Are You Ready for Some Skiing?

The typical norm in the state of Colorado is, “if you want to find great skiing at peak times without the crowds, get off I-70.” True, there are countless resorts around the state not located on our busiest route through the mountains, but, nestled among the giants, you may find a few hidden gems.

Ski season is rapidly nearing in the Centennial State. You can tell because the local powder junkies are already getting antsy and staring at the sky. Along with that, reservations are already beginning to fill up at the giants (i.e. Vail, Aspen) for the peak times around the holidays, and later in the year during spring break. So, if you’d like the full Colorado experience without all the attitude, here are a few suggestions where to make your Colorado vacation destination.

1. Copper Mountain
Since being bought by resort giant Intrawest, Copper has revamped it’s activities and mountain base services. But surprisingly, the quality of it’s trails hasn’t declined at all. Copper is known to locals for it’s versatile terrain, and as a quality mountain that flows easily from top to bottom. There’s literally something for everyone: Copper Bowl, Enchanted Forest, and a gigantic terrain park for the truly extreme, plenty of mild cruisers for those just getting the hang of it, and an entire beginners area for those just getting started. The mountain has been known to have one of the best ski school programs for some time now.

Lodging Options
Copper has lots of new condo space available right at the base of the mountain, but it’s a little bit, shall we say, pricy. Best bets for lodging are either up the highway a bit in Leadville or the Frisco/Dillon area, which is just a 10-15 minute jog east on I-70.

Nightlife
Ah yes, the all-important apres-ski question. Among vacationing locals, it has long been a complaint that Copper lacks a sufficient nightlife, and many people find themselves heading toward close-by towns to get their party on. There are plenty of bars and restaurants around the base of the mountain, but you can expect to pay outrageous ski area prices.

Getting There
Located just off Interstate 70 at exit 195, Copper is accessible from both Eagle County (Vail) and Denver International airports.

Info
www.coppercolorado.com
Guest Services line: 866-841-2481

2. Winter Park Resort
Winter Park isn’t called “Colorado’s Favorite” for no reason. The other Colorado resort in the Intrawest family has long been known to locals for it’s deep powder, gigantic moguls, and challenging tree runs. Along with Winter Park is Mary Jane mountain, where you can usually find the die-hards lined up an hour before first chair waiting for a crack at that infamous powder. However, Mary Jane is definitely not for the faint of heart. If you’re not of expert or near-expert capability, stay off Mary Jane. The rest of Winter Park again, features something for everyone, along with a seperate beginner’s area and two terrain parks for the knuckle dragger in your family. This mountain has been one of the best for a long time running now. However, Winter Park is finding itself coming in to the spotlight, and some of the locals are less than ecstatic that the mountain has seemingly shed it’s long held “best kept secret” title. Even that shouldn’t detract from a thouroughly enjoyable experience at “the Park,” however.

Lodging
Plenty of hotels and condominiums are very close to the mountain in the actual town of Winter Park, but usually less expensive options can be found up the road a bit in Fraser.

Nightlife
Combine plenty of options with friendly locals, and you have a recipe for success. Lots of bars and restaurants in the surrounding area, with surprisingly quite a few options other than typical ski town fare.

Getting There
Take I-70 West to exit 232 (Winter Park, Empire, Granby) which will take you over Berthoud Pass (Note: great out-of-bounds skiing here, but experts only, please. Also, the pass can get sketchy with bad weather, so if you’re squeamish, contact one of the many resort shuttles located around Denver to get you there). Another option which is a favorite with Denverites is taking the Ski Train, which departs from Denver’s Union Station at approximately 7:30 AM and drops you back in Denver at approximately 6:30 PM.

Info
www.winterparkresort.com
Guest Services line:
303-316-1564 (long distance or Denver direct)
726-1564 (from Winter Park/Fraser area)

3. Sunlight Mountain Resort
Located about 40 miles north of Aspen, Sunlight Mountain outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado is truly one of the hidden gems of the state. Another versatile mountain featuring something for everyone, it features the Heathen, one of the state’s steepest trails, with a 52 degree pitch. Most of the mountain, though, is fairly gentle, and caters well to the vacationing family, with most of it’s trails funneling directly toward the base area. Truly a good choice for those wanting to experience Colorado skiing without the hassle.

Lodging
Not much at the mountain base, but options abound in Glenwood Springs itself. Check out the Hotel Colorado, one of the state’s most historic lodging spots. Legends abound there, from hauntings to Al Capone’s rumored escape tunnel to the river. The most popular feature of the town, however, is it’s hot springs, a great way to relax after pounding the slopes all day. Info can be found and www.hotspringspool.com.

Nightlife
Plenty of eats options in town, everything from Cajun to Indian. Typical tourist fare as well, but Glenwood is the kind of town that you just want to walk around in and soak up the ambience.

Getting There
Accesible from Eagle County and Denver International Airports via I-70. By car from Denver, take I-70 west (it’s a long way) to exit 116 on to CO-82 (Glenwood Springs, Aspen). Follow signs to the mountain.

Info
Guest Services line: 800-445-7931
www.sunlightmtn.com

These are just a few of many options to explore when looking for a resort to help cure your snow jones. The aforementioned are just some personal favorites, but, like many things in Colorado, options abound. Here are some more resorts that are worth taking a look in to:

-Monarch Mountain (www.skimonarch.com)
-Ski Cooper (www.skicooper.com)
-Eldora Mountain Resort (www.eldora.com)
-Telluride Ski Resort (www.tellurideskiresort.com)
-Durango Mountain Resort (formerly Purgatory) (www.durangomountainresort.com)
-Crested Butte Mountain Resort (www.crestedbutteresort.com)

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