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Home / Articles / Adventure / Winter Scene /  Winter Scene 2010: The great Colorado ski area over view
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Thursday, October 28,2010

Winter Scene 2010: The great Colorado ski area over view

By James Dziezynski

 

It´s one of the wonderful problems to have in Colorado: picking the best place to ski or snowboard. Colorado boasts 26 major ski areas that range from the modest Howelsen Hill to the epic bowls of Vail. Picking the best ones for your style, budget and time can be tricky. Are you looking for steep ’n’ deep or long, moderate cruisers? Terrain parks or family friendly? Powder or groomers?

 

Our overview will give you the beta for Colorado’s best ski areas along with our two cents on what makes each unique and worth visiting. So without further ado, we present the Boulder Weekly great Colorado ski area overview.

Arapahoe Basin

Peak: 13,050´

Base: 10,780´

Vertical Rise: 2,270´

Average Snowfall: 350"

Snowmaking Acres: 125

Aspen Mountain is the flag

 

Skiable Acres: 900 Lifts: 7 Trails: 105 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 10/30/60 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: N Lift Ticket Price: TBA Opening Date: Oct. 25

The big news at Arapahoe Basin is the new Black Mountain Express, a quad chair lift that replaces the old triple Exhibition Lift. The Black Mountain Express will reach mid-mountain in just under three minutes, cutting the time to get on the hill and ending the tradition of ditching the fourth member of your crew with a bunch of weirdos behind you in the lift line. As the classic local’s ski area, A-Basin remains relatively free of the crowds that clog lift lines at nearby resorts. The dog-friendly beach parking area and close metro-area access over Loveland Pass make A-Basin a favorite among Coloradans.

Aspen Highlands

Peak: 11,675´ Base: 8,040´ Vertical Rise: 3,635´ Average Snowfall: 300" Snowmaking Acres: 110 Skiable Acres: 1,028 Lifts: 5 Trails: 118 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 18/30/52 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: Y Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $92 Adult/$83 Jr. Sr./$58 Child Opening Date: Dec. 11

Aspen Highlands is the locals’ choice for steep and deep runs, including the famous Highland Bowl. With an eye toward wide-open terrain and excellent snowcat skiing, for those who want to go big in the shadow of the 14,000-foot Maroon Bells, Aspen Highlands will not disappoint.

Aspen Mountain

Peak: 11,212´ Base: 7,945´ Vertical Rise: 3,267´ Average Snowfall: 300" Snowmaking Acres: 210 Skiable Acres: 673 Lifts: 8 Trails: 76 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 0/48/52 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: Y Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $92 Adult/$83 Jr. Sr./$58 Child Opening Date: Nov. 25

ship peak of the four Aspen/ Snowmass ski areas (Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Snowmass). Opened in 1947, it remains the classic Colorado ski area with a fine blend of bumps, steeps, groomers and trees. In other words, there are runs for every style of skier and rider. The fact you can end your day by skiing directly into town (or the nearest pub) is pretty sweet.

Beaver Creek

Peak: 11,440´ Base: 8,100´ Vertical Rise: 3,340´ Average Snowfall: 320" Snowmaking Acres: 650 Skiable Acres: 1,815 Lifts: 25 Trails: 149 % of Beginner/ Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 19/43/38 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $97 Adult/$80 Sr./$58 Child Opening Date: Nov. 24

It’s no secret that Beaver Creek caters to high-end clientele, but that doesn’t stop it from having some of the best terrain in Colorado. In fact, many locals prefer Beaver Creek’s long runs and varied topography to the famous bowls of Vail. The blues and single-diamond blacks are some of the best in the state, twisting down through aspen groves and providing epic cruisers. And for those who like to scream down the hill, there’s a reason why the World Cup of skiing has chosen Beaver Creek time and time again.

Breckenridge

Peak: 12,998´

Base: 9,600´ Vertical Rise: 3,398´ Average Snowfall: 305" Snowmaking Acres: 565 Skiable Acres: 2,358 Lifts: 29 Trails: 155 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 15/33/52 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $85 Adult/$75 Sr./$45 Child Opening Date: Nov. 12

With more than 2,000 accessible acres, it’s surprising how many people never see some of the best sides of this touristfriendly resort. Breck’s back bowls and powdery trees are often overlooked because of the sheer number of quality groomers. The above treeline runs top out at nearly 13,000 feet and are thrilling descents on powder days — just be wary of hard ice on clear, cold days.

Buttermilk

Peak: 9,900´ Base: 7,870´ Vertical Rise: 2,030´ Average Snowfall: 200" Snowmaking Acres: 108 Skiable Acres: 470 Lifts: 9 Trails: 44 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 35/39/26 Bowl Skiing: N Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $92 Adult/$83 Jr. Sr./$58 Child Opening Date: Dec. 11

Don’t let Buttermilk’s modest stats fool you — many of the best skiers and riders in the world come to the mountain to hit up the incredible variety of terrain parks. Huge jumps, big boxes and rails for experts complement the beginner-friendly terrain. Family-friendly, with the added incentive of big air, Buttermilk also has a few good off-trail tree runs if you’ve got the savvy to find them!

Copper Mountain

Peak: 12,313´ Base: 9,712´ Vertical Rise: 2,601´ Average Snowfall: 285" Snowmaking Acres: 380 Skiable Acres: 2,465 Lifts: 22 Trails: 127 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 21/25/54 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: Y Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: TBA Opening Date: Nov. 5

Copper Mountain stretches out over the mountainous terrain in a very natural way, with long runs that offer a fantastic variety of skiing. Copper’s bowls and hike-to ridges are hidden in the deepest part of the resort, but should not be missed, especially on a powder day. New for 2011 are improved snowmaking capabilities and expanded free parking.

Crested Butte

Peak: 12,162´ Base: 9,375´ Vertical Rise: 3,062´ Average Snowfall: 250" Snowmaking Acres: 300 Skiable Acres: 1,125 Lifts: 16 Trails: 121 % of Beginner/Intermediate/

Expert Terrain: 23/57/20 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $87 Adult/$78 Teen/$65 Sr./$44 Child Opening Date: Nov.

24

Crested Butte remains one of the charming outposts in Colorado, a friendly mountain whose small town feel is a welcome change from the enormous resorts. The bulk of the runs focus on intermediate terrain, which is still surprisingly steep, and the 20 percent of expert runs offer some of the most extreme lines in the state.

Durango Purgatory

Peak: 10,822’ Base: 8,793’ Vertical Rise: 2,029´ Average Snowfall: 250" Snowmaking Acres: 250 Skiable Acres: 1,200 Lifts: 10 Trails: 85 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 23/51/26 Bowl Skiing: N Powdercat Skiing: Y Resort: N Day Ticket Price: $65 Adult/$55 Sr./$52 Student/$36 Child Opening Date: Nov. 25

Durango Purgatory is home to fantastic powdercat skiing. Great intermediate and expert lines through gorgeous forests are hallmarks of this scenic ski area and are a wonderful complement to the laid-back vibe of the Durango locals. Family friendly but still challenging for all levels, Durango Purgatory is a modest mountain with a lot of character.

Echo Mountain

Peak: 10,650´ Base: 10,050´ Vertical Rise: 600´ Average Snowfall: 215" Snowmaking Acres: 60 Skiable Acres: 85 Lifts: 3 Trails: 15 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 20/60/20 Bowl Skiing: N Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: N Day Ticket Price: $45 Adult/$29 Youth Opening Date: Dec. 1

Echo Mountain’s focus is big air and terrain parks. No other ski area is as dedicated to offering the best park features, with an emphasis on unique boxes, rails and jumps. Instruction is top-notch, and reasonable prices are ideal for those who would rather play in the park than hit cruisers and steeps.


Eldora

Peak: 10,800´ Base: 9,200´ Vertical Rise: 1,600´ Average Snowfall: 300" Snowmaking Acres: 500 Skiable Acres: 680 Lifts: 12 Trails: 53 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 20/50/30 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: N Day Ticket Price: TBA Opening Date: November TBA

Want to avoid the chaos of I-70? Check out Eldora, located just outside of Nederland. A modest and family-friendly ski area, Eldora does have exciting and tight trees at the north side of the mountain. It must be mentioned that Eldora also has an excellent network of cross-country and snowshoe trails accessible from the base area. Eldora is an affordable alternative to the big resorts with respectable if not epic terrain.

Howelsen

Peak: 7,136´ Base: 6,696´ Vertical Rise: 440´ Average Snowfall: 150" Snowmaking Acres: 50 Skiable Acres: 25 Lifts: 4 Trails: 15 % of Beginner/ Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 25/20/55 Bowl Skiing: N Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: N Day Ticket Price: $17 Adult/$12 Sr./$6 Child Opening Date: December TBA

Humble Howelsen Hill is the grandfather of Colorado’s ski industry and the hometown mountain to more than 64 Olympians. That amazing stat is due to the appeal of top-notch cross-country skiing and the world-famous ski-jump training facilities. Howelsen’s tubing course is ridiculously fun with or without the kids in tow. If you’re looking for downhill skiing and riding, check in next door at Steamboat Mountain.

Keystone

Peak: 12,408´ Base: 9,280´ Vertical Rise: 3,128´ Average Snowfall: 230" Snowmaking Acres: 660 Skiable Acres: 3,148 Lifts: 20 Trails: 135 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 19/32/49

Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: Y Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $85 Adult/$75 Sr./$45 Child Opening Date: November TBA

Keystone’s vast terrain and excellent hike-to and cat skiing are tons of fun. Lots of quality groomers and steep trees in the deepest part of the resort add to the variety. Be warned, when there are big crowds on icy and clear days, even the moderate blue runs become fields of carnage due to the shadowy cold that highlights a lot of the connecting runs between lifts. But on a good powder day, you may find yourself playing on the mountain well into the night skiing session!

Loveland

Peak: 13,010´ Base: 10,600´ Vertical Rise: 2,410´ Average Snowfall: 400" Snowmaking Acres: 160 Skiable Acres: 1,365 Lifts: 10 Trails: 92 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 12/41/46 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: N Day Ticket Price: $59 Adult/$45 Sr./$25 Child Opening Date: Oct. 24

Loveland is the little ski area with a lot of heart, no pun intended. Some of the highestelevation terrain awaits, with medium, steep bowls and rowdy runs with a lot of natural features. Crowds aren’t an issue, and the small mountain still manages to cover more than 1,300 acres. Loveland has also been gradually improving its terrain parks, giving the mountain a little bit of everything at a reasonable price; always a local’s favorite.

Monarch

Peak: 11,961´ Base: 10,790´ Vertical Rise: 1,170´ Average Snowfall: 350" Snowmaking Acres: 0 Skiable Acres: 800 Lifts: 7 Trails: 64 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 14/28/58 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: Y Resort: N Day Ticket Price: $54 Adult/$29 Sr./$20 Child Opening Date: Nov. 24

Because they don’t make any snow, Monarch’s conditions are at the behest of mother nature. Luckily, she tends to favor Monarch because by midwinter, a plethora of solid runs are ready to go. Like other smaller ski areas, Monarch’s appeal is in the low crowds and varied terrain. A worthy weekend adventure from the Front Range, Monarch’s character has won over many who might otherwise overlook it. Great cruisers and tough but rewarding expert runs define Monarch.

Powderhorn

Peak: 9,850´ Base: 8,200´ Vertical Rise: 1,650´ Average Snowfall: 250" Snowmaking Acres: 25 Skiable Acres: 1,600 Lifts: 4 Trails: 43 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 20/50/30 Bowl Skiing: N Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: N Day Ticket Price:

$53Adult/$43 Sr./$43 Child Opening Date: Dec. 16

As a family-first mountain, Powderhorn sits far on the

Western Slope, where Grand Junction-area locals can get a taste of bigger mountains in their own backyard. Topping out at under 10,000 feet, Powderhorn is still a good destination if you’re looking to see a new side of Colorado skiing. Note that Powderhorn does cover more than 1,600 acres in prime winter conditions. The lower elevations give it a northeast U.S. feel (minus the horrible, bulletproof Vermont ice).

Silverton

Peak: 13,487´ Base: 10,400´ Vertical Rise: 3,287´ Average Snowfall: 400" Snowmaking Acres: 0 Skiable Acres: 1,819 Lifts: 1 Trails: 69 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 0/0/100 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: Heliskiing Resort: N Day Ticket Price: $49 Unguided/ $119 Guided Opening Date: November TBA

Silverton isn’t joking around — beginners and less-experienced skiers and riders have no business on this mountain. To advanced intermediates and experts, Silverton is backcountry nirvana. The single lift opens up a true ski-mountaineering experience minus the mountaineering. Besides being able to hold your own on steep powder and wild lines, avalanche awareness and full backcountry knowledge are required. Silverton offers guided tours to help get the feel of this unique mountain, a place unlike anywhere else in North America.

The heliskiing is unbelievable and should be on the bucketlist of any accomplished skier or rider.

Ski Cooper

Peak: 11,700’ Base: 10,500´

Vertical Rise: 1,200’ Average Snowfall: 260" Snowmaking Acres: 0 Skiable Acres: 400 Lifts: 5 Trails: 26 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 30/40/30 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: Y Resort: N Day Ticket Price: $42 Adult/$31 Sr./$23 Child Opening Date: Nov. 25

Located just outside of Leadville, Cooper is local and laid-back. Soak in the surrounding views of the highest peaks in the state while hitting up some genuinely fun intermediates and trees. Affordable ticket prices and a friendly atmosphere give Cooper a throwback feel. The terrain is small but good and is a nice option when combining other winter activities in the Leadville area.

Snowmass

Peak: 12,510´ Base: 8,104´ Vertical Rise: 4,406´ Average Snowfall: 300" Snowmaking Acres: 230 Skiable Acres: 3,132 Lifts: 21 Trails: 91 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 6/50/44 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $92 Adult/$83 Jr. Sr./$58 Child Opening Date: Nov. 25

Snowmass Mountain is sometimes lost in the glamour of the Aspen-named resorts but overlooking this amazing ski area may be the biggest mistake both natives and tourists make. Snowmass arguably has the very best intermediate runs in Colorado, especially the feature-filled epic Longshot trail. A huge mountain with wide-open views of the Elk Range peaks, sublime intermediates are balanced with some wild extreme

terrain and challenging trees. If you’re headed to the Aspen area, Snowmass is a must-see.

SolVista

Peak: 9,202´ Base: 8,202´ Vertical Rise: 1,000´ Average Snowfall: 220" Snowmaking Acres: 245 Skiable Acres: 406 Lifts: 5 Trails: 33 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 50/30/20 Bowl Skiing: N Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: N Day Ticket Price: $54 Adult/$32 Child Opening Date: Dec. 15

Another little local resort, SolVista’s night skiing and speedy, short runs are perfect for the hometown crowd. No other resort is as dedicated to beginner runs, and families will appreciate the lack of maniacs screaming down the slopes. As with other smaller ski areas, SolVista is a great way to spend a day as part of a weekend in the towns north of Winter Park (where cross-country skiing, dogsledding and snowmobiling rule).

Steamboat

Peak: 10,568´ Base: 6,900´ Vertical Rise: 3,668´ Average Snowfall: 350" Snowmaking Acres: 375 Skiable Acres: 2,965 Lifts: 18 Trails: 165 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 14/42/44 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: Y Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $97 Adult/$65 Sr./$59 Child Opening Date: Nov. 24

The fabled champagne powder of Steamboat makes for the best tree runs in Colorado, especially when the sun is shining and the snow is fresh. Key to Steamboat’s allure is the fact that many tree runs are well spaced out and accessible to intermediate and recreational skiers. Cruising through the legendary aspen patches without the high-intensity focus of super-tight trees is a sheer delight. Good bowls and skicat areas round out the Steamboat experience.

Sunlight

Peak: 9,895´ Base: 7,885´ Vertical Rise: 2,010´ Average Snowfall: 250" Snowmaking Acres: 21 Skiable Acres: 470 Lifts: 3 Trails: 70 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 20/55/25 Bowl Skiing: N Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: N Day Ticket Price: $50 Adult/$40 Sr./$40 Child Opening Date: Dec. 3

Sunlight is a refuge for Western Slope skiers, a tiny, local mountain with just enough terrain to give a good winter fix before heading off to bigger downhill slopes. Affordable and family-friendly, Sunlight is more than just a modest ski hill — it truly has some of the best cross-country skiing and snowshoeing around.

Telluride Peak: 13,150´ Base: 8,725´ Vertical Rise: 4,425´ Average Snowfall: 309" Snowmaking Acres: 220 Skiable Acres: 2,000 Lifts: 18 Trails: 118 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 23/36/41 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: Heliskiing Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $92 Adult/$82 Sr./$56 Child Opening Date: Nov. 25

Telluride is an epic mountain: heli-skiing, snowcat skiing, huge terrain parks, awesome cruisers and thrilling trees. Telluride’s mix of terrain is wonderful because every type of skiing — from bunny slopes to double black — is exceptionally well-crafted. Perhaps that is what makes Telluride so great: no one element is overlooked, and it gives the mountain balance not seen at other resorts. A bit pricey, the trek down to Telluride is nonetheless a worthy investment.

Vail 

eak: 11,570´ Base: 8,120´ Vertical Rise: 3,450’ Average Snowfall: 350" Snowmaking Acres: 1,763 Skiable Acres: 5,289 Lifts: 31 Trails: 193 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 18/29/53 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: Y Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $97 Adult/$80 Sr./$58 Child Opening Date: November TBA

No other resort defines Colorado skiing quite like Vail. Sure, you have terrain parks and frontside cruisers, but where Vail really shines is in its back bowls. Steep and enormous, the natural basins that make up the sequence of bowls are some of the best on the planet. Blue Sky Basin balances the big bowls with sweet tree runs and feature-laden trails. With more than 5,000 skiable acres, there’s always something new to explore. And despite the high-end prices, Vail has arguably the very best on-mountain restaurants in Colorado.

Winter Park/Mary Jane

Peak: 12,060´ Base: 9,000´ Vertical Rise: 3,000´ Average Snowfall: 328" Snowmaking Acres: 300 Skiable Acres: 3,076 Lifts: 24 Trails: 142 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 8/37/55

Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: Y Day Ticket Price: $84 Adult/$55 Sr./$42 Child Opening Date: Nov. 17

The conjoined ski areas of Winter Park and Mary Jane are known for big bump runs and primarily appeal to skiers. Nearly endless fields of bumps coat both intermediate and expert runs, though there are also good cruisers and some fast runs that start a thousand feet above treeline. Mary Jane in particular is well-suited for aggressive and experienced skiers and riders.

Wolf Creek

Peak: 11,904´ Base: 10,300´ Vertical Rise: 1,604´ Average Snowfall: 465" Snowmaking Acres: 0 Skiable Acres: 1,600 Lifts: 7 Trails: 77 % of Beginner/Intermediate/ Expert Terrain: 20/35/45 Bowl Skiing: Y Powdercat Skiing: N Resort: N Day Ticket Price: $52 Adult/$28 Sr./$28 Child Opening Date: Nov. 5

Last but not least, we have the amazing outpost of Wolf Creek. Located in the far southwest near Pagosa Springs, Wolf Creek reminds me of a wintery Elysian Fields, a place where the gods themselves would ski if they did such a thing. Am I exaggerating? Maybe a bit, but it’s undeniable that great skiing and riding awaits at this powder-rich area. Because of its relative isolation, crowds are next to non-existent and you can still hit fresh powder late in the day. So many great tree runs, so many feature-rich cruisers, it will feel like the mountain is all your own. Highly recommended for all levels of skiers and riders!

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