000 feet stays the same.

Kim Fuller is a freelance writer and photographer based in Vail, Colorado.

Published: March 1, 2017

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