It's been a busy summer at Colorado's Steamboat, and skiers and riders -- especially beginners and novices -- will bear the fruit of those labors this winter.
On the mountain, there's now a quick and easy way to get to the mid-mountain Rough Rider/Bashor Basin beginner area: The first stretch of the Wild Blue Gondola is expected to begin spinning in late December.
Loaded at the main base area, the new 10-seat gondola takes less than four minutes to deliver folks to a regraded "terrain-based learning" terrain -- now named Greenhorn Ranch -- on the far northeast side of the lower mountain. The headquarters of Steamboat's ski school moves up there, too. Four moving carpets and a new high-speed quad (replacing Rough Rider chair) aim to make Greenhorn Ranch a completely encapsulated learning center.
Down below, many won't recognize the Steamboat base area as it continues to be transformed into a modern, multi-purpose plaza. A new skating rink anchors the Steamboat Square complex. Skiers and snowboarders will find a clear-cut entrance with escalator and new stairways. There's a food-and-beverage court with a second story, and an outdoor performance stage -- plus plenty of seating and railing for non-skiers to check out the lower mountain slopes.
The Preview chair and mountain coaster have been removed to make room for the new gondola loading area, and the base terminal of the existing Christie Peak Express has been moved for the same reason.
New owners Alterra Mountain Corp., purveyors of the Ikon Pass, bought Steamboat in 2017 and immediately embarked upon a $200 million makeover. The clunky decades-old base area got the initial attention with the Steamboat Square development, followed by the gondola and learning area. Snowmaking has been upgraded all over the hill.
Next summer, the gondola will be extended up from Greenhorn Ranch to the 10,384-foot ridgetop Sunshine Peak. New terrain in Fish Creek Canyon is scheduled to be opened on the far skier's right past Pony Express with a new chairlift.
The annual leaf-peeping season in Colorado's high country is upon us, as the weather this summer is expected to produce an especially vibrant autumn display.
Aspens turn when nights get longer and the arc of the sun descends closer to the horizon. The prime foliage viewing time in the Rockies is forecast to begin September in the northernmost elevations, and extend well into October as you move southward. Here's are some suggestions for autumn color tours:
Start at Steamboat Resort, Colorado's most northerly ski and snowboard mountain. The lifts are closed now, but aspen groves cover much of the mountain that looms over town. Take a 4x4 ride up the aspen-lined dirt road toward Buffalo Pass and Summit Lake. Hikers get bonus viewing by climbing into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness just north of Steamboat Springs.
Pair Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek together for top-end foliage, especially since both run their gondolas late in the season. Either one gets you up to 10,000 feet and opens up a full vista of yellowing "quakies" in the Vail Valley. Or, drive U.S. 24 between Vail and Beaver Creek to legacy mining town Minturn where the Eagle River rocks the colors.
A fall foliage tour wouldn't be complete without a stop at eponymous Aspen. Splashes of fall yellow dot the Roaring Fork Valley, and a visit to the legendary ski town should include a ride up Maroon Creek to the take the perquisite photo of the aspen-splashed Maroon Bells at the top of the road.
Head to southwest Colorado for a San Juan Range foliage extravaganza. Head over color-drenched Dallas Divide to Telluride, where aspen groves quilt the steep sides of its much-photographed box canyon. Bright canvases of yellows and reds pop out on both side. Hop the free gondola between the town and the resort village for a sky view of the aspen groves. Or take a Jeep tour to go deeper into the forest.
Take the uber-scenic San Juan Skyway to Ouray and over Red Mountain, Molas and Coal Bank passes to Purgatory. All along the way, dense stands of aspens spill down onto the road. At Purgatory, the chairlifts runs into October, rising through aspen groves to a 10,000-foot-high perch. Fall colors paint much of the 270-degree view of the southwestern flank of the San Juan Mountains.
The west side of the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies is home to about half of the ski and snowboard mountains in the state, and a half-dozen of them have built up summer activity infrastructures to lure flat-landers into the mountains.
If you're looking for a full-on summer menu, check out Telluride. On and off the mountain, there's plenty to keep young and old busy -- from via ferrata to bike parks to kids camps to rafting and Jeep tours. Highlight on the hill is Canopy Adventure, a tree-top complex of zipline, aerial bridges and rappels that begins with ride up the Village Express chair.
At Purgatory, MTB-focused lift access, trail prep and downhill challenges are the norm. The first U.S. resort to host a MBT world championship (1995), "Purg" sells single-ride, day, and season passes-- the latter includes massive Spider Mountain bike park in Austin, Texas.
Another mountain bike mecca is Crested Butte. Its Mountain Bike Park opened in 2009, and its more than 30 miles of single track downhill and X-C runs have been improved ever since. The bike-friendly Red Lady Express does the heavy-lifting to get riders onto the mountain.
Steamboat hosts a ton of attractions around its under-construction base area. Featured is the Outlaw Mountain Coaster with a descent of more than a mile long. With that length, there's plenty of track for loops, turns and twists.
Aspen Mountain and Snowmass crank up their gondolas for summer visitors. A ride up the Silver Queen gondola reaches the11,212-foot summit of Aspen Mountain. The summit area has been developed as the main magnet for the resort, with hiking trails, wildflowers, live music, good food and 360-degree views of Maroon Bells and Roaring Fork Valley.
Across the way, Snowmass turns on a gondola of its own -- the Elk Camp Gondola -- to get folks to the trails, vistas and food in and around mid-mountain Elk Camp. New this summer is the Lost Forest Adventure Center at Elk Camp, with ziplines, bike trails, climbing wall and mountain coaster.
Winter Park is playing off on the popularity of e-bikes this summer with 90-minute tours for pedal-assist mountain bicycles. Three tours run daily from the top of the Explorer Express chair at Sunsport Lodge (also headquarters for renowned Trestle Bike Park). E-bikers head up another 600 feet of vertical to Lunch Rock. No charge for views of Continental Divide.
Summer visitors to Colorado ski and snowboard mountains will see plenty of construction going on, as seven resorts across the state string new lifts for the upcoming season.
All across the country, resorts have been working hard to bolster their offerings and to fix systemic issues, from addressing long lift lines and the mountain-town housing shortage to investing in renewable energy. With the proper precautions, there are more reasons than ever to hit the slopes this season.
With snowmaking temps more favorable, more and more Colorado ski and snowboard resorts are opening, and Ikon Pass holders can try out as much variety in Colorado as in any other state in the Union.
As the snow begins to fall, it's time to plan ahead and book a flight to your favorite Colorado resort -- whether flying in from East, West or in between.
It takes more than good terrain to be a truly great ski town. When you're walking in ski boots and lugging your equipment around, a town that sits at the base of the ski area or has a great bus system will make all the difference.
In Colorado, the most definitive way to know that summer is over and winter is not long off comes when the high-country aspen groves put on their brilliant yellow coats.
At many ski and snowboard resorts, October comes in September -- in the form of the lederhosen, dirndl, clogs, knee socks, and, of course, beer.
Summer may be waning, but the number of bikes, runs and hikes in the Colorado Rockies isn't fazed by the calendar, as the final weeks of August are filled with activities for the active.
It's been almost a decade since electric-assisted e-bikes hit the streets and bike paths of the urban West, and now they are gaining acceptance as a summer option at ski and snowboard mountain resorts.
The purveyors of the Ikon Pass have announced a new round of investments at its major ski and snowboard resorts in the West, including the much-anticipated gondola connection between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
A storm system will bring heavy snow to the western mountains, especially the Colorado Rockies this weekend as a cold and stormy pattern persists. On the flip side, the East enjoys mild and spring-like conditions. This week’s SnoCast has the details through St. Patrick’s Day week.
March came in like a lamb, and will stay “lamb-y” with a few small storm systems to track and a typical hint at Spring-like warmth. Read the details in this week’s SnoCast.
Whether it be Covid-distance crowds, the high price of lift tickets, or simply a need to breathe the Great Outdoors, the participation in uphill skiing has exploded in Colorado this season.
A large pool of bitter cold air seeps into the US from Canada this week, affecting the weather from coast to coast. Here’s what to expect on the slopes.
Hoppin' a ride on a snowcat to get off the piste and into the powder stashes of the backcountry is a popular pastime at Colorado resorts. But this season, there are fewer options than normal.
Significant increases in positive coronavirus cases in Colorado -- and resultant stress on hospital capacities -- have forced further restrictions on the number of skiers and riders who can hit the slopes at the same time.
Several New Mexico ski and snowboard resorts will delay openings, as the governor brought her state back to early-Covid restrictions this week by issuing a stay-at-home lockdown.