Let's face it, we’re spoiled. Colorado has some of the best skiing and riding in the world. Witness the fact that while we get to live here, people from all over the world descend upon our winter paradise each season, hoping to get a weeklong taste of what we get to enjoy all winter. They’re here for powder, parties, impeccably groomed runs and nightlife that ranges from the mild to the wild. Come to think of it, that’s why we live here, too.
As with everything, some experiences stand out even among a field of great experiences. This winter, take the time to elevate your experience and give yourself a High Five: the best five experiences in Colorado skiing and snowboarding.
Vail’s back bowls on a powder day
The story has become Vail legend, but it’s based on reality: When Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton, the founders of Vail, looked over the backside they knew they were onto something good — acres and acres of empty powder skiing. While things are a bit more tracked out these days and it’s no longer Seibert and Eaton’s secret playground, you can’t argue against hitting Vail’s back bowls on a powder day. First, there’s the terrain, a variety of bowls, gullies and open glades, hundreds of different pitches and enough elbow room for all. Most importantly, there’s the aspect. Mostly south facing, these bowls catch the midwinter sun on frozen days, meaning you can enjoy the kind of picture-perfect days you only ever see in movies and magazines. If there’s a drawback, it’s that other people have also figured out how good this terrain is, so try to sneak away to Vail during midweek storms, when the crowds can’t make it and you’ll be alone, with only your tracks for company.
Arapahoe’s Pallavicini Lift
Sure, you’ll want to hit Arapahoe Basin’s legendary Pallavicini lift on a powder day. But this chairlift isn’t just for deep snow. It’s a throwback to the days when lifts were slow, skis were long and snowboards had skegs. Well, maybe snowboards didn’t have skegs.
Arapahoe’s 1,329-vertical-foot testpiece serves up a heaping helping of some of the toughest terrain in the state. Lines like North Glade, 3rd Alley and Rock Garden are steep, gnarly and will keep you coming back for more. And the ride back up to the top allows for conversation and contemplation, two activities that are all too rare on the high-speed quads that dot other ski areas.
Winter X Games
The best athletes, great bands, killer after-hours events (if you can get into them) and the sparkly, shiny special place called Aspen. That’s Winter X in a nutshell, which returns to Aspen for the 11th time. Held Jan. 26-29, Winter X is a celebration of all things extreme, radical and cool. And it lives up to the hype.
This year, the skiing halfpipe and slopestyle events take on added meaning, as both disciplines have been named to the Olympics. Despite this, Winter X remains the standard in terms of importance for both skiing and snowboarding.
Go, but don’t forget that part of being in Aspen is being on the mountain. Make time to make turns.
Breckenridge’s Terrain Parks
If Breckenridge’s terrain parks were a person, they would have already been named to the skiing and snowboarding hall of fame. Breck was there when it all started, building jumps, figuring out flow and hosting halfpipe comps. As the years have passed, the park and its features have changed and the scene has gotten bigger. But unlike some mountains, Breck’s park scene has remained relevant and progressive. Currently the de-facto home for some of the best in the game, Breck is the epicenter of early season training, the place where skiing and snowboarding’s global elite gather to dial in their tricks before the competition season kicks off. And speaking of com petition, Breck is no slouch in that area either, hosting the Winter Dew Tour Dec. 15-18 to showcase the competitive streaks of snowsport athletes Shaun White, Danny Davis, Louie Vito, Kelly Clark, Simon Dumont and Bobby Brown.
If park and pipe is your thing, Breck is the place to be.
Some days, there’s no place like home, and when it comes to closing day, there’s no place like your favorite place to ski or ride. Closing days are special. They’re a chance to look back at the season that’s passed and remember all the good times you’ve had with your friends, the powder days, the aprs beers and the lift rides. They’re also the chance to look forward, to anticipate the joys of summer. Usually they involve a deck and sunshine, but if it snows, that’s OK, too.
Best of the Rest:
OK, so Colorado’s top five isn’t good enough for you? Greedy for more? Or been there, done that? These options will keep you busy this season — and next year, too.
One lift, no grooming and plenty of snow highlight this southern Colorado ski area that’s an expert’s playground. While most of the terrain is hike-to, save up and get a heli lift ($159/run) to the big stuff.
New Sheridan, Telluride
Built in 1895 after the original Sheridan Hotel burned, the New Sheridan is located smack dab in the heart of Telluride. With luscious rooms and a historic bar, this boutique hotel is the place to stay when you’re skiing the bumps of Spiral Stairs or the Plunge.
Powder Addiction Snowcats
Close to Denver and Boulder, but a world apart, this snowcat operation runs out of Jones Pass, near Empire. The terrain is fantastic, and the guides aren’t afraid to cut customers loose when conditions are right.
Kermitts At the junction of Highway 6 and Interstate 70, Kermitts is a biker bar in the summer but caters to skiers heading home in the winter. And no matter the time of year, Kermitts is as an authentic a roadhouse as you’ll find in Colorado.
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