As the Christmas holiday approaches as fast the last storm and the presents pile as high as the fresh powder, so can the lift lines. Summit County is particularly busy over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays but it does not mean there are not places to find fresh snow or undisturbed corduroy at your favorite Colorado ski resort.
Folks will travel up I-70 this weekend or next to cozy into their condos, apartments, lodges or hotel rooms from Powderhorn in the West to Loveland in the East. Packing the slopes with kids, boarders, skiers and Santa Claus costumes, one might not find room to ride a quiet line or find a powder stash will all the commotion.
Have no fear. A simple guide to where the snow will be good is amongst you.
Let us start in Grand County. When traveling to Winter Park, avoidance of Mary Jane’s base along with Sunnyside and Panoramic lifts is recommended. However, if you want challenging terrain, try taking the Challenger, Iron Horse or Pony Express up the front side of the Jane to sample some of the best bumps and wind loaded snow Winter Park has on their mountain. A second option is to venture out along a long catwalk to Vasquez Ridge. Though the terrain is less steep and the trip out is a bit cumbersome, the snow stays longer on Aces and Eights and Gambler and the corduroy is smoother on Shootout, Sundance and Stagecoach.
Summit and Eagle county visitors have more options to choose from via the six resorts boasting nearly 16,000 acres of riding terrain. Vail alone has nearly a one third of the total.
Starting in Vail, the Northwoods Express and Tea Cup Express offer shorter lift lines with quite good terrain below them that others will not sample as much as they do in Blue Sky Basin, Game Creek Bowl or near Mid-Vail. China Bowl’s Chopstix run is groomed on a regular basis and is very long; some of the best corduroy riding in the state. Hit it after the caravan of snowcats chew up the snow, simply blissful. Beaver Creek, where the free chocolate chip cookies are always yummy and the staff is just as nice, has even better corduroy with fewer people and just as much snow as Vail. Redtail and Latigo runs are excellent to warm up on with fast smooth turns guiding you over to either Birds-of-Prey lift via Redtail or back to the bottom via Latigo. If off-piste is how you roll, Larkspur Bowl has gratifying lines on its east face or head up Grouse Mountain Express for some glade skiing in Black Bear Glade.
For the diehard Summit County folks, the remaining 8,890+ acres should quench your holiday skiing and riding desires with runs ranging from over 3 miles long to steep and deep bowls and glades everywhere.
Copper Mountain is the local’s mountain or gives the vibe off as it. Copper Mountain also has Sierra, Alpine and Resolution chairs, oldies but goodies, that access some of the best terrain, sans the crowds, on the mountain. Try your hand at Little Trees off Sierra chair. Venture down Far East for some bumps and left over stashes. Experience a quick and steep drop into Resolution Bowl via Double Zero.
Breckenridge, the quaint Victorian town just over the Ten Mile Range from Copper Mountain, has insurmountable wind loaded snow on its east facing slopes, especially up high. Try any run off Peak 10, especially Mustang for steep and deep or Falcon for some smooth cruising. The T-bar is a relic of the mountain but has survived the test of time and accesses some great powder filled steeps with Cucumber Bowl and Horseshoe Bowl; lines can get long though. Lastly, Peak 9’s cruisers are great; lap-able all day long.Heading across the valley is Keystone.
Keystone has families everywhere, at least on the front side heading into River Run village and off the backside of Dercum Mountain going down Mozart. However, stay high left from the top of Keystone Mountain and head into the Windows for powder stashes. Also, venture out to the North Peak summit and hike east up the ridge to Bergman and Erickson Bowl’s for more Pow Pow. The North Face easily has the best groomers, the Outback seems to become bump fields quickly.
Finally, journey to 10,780(base elevation) Arapahoe Basin for high tundra skiing and riding. Powder is slightly harder to find at this mountain because it is smaller but lesser amounts of crowds show their holiday cheer too. Lenawee Mountain lift has great terrain for most riders to lookers left while on the lift. Falcon, Dragon and Half-Moon Glades has great snow. With the opening of Montezuma Bowl, a once back country accessed area only a few years ago, has taken most of the crowds to it. Hit it early if you like off-piste, otherwise, stay on the front side under Palavicini.
Surely all riders can appreciate Colorado, especially with all the new snow. Just as long as the holiday spirit is in the air, the snow is on the ground for the taking. Enjoy.