Quandary: Where to find beginner ski terrain in Summit County
April 9, 2016
What mountain is the best for a beginner to start on?
A Winning Beginning
It can be tough when you're just getting your feet wet as a newbie, and finding yourself on the wrong run, or wrong mountain in general, can make the day a heck of a lot more difficult for you and everyone around you. So before you are bombing through any bowls, with your legs flying in opposite directions and sending the fear of God into your would-be fellow downhillers, I'm glad you asked for a little advice. To be honest, there are runs on any mountain that you can do, even if you're as new to skis as the Rockies are to October baseball, but some are going to be more fun than others.
Luckily, each resort lists on their website how much terrain they have open, and what kind of terrain it is. They all use the same basic system: Green runs are the easiest, then blues all the way up to double black diamonds. However, a blue run at one resort might be a lot more difficult than a blue run at another resort. Also, at some ski areas you might find yourself marooned on only one run for the day, incapable of sliding down any others.
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Again, no one wins when you are on the wrong terrain. With that in mind, the resorts and their employees are going to do anything possible to try and ensure you don't end up backsliding down a diamond, including breaking down the terrain by difficulty. For example, if you find yourself at Keystone Resort, 14 percent of their terrain is beginner friendly, 29 percent is more difficult (think blues, but still mostly groomed runs) and 57 percent is the most difficult you can get. Now 14 percent may not sound like a lot of beginner terrain, but it actually places Keystone as one of the most desirable resorts in Summit for those new to bindings.
With this percentage, Keystone sits a few runs ahead of Breckenridge Ski Resort, and the 11 percent of skiable terrain they consider fit for beginners. Breck also breaks down their terrain into more categories than what Keystone gives you: More difficult runs make up 31 percent of the resort, 24 percent are the most difficult and 34 percent are expert runs, which they define as "for experts only due to exceptionally steep slopes and other hazards such as narrow trails, exposure to wind, and the presence of obstacles such as steep drop-offs or trees."
One mountain that will likely be your end if you try to make it your beginning is Arapahoe Basin. Partying on the Beach can be an excellent introduction to the casual side of skiing (think tailgating before a Broncos game), but with only 10 percent of their terrain fit for beginners, you might get a little bored. The problem with getting bored is you tend to think you are better than you are. You do the same easy little green for a half a day, and all of a sudden you're thinking you're the next Lindsey Vonn. Well before you try to descend Pali, take a step back and maybe try a green at a different mountain, get an idea of whether you really have gotten that much better, or if you just know that one run really well.
So now that you know all the places where you are likely to break yourself, that leaves one option for the most beginner-friendly terrain: Copper Mountain Resort. Copper boasts that 21 percent of their 140 marked trails are beginner friendly, 25 percent are for intermediates, 36 percent for the advanced and 18 percent for experts. Keep in mind, you can still suffer any number of injuries regardless of the supposed difficulty, so maybe check into some lessons, or just be prepared for the medical bills should your next turn become an extra bend in your arm.
Quandary, an old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to any question about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Send an email to email@example.com
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