Here’s a sample road trip for those who have purchased an Epic Pass, have a week or two on the loose, and are ready to ski and ride across the West without having to shell out for a day ticket.
Fall and the first tastes of winter continue to duke it out across North America. With occasional bursts of cold and spurts of snow continuing in this week’s forecast, it’s a reminder that winter, truly, is not far away.
When visiting a ski resort for the first time, most people check out the trail map to plan their day. But whereas 30 years ago it was a paper map, today it is likely to be on a smartphone or computer.
Colorado’s mountain resorts roll out the fun carpet during the summer, especially for families with children. Base areas abound with entertainment for the younger set, while most resorts put kids on the mountain for outdoors activities, like mountain biking and tubing.
Choose a mini-bowl to ski at Sun Valley. (Sun Valley/Facebook)
Few experiences on a mountain rival pushing off down a massive alpine bowl, with nothing in your way and infinite lines to follow. And the Rocky Mountain resorts have many to choose from.
The whiskey is lined up in Park City. (High West/Facebook)
Catching a cocktail after a long day on the slopes has been a winter tradition since the beginning and, recently, the distillers are making the good stuff right at the resorts.
Ready to go after landing in Aspen. (Aspen-Pitkin County Airport/Facebook)
This season, it will be easier than ever to hop on a plane and head for where the powder is freshest in Colorado.
Hangin' on at Snowbird coaster. (Snowbird/Facebook)
As summer hits its full stride across the West, mountain resorts put their hot-weather activities front and center – including a plethora of mountain coasters that rush down trails and slopes.
Hit Mary Jane up for more spring. (Winter Park/Facebook)
Just when Colorado resorts prepare to shut down winter operations, snow storms roll into the Rockies -- and forcing a trio of mountains to keep their lifts running longer than scheduled.
Resorts still open in the Centennial State report more than a foot of snow since the beginning of April – with some adding two feet or more. While temps warmed unseasonably in March, they cooled significantly once April arrived to not only produce new snow but also slow the annual slushing-up during the spring skiing period.
Vail has announced it will a week longer to April 17, due to two feet that have fallen in recent days. The majority of the front side of the mountain – plus Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls – will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ski school will run private lessons only.
Over the hill at Aspen Mountain, diminishing snowfall in March – 30 inches total – made the scheduled closing date of April 16 realistic; however, another 17 inches in the first week of the month pushed the shutdown to April 23.
Operating hours will shift to 10 a.m.-5 p.m. to take allow slopes to warm up in the morning and to take advantage of longer days – unless a powder day shows up and lifts crank up at 9 a.m.
Top-to-bottom skiing will be served by Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Express, FIS and Ruthie's lifts.
While the bulk of Winter Park closes on April 23, the bumps of Mary Jane will be ready for spring skiing and riding until April 30.
A family heads down Village Way (Winter Park Resort/Chris Wellhausen)
Sometimes, you just want to get onto a trail and just go … and go … and go. Fortunately, U.S. ski and snowboard resorts have just the ticket for those who need a leisurely slide down the hill.
Obviously, Europe has us beat hands down, but the U.S. has got length, too. So SnoCountry.com went looking for the longest ski runs in the country -- those under a single name -- and came up with this sampling.
Vail boasts the longest run in Colorado, its famous Riva Ridge trail. Nothing gets you from top to bottom at the Colorado resort more readily than Riva Ridge. It’s mostly blue and black, starting near the summit and winding 4-1/2 miles to the Vail Village base area.
At Snowmass, if you’re at the top of Elk Camp and want a long cruiser at the end of the day, skiers and riders can link several blue runs off Elk Camp summit into a 5.3-mile cruiser to the bottom of Two Creeks chairlift. The run covers East Branch run, which is one of the longest single-named trails on the Colorado mountain.
If you’re at the top of Winter Park and don’t have the legs for anymore blacks or blues, as someone how to get on long and languid Village Way run that starts at the top of Parsenn Bowl. Mostly blue at the top, Village Way winds down more than five miles down onto the main front side of the Colorado resort.
Vermont’s largest resort Killington also claims the East’s longest single run, a 10-mile cruise called Juggernaut. The trail starts at the top of Killington Peak and courses right along the ropes at ski area boundary. Rating begins as a blue but transitions to a green slide to the base of the Sunrise Village triple chair. A recent trip by SnoCountry resulted in a 45-minute trip from top to bottom.
More seats on chairs at Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail next season. (Breckenridge/Facebook)
Vail Resorts, which owns all three Colorado resorts, has plans to replace Keystone’s Montezuma Express, Breckenridge’s Falcon SuperChair on Peak 10 and Vail’s Northwoods Chair to increase capacity and streamline flow in key areas of the mountains.
Each project will be subject to U.S. Forest Service review, but resort officials are confident the new lifts will be up and running by the 2017-2018 season.
At Keystone, the Montezuma Express – installed in 1990 – serves the prime novice and intermediate terrain on the upper front side. The new lift will add two seats to become a six-pack to increase uphill capacity by 25 percent, the resort said.
Also at Keystone, Labonte’s Smokehouse BBQ at the base of North Peak will get a facelift over the summer, including more indoor seating to go with the fav “ski beach” outside.
Breckenridge’s Peak 10 has a large portion of the expert terrain on the mountain, and debuted in 1985-86 with the fixed-grip F Lift. A year later, a high-speed quad went in. The newest Falcon SuperChair will be a six-seat high-speed that will bolster uphill capacity and allow snowboarders and skiers more Peak 10 laps each day.
At Vail, the original Northwoods chair went in 1985 to open up intermediate and advanced terrain on Blue Sky Basin on the upper front side. Resort officials noted congestion on the lift, especially for skiers and riders heading over to the back bowls.
“The replacement of Northwoods will impact a key area of the mountain, especially at the end of the day, as guests are leaving Blue Sky Basin and making their way west,” said Vail’s Doug Lovell.
You'll find gear to put a smile on your face at the Vail Ski Swap. (Vail Ski and Snowboard Club)
As we’re preparing for ski and board season, it’s time to think about upgrading our gear or selling some of your old stuff, and fall ski swaps are a great way to make that happen.
After all the lawsuits, posturing and hand-wringing, the merger of two Park City mountains became a confirmed reality Dec. 18 when Vail Resorts officials cut the ribbon on the new Quicksilver Gondola.
The Christmas-New Years season at Colorado ski and snowboard resorts definitively says that winter is here for good, punctuated by traditional torchlight runs down the slopes, fireworks, Santa appearances and much more.
Adult women constitute a prime demographic for growth the ski and snowboard industry so, in the past few seasons, Vail has fine-tuned its ski school offerings to coincide with the schedules and desires of the females on the mountain.
This could be the big one. No, really, it could be the mother of all Thanksgiving snowstorms. So hold the turkey. Hold the cranberry sauce. Hold the stuffing, and leave early - especially if you’re driving I-70 or I-80 - get a room and don’t forget the fat skis!
Ski swaps offer a convenient and inexpensive way to fill in your current ski and snowboarding equipment or accessories. It's also a great place to try to sell some items you no longer need or want.
Minnesota’s Afton Alps and Michigan’s Mr. Brighton are both part of the Epic Pass, which offers unlimited access to all of Vail Resorts western ski areas as well as both Midwest resorts. It offers as much slope time for diehard Heartland skiers and riders as they want.
At this time of year, the closure list of Colorado ski and snowboard resorts gets slowly and depressingly longer and longer. But even after this weekend (April 11-12) when another seven mountains pull the plug, there will still be slopes and trails accessible by lift for a few weeks more.