Northern Colorado Resorts Open Up With New Lifts, Terrain

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The Continental Divide brings deep snowfall to northern Colorado's mountains where three ski and snowboard operations are constantly upping their games.

Up north, Steamboat  (3,741 a., 3,668 vert.) wraps up a multi-year overhaul up with the extension of the new Wild Blue Gondola to the 10,384-foot-high summit of Sunshine Peak, and a high-speed chair for more expert terrain.

The 10-seat gondola cabins load at the base, head to a mid-station at the revamped Greenhorn Ranch learning center, and then take a sharp right to complete a 13-minute run to the top. The Wild Blue base-to-summit gondola will nearly double the ability to get people out of the totally remodeled base area and help loosen morning and late-day choke points.

Also added to the trail map is a detachable quad on the far east boundary off Mahogany Ridge into the Fish Creek area -- long a locals' powder stash. The new quad serves 655 acres of gullies and glades, and eliminates a hike out.

About 80 miles down U.S. 40, Winter Park's (3,081 a., 3,060 vert.) skiers and riders who want more out of the Denver-owned hill will get a glimpse of the future with a new six-pack in the mountain's midsection.

Named Wild Spur Express, the new detachable six-seater runs along the same route as the 36-year-old Pioneer Express four-pack, one of the oldest high-speed chairs in Colorado. The new detachable chair increases uphill capacity by 30% in the popular Vasquez Ridge section. To further ease congestion, officials added a mid-station to keep more folks on the hill.

The new high-speed is the first move of a proposed multi-year project to expand the Vasquez Ridge and Cirque sections, which top out at 12,060 feet elevation. Also planned is a three-mile gondola from the downtown Winter Park.

About 30 miles north, Granby Ranch Ski Resort (406 a., 1,000 vert.) continues to dig its way out of a tumultuous 40-year history. Being the only Colorado ski and snowboard mountain on private land has attracted, over the years, all manner of developers with schemes of varying success. New ownership in 2021 promised stability

New this season is a 400-foot-long conveyor at the base to further promote Granby as a learner's hill.

Granby's on the Indy Pass, while both Steamboat and Winter Park accept Ikon Pass.

 

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Moist Summer To Deliver Delicious Fall Colors To Colorado's Western Slope

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This autumn's aspen display in Colorado promises to be top-notch, as ample precipitation has the groves in healthy shape, especially around the ski and snowboard resorts of the Western Slope.

The leaves of aspen trees change color as the sun gets lower in the sky, and the process of photosynthesis -- turning sunlight into food -- shuts down. During the fall, that begins in the northern climes and heads southward. The period of September and early October are prime viewing times, be it for hikers, bikers, and lift-riders.

So a fall "leaf-peeping" tour should begin at the state's northernmost resort at Steamboat. The main gondola runs Friday-Sunday and gets visitors up Mt. Werner to 9,000 feet elevation.

From the deck of the Thunderhead Lodge, the Yampa Valley is framed by slopes and hillocks of aspens, oaks and maples -- a veritable palate of all a Colorado autumn has to offer. Nearby Buffalo Pass is a favorite for catching the colors.

Next stop is the Roaring Fork Valley, home of Aspen Mountain and Snowmass. Climate and elevation have produced some of the thickest aspen groves in the state -- hence, the eponymous name of the resort. Both mountains run gondolas Friday-Sunday through September.

A drive up the valley often means a dozen pullovers to marvel at the huge clusters of color on the mountain slopes above. The gondola ride at either mountain unveils the autumn's gallery of colors. And, it's a short ride up to the Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed locales in all of Colorado.

Next on the tour is the Animas River Valley that flows out of the San Juan Mountains and its plentiful aspen groves. The town of Silverton sits in a caldera ringed by aspens and oaks, and is served by the Durango-Silverton tourist train.

From there, take a ride south on U.S. 550 through steep slopes and high-valley aspen groves over Molas and Coal Bank passes to Purgatory. There, the main chairlift rises out of the base village on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through September. The front side of "Purg" is coated with aspen groves and, from the 10,200-foot summit, the whole splendor of autumn's mountain complexion is on display.

 

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Colorado Resorts Gear Up For Summer Lift Construction

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When outdoors enthusiasts head to the Colorado Rockies this summer, they will be a sneak peak at a half-dozen new and replacement lifts that are expected to be ready to go for the 2023-2024 ski and snowboard season.

Beginning in the north, the multi-year makeover at Steamboat culminates this summer with the second-leg of Wild Blue gondola and a new high-speed quad to open up Mahogany Ridge.

The first leg of the 10-seat gondola began spinning this season, topping out at a regraded "terrain-based learning" terrain now named Greenhorn Ranch. Ski school headquarters moved up there, served by four moving carpets and a new high-speed quad to make Greenhorn Ranch an encapsulated learning center.

This summer, the Wild Blue gondola will be extended to the 10,384-foot ridgetop Sunshine Peak. The new quad will serve new terrain on the east boundary in Fish Creek Canyon.

At Winter Park, the out-of-the-way Vasquez Ridge trail network will get a faster ride as the 37-year-old four-person Pioneer Express will be replaced by a six-seat detachable chair. A mid-station will improve access of the lower moderate terrain and the more gnarly upper bump runs.

In Summit County, Keystone is scheduled to finally put up the high-speed Bergman Express six-pack to open up heretofore hike-to upper mountain terrain. Postponed last summer, installing of the new chair gives intermediate skiers and riders a taste of alpine bowl skiing, while provide lift access to steeper Erickson Bowl next door.

At Breckenridge, an upgrade at Peak 8 base will replace fixed-grip Lift 5 -- put up in 1970 as one of the resort's first lifts. The new high-speed quad Lift 5 will swish novices higher onto the mountain, as well as give prime access to the long Park Lane terrain park.

Up on Aspen Mountain, the long-awaited Pandora expansion will get its new chairlift this summer. As Aspen's first boundary expansion since it opened in 1946, adding the Pandora snowfields off the summit means 153 acres and a new high-speed quad to skier's right off the summit.

Finally, at Silverton Mountain, crews will install a second fixed-grip chair for its guided powder-stash terrain. Located east of the existing double chair, the new chair will let skiers and riders lap the steeps off Velocity Basin without having to return to the base.

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After A Snowy Winter, Many Colorado Resorts Set To Extend Their Seasons

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With all the snow that fell on the Rockies this season, it's time to scrub the springtime calendar and head back up to more than a half-dozen Colorado mountains that have extended their seasons.

Adding days beyond announced closings can be a slippery slope, as mountain managers have to balance the cost of firing up the lifts against the unpredictable late-season demand for more turns. But, for some, this season's record-breaking snowfall made the decision easier.

Copper Mountain has gone late into April three of the last four seasons, and the 2022-2023 season will be no different. Mountain officials that May 7 will be the final day at Copper -- a two-week extension and its latest closing date in nearly three decades.

In Aspen, officials will keep Aspen Highlands open an extra week to April 16, while Aspen Mountain will spin its lifts to April 23. Officials pointed to above-average snowfall every month since October and persistent cold weather as reasons for staying open longer than expected.

Three Colorado ski and snowboard mountains got at least 50% more than their historic average: Purgatory, Sunlight and Powderhorn. Despite Nature's largesse, the latter two will close as scheduled after the first weekend in April -- about when they do normally. At Purgatory, however, management pushed daily ops back to April 9, and plans to stay open on weekends until April 23 -- about a week later than usual.

Steamboat received tons of snow this season -- nearly 300 inches -- so the northern Colorado resort will keep things on the go for an extra week, to April. It's the first seasone extension for The 'Boat in 30 years.

Monarch will continue a recent tradition of putting skiers and riders on the hill deep into April, will do so again by targeting April 23 as its final day on the operations.

Winter Park, which is known to push the limits of a skiing and riding season, announced it will stick to its announced April 23 closing date. However, companion mountain Mary Jane is expected to keep going into May as long as conditions permit.

The usual "TBA" suspects remain so this season, with Breckenridge, Loveland and Arapaho Basin setting temporary dates but planning to hang on as long as possible.

 

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New Lifts, Learning Terrain, Remodeled Base Debut At Steamboat

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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.

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The Brilliance Of Aspen Groves Beckons From Colorado's Mountains 

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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 horizonThe 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.

 

 

 

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Western Slope: Colorado's Summertime Playground In The Mountains

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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.

Several resorts don't run their lifts in the summer -- Powderhorn, Sunlight, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk -- but remain open for hiking and mountain biking, and general summertime leisure time.

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.

 

 

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A Flurry Of Lift Construction Set For Colorado This Summer

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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.

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7 Ways Your Ski Season Is About To Get Better

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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.

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The Ikon Pass Showcases Six Colorado Resorts

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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.

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Many Options Available For Flying To Colorado's Slopes This Winter

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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.

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Seven Best Colorado Ski Towns

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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.

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Wonder Of Gold: Relish The Color Of Autumn At Colorado Mountain Resorts

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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.

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Summer Winds Down With Traditional Oktoberfest, Brew Fest Events

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At many ski and snowboard resorts, October comes in September -- in the form of the lederhosen, dirndl, clogs, knee socks, and, of course, beer.

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Stay Active Right Up To Summer's End In Colorado High Country

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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.

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Electric MTBs Take On The Mountains In The West

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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.

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Alterra Opens Up Its Wallet; Squaw-Alpine Gondola Finally To Get Built

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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.

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SnoCast: Big Snow Targets the Rockies

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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.

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SnoCast: Bursts of Snow to Kick-Off March

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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.

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Headin' Uphill Rapidly Rising In Popularity In Colorado

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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.

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