As we enter the last remaining days of summer, some of us start to think of the winter fun that lies ahead. With tens-of-thousands of acres of skiable terrain, high-speed lifts and a wide distribution of areas throughout the state, Colorado’s 26 ski resorts remain the top destination for in-the-know skiers and snowboarders. It’s well-known that Colorado’s resorts offer some of the best traditional downhills in the world, but did you know they also offer challenging bowls, exciting moguls, vast backcountry and energetic winter festivals? For those who have been-there-done-that with Vail and Aspen, here’s a list of some of the lesser-known but excellent resorts that even have their own branded discount Colorado Gems card.
Arapahoe Basin (www.arapahoebasin.com)
Open from October to early June, Arapahoe Basin has one of the longest ski seasons in North America and yet only 68 miles from Denver. Enjoy the 360 degree view from the summit or lunch at Black Mountain Lodge all while skiing some of the best terrain in the country. With the addition of Montezuma Bowl, there is twice the natural beauty to explore; more high-alpine groomed runs, bowls, chutes and glades, all serviced by a new quad chair lift.
Echo Mountain (www.EchoMt.com)
Echo Mountain is Denver’s closest, cheapest and freshest ski and ride area. How close? Only 35 miles from Downtown Denver. How cheap? From season passes, daily lift tickets and lessons to food and beverage, rentals and retail, Echo Mountain offers THE most affordable ski and ride experience in all of Colorado.
Eldora Mountain Resort (www.eldora.com)
Just 21 miles from Boulder and 45 miles from Denver – Eldora is close enough to make getting here easy. Eldora is best known for its diverse terrain, cross-country center, and outstanding children’s SnowSports school. Eldora is one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets for families. Kids of all ages love learning to ski or ride in the Eldorables and Ski & Snowboard Trek Programs. Perhaps best of all, Eldora is still a locals- friendly mountain. Relaxed and unpretentious.
Loveland Ski Area (www.skiloveland.com)
Only 53 miles from Denver, locals love Loveland for its free close-in parking, 400 inches of snow each season, low-key atmosphere, lack of lift lines, and 1,365 acres of varied terrain. Loveland has something for everyone, The Valley offers a separate, gentle beginners area while The Ridge provides intermediate and advanced snow-riders terrain just the way they like it – open, steep and deep. Come find out why there’s more to love at Loveland.
Monarch Mountain (www.skimonarch.com)
Located in South Central Colorado, Monarch Mountain is what you expect from a real Colorado ski area. Abundant natural snow (350+ inches) and friendly people are the two strongest attributes. Convenient parking, reasonable prices and runs that flow naturally back to the base. At Monarch you’ll lose the crowds but not your friends. With Monarch Mountain’s Snowcat Tours, you’ll find great powder and 900 acres of expert terrain. This year, Monarch is investing over one million dollars on improvements designed to enhance the guest experience.
Powderhorn Resort (www.powderhorn.com)
Powderhorn Resort has a fresh approach to a skiing or snowboarding adventure. With more than 1600 acres to explore, novice and experts can cruise the corduroy, dash into the aspens for glade skiing, plow through waist deep powder, hit the bumps or jib through the terrain parks. Nestled on the edge of the Grand Mesa, 35 minutes from Grand Junction, Colorado, Powderhorn sits at 4,000 feet above the valley floor. The Grand Junction area is also home to some of the highest vineyards in the world and 18 of them are at the base of Grand Mesa.
Ski Cooper (www.skicooper.com)
Affordable and fun. Ski and ride long wide-open cruisers and tree-gladed areas to short mogul shots on the backside of the mountain. Cooper’s Chicago Ridge Snowcat Tours access 2,500 acres of powder skiing or riding above and below tree line for those who want some backcountry adventure. Ski Cooper offers an exciting and affordable alternative to the hustle and bustle of the big areas with short lift lines and long runs.
SolVista Basin (solvista.com/ski/solvistabasin.asp)
SolVista is the place to learn to ski & ride in Colorado! SolVista Ski & Ride School & Childrens Center: Kids 3 years and up. SolVista uses the direct-to-parallel instruction technique for fast teaching results for both kids & adults. Just a 15-minute drive from SolVista is the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort, with 22 natural hot spring pools and a full-service spa with treatments ranging from massages to salt glows.
Sunlight Mountain Resort (www.sunlightmtn.com)
Surrounded by the White River National Forest near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Sunlight Mountain Resort encompasses hundreds of acres for downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. With slopes ranging from beginner to expert, two terrain parks, one of Colorado’s steepest runs, and 29 kilometers of groomed cross-country trails, Sunlight offers something for everyone at down-to-earth prices.
This winter why not try one of the lesser known, less busy, and less expensive ski/board options in Colorado? Information on these hidden gems can be found on Colorado Ski Country’s website; www.coloradoski.com. Get your Colorado Gems card to receive discounts to the Colorado Gems resorts for the 2010-11 season. For a listing of all the free skiing and discounts surf over to www.coloradoski.com/Resorts/Gems/GemsCard/
Get off the beaten path!