From Interstate 70, Grand Mesa appears as a long, snow-covered lump dominating the southern panorama between Parachute and Palisade. Outdoor enthusiasts from nearby Grand Junction think of it as their personal winter backyard treasure. For Front Range residents, it's a rare retreat to the Colorado of the past, when lodging was rustic, food was food and not cuisine, prices were reasonable, and solitude reigned in the backcountry.
At 53 square miles, the Mesa, as it's known locally, is the world's largest flat-topped mountain. The top, at more than 10,000 feet, receives an average of 300 inches of snow each year. State 65, a National Scenic and Historic Byway, snakes up the Mesa's steep northern and southern slopes to the wooded landscape on top.
The many frozen lakes on the Mesa appear as pancake-flat clearings among the snow-laden trees, and wildlife abounds. For humans the Mesa is a place for winter sports. Local downhillers head for Powderhorn Ski Area, a small, family-oriented resort for skiers and snowboarders. But most Front Range residents come to the Mesa for its prime nordic skiing and snowmobiling.
While there is plenty of winter recreation, services are limited, with just a handful of places to sleep, eat, or rent a snowmobile. Rustic cabins are reminiscent of traditional summer cottages. The cross-country ski trails are just that--with virtually no warming lodges, ski lessons, or rental equipment. The Mesa, in short, is a place for self-sufficient recreationists to plunge into winter, not to be coddled. Go there to get in touch with nature, breathe clean, cold air, and escape the Front Range crowds.