Resorts and Ski Areas
Arapahoe Basin, at 65, sure doesn’t act its age. The Legend, as it’s affectionately known , has the highest-in-the-nation terrain park and with the opening of Montezuma Bowl lots and lots of wide open spaces.
Snowmaking and a higher summit elevation than most ski areas allow the area to open in October and keep going until June. If you’re a true local, you won’t miss spring and late-season skiing.
OK, so sometimes people don’t even ski or ride; they just barbecue and party on coveted “beach” spots, or right in the middle of the muddy parking lot. Every weekend in May, a band plays outside at Shakin’ at the Basin events.
The Basin still has a casual feel to it: You won’t find fancy condos and overpriced shops here. And, you don’t have to take a bus from the lot to the lift.
The terrain, which is mostly above tree line, stands out. The bumped-up (and that’s bumped-up by good skiers, not posers who create horribly shaped mounds) Pallavicini is a playground for experts. Offshoots, such as the alleys, provide steep and narrow challenges.
The East Wall usually opens later in the season. Peaking at more than 13,000 feet, the wall delivers steep faces and powder stashes for traversers and hikers.
This year the Basin opened lift-served skiing in Montezuma Bowl. It increased the ski area’s terrain by 80 percent, with 400 acres of intermediate, advanced and expert runs, featuring cornices, chutes, glades and wide-open bowls. The Zuma Lift rises 1,100 vertical feet in its nine minute ride.
Base elevation: 10,780 feet
Summit elevation: 13,050 feet
Vertical drop: 2,270 feet
Skiable acres: 900
Longest run: 1.5 miles
Terrain: 10% beginner; 30% intermediate; 37% advanced; 20% expert
Number of lifts: 7
Number of trails: 105
Average snowfall: 350 inches
So many peaks …
By the numbers, Breckenridge is Summit’s largest ski area. Vertical drop, number of trails, number of lifts ” everything about Breck is big. In December 2006, the resort added a gondola so people can avoid bus rides.
Cabins sweep guests from the parking lot to base areas at Peaks 7 and 8. Last season, the resort opened 150 acres between Peaks 8 and 9, which gives skiers access to seven ungroomed steep chutes. It brings the total accessible acreage off of Imperial Express ” the highest chairlift in North America ” from 400 to 550 acres. And the terrain will be similar to the nearby Lake Chutes ” nice and ungroomed, and steep. Besides advanced terrain and wide-open, usually soft-snow skiing in Horseshoe and Imperial bowls, Breck has plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain.
The Independence Super Chair serves a half-dozen intermediate cruisers, and Peaks 8, 9 and 10 offer their fair share of groomed slopes, though Peak 10’s border on advanced runs.
Five terrain parks gave Breck the edge for Transworld Magazine to name it as making the pipe best in 2006.
Base elevation: 9,600 feet
Summit elevation: 12,998 feet
Vertical drop: 3,398 feet
Skiable acres: 2,358
Longest run: 3.5 miles
Terrain: 14% beginner; 31% intermediate; 19% advanced; 36% expert.
Number of lifts: 29
Number of trails: 147
Average snowfall: 300 inches
Ask most locals, and they’ll say Copper Mountain ranks as a favorite for skiing and riding.
The mountain’s layout tends to keep skiers of different levels separate, so beginners don’t have to deal with experts zooming past them.
Easier green runs are located at Union Creek, and blues sprawl throughout the middle of the hill. Advanced bumps and great bowls lie above it all, and black terrain also is tucked away into corners off of Resolution, S- and B-lifts.
A snowcat motors skiers and riders to Tucker Mountain, where it’s a 15 to 20 minute hike to drop into one of the mountain’s steep chutes.
Last year, the resort expanded its cat skiing operation, which means less hiking to the eight double-black diamond slopes. Even if you don’t take the cat, the chairlift-served back bowls provide plenty of acreage.
Copper caters to jibbers and jumpers with its terrain parks. Its graduated series of kickers, quarter-pipes and halfpipes, along with Kidz Terrain Park full of mini rails, pipes and jumps, give anyone the opportunity to learn.
When Intrawest bought Copper in 1999, it revitalized the resort and added Burning Stones Plaza. The village now ignites with activities, entertainment and festivals year-round (and we’re not talking the usual apres ski songs; we’re talking fire dancers, circus acts and outdoor movies).
Base elevation: 9,712 feet
Summit elevation: 12,313 feet
Vertical drop: 2,601 feet
Skiable acres: 2,433
Terrain: 21% beginner; 24% intermediate; 36% advanced; 18% expert
Number of lifts: 22
Number of trails: 125
Average snowfall: 280 inches
Keystone’s buzzword in the last couple of years has been “evolution.” It has blended its family-friendly atmosphere with bars and events geared more toward Gen. Xers, and it seems to have found a winning combination.
It kicks off the season with a 36-hour marathon, where teams of two to four ski around the clock, then enter a drawing for $3,600.
The enormous Area 51 Terrain Park is Colorado’s largest night park. And the A-51 chair takes riders up in five minutes.
Cat skiing with Keystone Adventure Tours delivers guests to untouched powder when conditions warrant, and when they don’t, the snow’s usually pretty nice anyway. Keystone added both guided and unguided bowl skiing in 278 acres of terrain at the upper Jones Gulch area, near its existing snowcat-served terrain. It offers pitches approaching a 50 percent grade and amounts to a total of 858 acres of snowcat skiing.
And the same terrain that always had made Keystone’s three peaks ” Dercum Mountain, North Peak and the Outback ” so much fun continues to be the resort’s biggest draw. Powder hounds love tree skiing in the Outback, and bumps on North Peak will make your thighs burn. Smooth fall-line runs on the front side provide some of the most consistent intermediate skiing in the county.
And did we mention it’s the only resort in Summit to offer long runs with fun whip-de-dos at night? Keystone Village also has plenty to keep non-skiers, or those with enormous energy, busy. Try skating on the picturesque lake, or check out the sleigh rides, tubing or snowbiking. And don’t miss the amazing chocolate village, complete with a chocolate waterfall and railroads, in the village hotel during the holidays.
Base elevation: 9,280 feet
Summit elevation: 12,408 feet
Vertical drop: 3,128 feet
Skiable acres: 3,148
Longest run: 3.5 miles
Terrain: 19% beginner; 32% intermediate; 49% advanced
Number of lifts: 20
Number of trails: 135
Average snowfall: 230 inches
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