Best of Summit County
Thanks to some epic partnerships, international skiing/riding isn’t out of reachJanuary 25, 2015 —
If you’re going to cheat on Colorado, then you better make it good.
While we’ll always be rooting for the home team — after all, we’ll never pass up the chance to brag on our pristine, fluffy, Colorado powder — you might be surprised to learn that an international skiing vacation is more within reach than you think.
A relatively recent perk to the Epic Pass allows pass holders to take their adventures abroad at a number of partner resorts in the European Alps, as well as Niseko, Japan.
The pass includes five consecutive days at the partner resorts, but the catch is that at the European locations, you must book in-resort lodging. If you don’t want to splurge for resort-owned lodging, then it’s worth it to pay for the lift ticket yourself (many of these resorts offer very reasonable rates compared to their American counterparts), and find more affordable accommodations outside of the main ski villages.
Epic Pass or not, it doesn’t change the fact that these mountains offer some of the best samples of powder in the world. So pack your suitcase, stoke your wanderlust and get skiing.
Niseko United, Japan
The mountain: Niseko United is a collection of four independently owned ski resorts with their respective villages gathered around the base on the northern-most Japanese island of Hokkaido. Thanks to coastal weather patterns and an advantageous geographical location, Niseko has the reputation for being Japan’s powder capital. It’s been named as one of the “best powder resorts in the world” by sites like LonelyPlanet.com and numerous outdoor and snowsport magazines. Thanks to the spotlight, Niseko has been featured in a number of Western ski and snowboard films.
Don’t expect any bluebird days, because between January and March, it pretty much snows every day, all day. The backcountry skiing there is pristine, and a common itinerary involves skiing out to a natural hot springs (or “onsen”) and back.
“Niseko arguably has the best and most consistent lift-accessed powder in the world,” said Brent Potter, a senior guide with Fuji Mountain Guides. “If you come between January and March, you’ll have a very good chance of excellent powder there.”
The vibe: Skiing in Japan is an experience completely unique for North American skiers, insiders say. You’ll mostly find a mix of older, onesie-clad Japanese skiers with straight skis and the ubiquitous Australians. Many local skiers stick to the groomed runs (at most Japanese resorts, it is frowned upon to ski in the trees), so you’ll find amazing snow in tree islands or right off the main track.
Niseko’s popularity with Australians means that there’s foreign infrastructure, like Western nightlife and bars, and you’ll be able to get around speaking English. Do expect a more relaxed approach to skiing, said Potter, who grew up in Japan.
“One thing that struck me the most is that when there’s a big powder day (in the U.S.), people go crazy,” he laughed. “In Japan, people take their time and have breakfast and coffee because they know the snow will still be there later.”
How to go: Fly into Hokkaido’s airport or fly into Tokyo and make the three-hour trip to Niseko by bus and train.
Costs: At $55 for a day pass, the prices are hard to beat. There is also no in-resort lodging requirement at Niseko to redeem your five days of skiing.
If you want to see some of the rest of the country or ski other Japanese resorts, then sign up for a seven- or 13-day trip with Fuji Mountain Guides. For the 13-day option, $2,500 includes transportation, breakfast, five days of lift passes, lodging and a multi-city cultural tour. The seven-day option focuses on the skiing for $1,500. It includes four lift passes, transportation, lodging and breakfast. See www.FujiMountainGuides.com for more information.
Les 3 Vallees, France
The mountain: The “Three Valleys” includes eight resorts (Courchevel, La Tania, Meribel, Brides-les-Bains, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens and Orelle) and boasts some of the most famed skiing in Europe.
Denver resident Adam Warot had never skied in Europe before competing in Vail Resorts’ Epic Race last year, a challenge for Epic Pass holders to ski all 26 resorts on the pass. He said he was blown away by the sheer size and interconnectedness of Les 3 Vallees.
“It’s like taking Keystone, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Vail and pushing them all together, and all the towns are also all pushed to the bases,” he said.
Expect seemingly endless runs, above-tree-line skiing and breathtaking views of surrounding peaks, said Sarah Plaskitt, of Scoutski.com, a site that reviews hotels and ski resorts.
“There are 600 kilometers of runs. It’s just endless,” she said. “You start in one valley and you end up in another in the afternoon and you haven’t even gotten to the third.”
Typical of European skiing, a limited number of routes are groomed (on-piste), and otherwise, runs are off-piste.
“In the U.S., you’ll have designated runs in trees, and it’s indicated on a map,” Plaskitt said. “In Europe, off-piste means the runs are through the trees and ungroomed areas. You stand at the top, and you have no idea where it goes and how difficult it is. You really have to be aware of your abilities.”
The vibe: Each of the resort villages have a distinct character, from the glamorous Courchevel to quaint Maribel with its wooden chalets. Be prepared for the European skiing mentality — that is, a few runs, a multi-course lunch with a few glasses of wine, followed by a couple more runs, then on to apres. From there, if you want, you could party late into the night at a slick nightclub.
How to go: Fly into Geneva, Switzerland, or Lyon, France, both about three hours away by car or bus. Combine the trip with a few days in a city by taking a train from London or Paris. Once there, you could ski to a different village and stay each night.
“That’s something that’s unique about skiing in Europe,” Warot said. “Just pack a change of clothes, and if you planned it out properly, you could ski in and out of these different towns.”
Costs: A day pass to Les 3 Vallees costs about $67.50. Expect high costs for food and lodging at most of these resorts. However, if you aren’t using your Epic Pass, then you can find more affordable hotel and guesthouse options on the outskirts of Maribel.
The mountain: Of the resorts listed here, Verbier is perhaps the most steep, extreme and dramatic. The mountain is part of the Four Valleys ski area and towers over the village of Verbier. Skiing the glacier-terrain affords you panoramic views of stunning mountaintops.
“You can see what feels like a hundred miles of alpine peak mountain tops,” Warot said. “I’d recommend you be an intermediate or advanced skier here to enjoy what it has to offer. It’s for those who really want to push their limits.”
While that may be true, there’s plenty for less extreme skiers and riders, too, including beginner terrain, Nordic skiing, toboggan hills and ski touring.
The vibe: The vacation spot for Europe’s royals, movie stars and other celebrities, Verbier is known as one of the ritziest resorts. The village is quaint and picturesque, yet sophisticated.
“It’s a classic Swiss ski village, but then there’s these uber lounges and restaurants. House music emanates everywhere. You can go to the very top of the mountain in the middle of nowhere and you’ll step off the lift and see this James Bond-style club up there,” Warot said.
In contrast to its upscale atmosphere, Verbier also draws the extreme-sports crowd. It’s home to the Paragliding World Championships and the Swatch Xtreme Verbier, where you can watch the world’s top freeriders compete. Warot recalls watching skiers parachuting off cliffs at the end of the day.
How to go: Fly into Geneva International Airport or into the smaller Chambery Airport and take a train or rent a car. Many shuttles also leave from the airports to the ski areas on a regular basis.
Costs: Verbier is the priciest of the bunch, with a day lift ticket coming in at $90.
Skiing abroad may sound like a big endeavor when you could load up your car and drive to Vail, but Plaskitt encourages snow enthusiasts to broaden their horizons.
“I say people should go for it,” she said. “It’s not going to be like anything you’re used to apart from putting on your skis. Combine a trip with a major city like Geneva or Paris. You can do it in a week.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.
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Just south of Breckenridge and a short jaunt off Highway 9, adventurous hikers can find one of the best intermediate day hikes in the county on the Mohawk Lakes Trail. The 7-mile loop meanders through historic mining ruins replete with abandoned ore cars before rewarding your climb upward with scenic waterfalls made by the Continental Falls spilling out into Lower Mohawk Lake. Continue onward to enjoy a victorious lunch accompanied by glorious views.Learn more »
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Where’s the best fishing hole? That’s a silly question. Unless you’re paying the big bucks for a guide, any true angler will tell you that a secret fishing spot is something one rarely reveals. But luckily in Summit County, the Blue River, Colorado River and Ten Mile Creek offer gold-medal waters packed with brown, brook and rainbow trout. So grab your waders and head to the closest river, and you might just find that special spot. And if not, you’ll still enjoy the scenery.Learn more »
Rainbow Park is a seven-acre park on Rainbow Drive containing a skateboard park, multi-purpose field, tennis courts, basketball court, sand volleyball courts, picnic shelters and public restrooms. Its bowl-shaped field, which lies slightly below the rest of the park, also serves as an amphitheater for spectator events and community festivals. But you can’t miss the playground, which has been voted Summit County’s best. It has lots of cool things to climb on and enjoy. Little ones will find things to do, as well as the older kids. It’s right next to a soccer field, so there is a lot of space to run around.Learn more »
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With its Imperial Express chairlift (the highest in North America), award-winning terrain parks and some of the most consistent grooming in the county, Breckenridge Ski Resort is the perfect mountain for any level of skier, whether you’re a never-ever or an extreme, big-mountain adrenaline seeker. The cafés, restaurants and shops give more than ample opportunity to rest up after a thigh-burning run. Last season, the biggest ski resort expansion in North America in more than a decade took place as Breckenridge Ski Resort added 543 acres on Peak 6 to its skiable terrain.Learn more »
Whatever numbers you look at — from the vertical drop to the number of trails or lifts — Breckenridge tops nearly every list in the county. With a vast array of terrain, the resort provides opportunities for beginners and elite riders alike, including a mix of groomers, glades and steeps. Breck’s award-winning parks have earned their reputation among the best in the world, featuring a variety of rails and jumps and the longest 22-foot halfpipe in the country. There’s also a healthy dose of nightlife in town to help you celebrate after a good day on the hill.Learn more »
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The Dillon Amphitheatre is undeniably a stunning venue by virtue of its location on the shores of Lake Dillon, but as the years pass, it continues to get better. Free acts range from funk and old-school rock to country and mellow jazz. This summer, the amphitheatre hosted dance lessons, with vendor proceeds benefiting local nonprofits, including a guest appearance by “Dancing with the Stars” runner-up Amy Purdy. Musical acts ranging from groovy Moses Jones to Hot Lunch’s smooth rhythm and blues entertained big crowds this summer, proving yet again that the amphitheater remains tops in the hearts of concertgoers across the county.Learn more »
From adventure movie premiers to live music, the Dillon Dam Brewery has late night covered in Summit County. The brewery is a hot spot for local and regional bands on Thursdays, as well as hosting a monthly open mic night with the incomparable Arnie J. Green. Bands range in genre from funk and jazz to hip-hop, rock and bluegrass, and with only a $5 cover for live music, it’s one of the best deals in the county. The Dam also features live trivia nights with Steven A and, of course, an amazing selection of craft beers, which also helped the spot win Best Brewpub and Best Après Ski.Learn more »
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Dianne Trausch has lived in Summit County for 20 years. From her office in Breckenridge, Trausch helps people make sure their assets are covered, including home, auto, life, investment and commercial. She checks in on her clients at least once a year and gives them a friendly face to come and talk to. Her office assistant, Marie Hipple, also provides helpful and friendly service. “They know they can trust us and we are going to be with them from start to finish,” Trausch said of her clients. “If there’s a claim, we are going to stand behind them.”Learn more »
Customers in the know stop by 1st Bank on Saturday mornings for the doughnuts, coffee and orange juice, but they trust their money to this Colorado bank every day. Opened in 1963, and with convenient locations in Frisco, Breckenridge and Silverthorne, 1st Bank is the largest Colorado-based bank. 1st Bank provides savings and checking accounts, credit and loan products, online banking, business services and more, all with friendly service. To top it off, 1st Bank is heavily involved in the community, supporting local nonprofits and affordable-housing programs.Learn more »
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Mountain Pride Cleaning and Restoration Inc., founded in 1989 by current owner/operator Mark Rusciolelli, CR, provides superior service for both commercial and residential cleaning needs. Recognized for its highly trained staff and prompt, reliable, quality service, Mountain Pride maintains the highest standards in the cleaning industry for restoring property damaged by fire, smoke, water, vandalism and other disaster. Mountain Pride Cleaning and Restoration is professionally certified through the Clean Trust and the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) and has remained at the forefront of advances in cleaning and restoration technology.Learn more »
Dr. Jeffrey Auth, of Auth Chiropractic & Vitality Center, said he sees patients of every age for a lot of different conditions other than just pain. “I know a lot of patients are motivated by their pain to go see the chiropractor, but my goal as a chiropractor is to achieve wellness naturally,” he said. “I’ve been in the county a long, long time.” Auth said the ability to be able to relate to his patients is important, being able to go out and see them at concerts or gatherings or skiing or riding bikes. “The community is so intertwined, and I feel very connected to the community,” Auth said. “There are a bunch of really qualified chiropractors here in Summit County, and I feel honored that my patients voted me as their favorite chiropractor.”Learn more »
Little Red Schoolhouse is a 32-year-old Montessori-based preschool and learning center that strives to create the feeling of a home environment at school. Acting in some ways very much like parents, teachers observe each individual toddler and infant, making sure his or her needs are met and that each child’s natural potential is stimulated. The teachers educate while providing a loving, caring and nurturing environment that allows children to grow and learn at their own pace.Learn more »
For as long as Serenity Spa & Salon has been open, it has swept all “Best of Summit” categories for spa treatments. From hair to nails to massage to skin, Serenity offers the ultimate in luxury, style, relaxation and beauty. A variety of top-quality products, unparalleled customer service and expert technicians make Serenity the No. 1 choice for spa experiences in Summit County.Learn more »
Dr. Erin Sain is a Summit High School graduate returning home after completing her dental education. She began pursuing her dental career during high school working after school and summers as an assistant for long-time dentist and mentor Jerry Peterson, DDS. After graduating from Summit High School, she attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, earning her undergraduate degree in biology and went on to earn her dental degree from the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine. After earning her dental degree, she has returned to Summit County to practice dentistry in the mountains she loves, at Backcountry Family Dental. On the weekends, you will find her cruising the Nordic trails in the winter and tearing up the bike trails in the summer. She and her family are excited to return to the beauty of Summit County and become active members of the community. Of winning Best Of Summit, Sain said, “I would say that our reputation is due to not only me but mainly to the employees that work here, and I would give them most of the credit. We’ve got an awesome staff here and they do a great job of making patients feel comfortable and welcome.”Learn more »
Swan Mountain Women’s Center would like to congratulate Dr. Amy Tomlinson on her win of best doctor in Summit Daily’s “Best of Summit” contest. An OB/GYN with a true passion for women’s healthcare, Dr. Tomlinson worked at Swan Mountain Women’s Center from March 2012-April 2014. She and her husband recently took jobs in the neighborhing state of Wyoming, and are missed by both the patients of Summit County as well as the staff at Swan. Dr. Andrew Catron, Dr. Kathleen “Kacy” Cowie, and Laura Amedro, NP continue to provide a full spectrum of innovative, compassionate, and convenient obstetric and gynecological care at Swan Mountain Women’s Center, located at Farmer’s Korner in Breckenridge.Learn more »
Visits to the doctor nowadays can entail up to two hours in a waiting room, 15 minutes of paperwork and then 15 minutes, at best, with the doctor. But not so with optometrist Christena Ward. She said she and her staff always take extra time with patients to make sure they get the most out of their visit. “I try to spend time with each patient, educating them about their condition and any aspect of eye care that can help them,” she said. “We just try to make each of our patient’s experience a positive one.”Learn more »
It’s not easy constructing landscapes in the High Country, with its steep building sites and poor soil quality, but Neils Lunceford has been doing so for residential and commercial clients in the Colorado Rocky Mountains for more than 30 years. With the experience and knowledge to offer creative and thoughtful solutions to landscaping challenges, Neils Lunceford helps clients select plants that will thrive in their gardens, despite the harsh climate. Professional landscape and irrigation installation teams help create colorful, lush gardens, both new and remodeled, to enhance properties and provide “long-lasting value and pleasure.”Learn more »
Summit County’s best massage therapist: Serenity Spa & SalonJanuary 15, 2015 —
For as long as Serenity Spa & Salon has been open, it has swept all the “Best of Summit” categories for spa treatments. That might be thanks to the day spa’s commitment to a full menu of services; the luxury, aromatherapy and champagne that are part of any treatment; or the great massages. At Serenity, therapists personalize each treatment to the needs and preferences of the customer and combine specialized massage techniques with Aveda aromatherapy for a complete relaxation experience.