Bring on the powderhounds: Colorado’s ski area overview 2012-2013

Telluride Ski Resort
Photo by Brett Screckengost


Average Snowfall: 350”

Vertical Rise: 2,270’

Skiable Acres: 900

Lifts: 7

Trails: 108

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 10/30/60

Day Ticket Price: $79 Adult / $69 Sr. / $65 Youth / $40 Child

Opening Date: Oct. 17

Colorado’s ski season opened this year on the slopes of A Basin, locally loved for its open bowl skiing, steep runs and the “Beach” base area that’s so friendly to tailgating parties. With some of the highest skiable terrain in the country, topping out at 13,000 feet, it’s not a surprise that A Basin’s season is one of the longest. Additional lifts and terrain that has opened in recent years have put growth ahead of use, leaving you plenty of room to carve at will and enjoy the views on sizeable bowls. And the lack of a resort keeps it predominantly locals on day trips.


Average Snowfall: 300”

Vertical Rise: 3,635’

Skiable Acres: 1,028

Lifts: 5

Trails: 118

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 18/30/52

Day Ticket Price: from 2011 $92 Adult / $83 Jr. / Sr. / $58 Child

Opening Date: Dec. 8

For steep — and we mean really steep — turn your skis toward Aspen Highlands. Over half the mountain is expert terrain, much of it with a big-mountain feel on bowls like the Highland, Olympic and Steeplechase. Hike-accessible terrain claims to be some of the steepest in the state.


Average Snowfall: 300”

Vertical Rise: 3,267’

Skiable Acres: 675

Lifts: 8

Trails: 76

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 0/48/52

Day Ticket Price: $92 Adult / $83 Jr. / Sr. / $58 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 22

Aspen Mountain isn’t fooling around. With nothing but intermediate and expert terrain, it’s a proving ground for the untested — and a buffet for those who eat black diamond runs for breakfast. Stay in bounds on the bumps, or hop on a powdercat tour to cut fresh tracks on the backside. Beat to shreds? Take a break to tour on-mountain shrines to Elvis, Jerry Garcia and Marilyn Monroe.


Average Snowfall: 325”

Vertical Rise: 3,340’

Skiable Acres: 1,832

Lifts: 25

Trails: 149

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 19/43/38

Day Ticket Price: $102 Adult / $92 Sr. / $59 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 21

The sometimes overlooked kid brother of Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek actually bests its older sibling in certain ways. Beaver Creek has miles of long cruisers and intermediate to advanced trails that feature plenty of breathing room between clumps of aspen trees. While the groomed runs are fast, and many top ski racers train at Beaver Creek, there is no reason to feel intimidated. The crowds tend to be distributed nicely across the mountain, increasing your elbow room and decreasing time spent in lift lines.


Average Snowfall: 305”

Vertical Rise: 3,398’

Skiable Acres: 2,358

Lifts: 31

Trails: 155

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 14/31/55

Day Ticket Price: $93 Adult / $83 Sr. / $46 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 9

Breck has a massive number and variety of trails on its front side, making its back bowls and powdery trees a secondary consideration for your average skier. You could spend an entire weekend just exploring the more than 150 mainstream groomers and bump runs without even dabbling in the somewhat secret stashes. With runs as high as 13,000 feet, the action above treeline can be among the best in the state. But the front side fills up quickly on the weekends, so hit the lifts early those days during the high season.


Average Snowfall: 200”

Vertical Rise: 2,030’

Skiable Acres: 470

Lifts: 8

Trails: 44

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 35/39/26

Day Ticket Price: for 2011 $92 Adult / $83 Jr. / Sr. / $58 Child

Opening Date: Dec. 15

Aspen’s neighbor Buttermilk treats beginners and families to rolling blue and green runs. There are also 100 features to play on at two terrain parks.


Average Snowfall: 283”

Vertical Rise: 2,601’

Skiable Acres: 2,465

Lifts: 22

Trails: 125

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 21/25/54

Day Ticket Price: TBA

Opening Date: Nov. 2

Want to log some serious mileage on long green runs? Go to Copper. Want to park the car and leave it for the whole weekend and walk from condo to chair lift? Copper. Want naturally varied terrain that’s easy on one side of the mountain, and a thigh-burning run of moguls on the other? Copper. Want to drop down to the back side of the mountain and have some space and snow to yourself? Copper. Want to practice your backflip without breaking your neck? Copper’s Woodward indoor terrain training park. Snowcat skiing? Yep, still Copper.


Average Snowfall: 300”

Vertical Rise: 3,062’

Skiable Acres: 1,547

Lifts: 16

Trails: 121

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 26/58/16

Day Ticket Price: $95 Adult / $76 Sr. / $86 Teen / $52 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 21

The gorgeous and somewhat secluded Crested Butte is not as easy to get to as other ski areas, a fact that helps preserve its small-town charm and keep its big-time steeps from getting too crowded. The expert terrain is world-class, featuring extreme lines and heart-pounding drops. And even if you are a more casual skier or boarder, the intermediate runs are fast and fun as they wind through groves of aspen and pine.


Average Snowfall: 300”

Vertical Rise: 1,600’

Skiable Acres: 680

Lifts: 12

Trails: 53

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 20/50/30

Day Ticket Price: TBA

Opening Date: Nov. 16

Aside from running a finely tuned children’s ski school, Eldora also hosts women-only clinics on a weekly basis and runs adaptive snow sports programs. The Nordic Center opens up easy access to cross-country skiing, while the mountain offers terrain that runs from easy to the challenging Corona Bowl. That’s a lot to offer just 21 miles from Boulder.


Average Snowfall: 150”

Vertical Rise: 440’

Skiable Acres: 50

Lifts: 4

Trails: 17

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 25/20/55

Day Ticket Price: (for 2011) $17 Adult / $12 Sr. / $6 Child

Opening Date: Dec. 1

The short, steep, small slopes of Howelsen Hill have created a natural ski jump that has been sending skiers on to international competitions since opening in 1915. The oldest continuously operating ski area in Colorado, it has provided training ground for 79 Olympians. Howelsen is also investing in a plastic ski run that will be open for ski jump training year-round.


Average Snowfall: 235”

Vertical Rise: 3,128’

Skiable Acres: 3,148

Lifts: 20

Trails: 135

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 19/32/49

Day Ticket Price: $93 Adult / $83 Sr. / $54 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 2

Keystone has primed itself to provide great weekend getaways for the whole family, mixing in sledding and ice skating with skiing solid runs. But a lot of the fun at Keystone also comes through soaking up its fringe options — try the night skiing, warming up during the gondola rides up the mountain and cruising down groomers by lamp-light. And hike or snowcat to Independence, Berman and Erickson bowls for a taste of the steeper stuff.


Average Snowfall: 400”

Vertical Rise: 2,410’

Skiable Acres: 1,570

Lifts: 10

Trails: 93

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 13/41/46

Day Ticket Price: $61 Adult / $50 Sr. / $27 Child

Opening Date: Oct. 23

Loveland is the much-adored local mountain. From bowls that pitch quickly down from the Continental Divide to long, cruising green runs for beginners to steep moguls, it’s got a little something for just about everyone.

Monarch | Photo courtesy


Average Snowfall: 350”

Vertical Rise: 1,162’

Skiable Acres: 800

Lifts: 8

Trails: 63

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 14/28/58

Day Ticket Price: $60 Adult / $35 Sr. / $24 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 21

Monarch doesn’t just get snowfall. The ski area gets a snow blanket, thick and solid enough that they’ve left snow-making operations to other areas and go it all with natural snow. Monarch is spending $2.3 million to remodel and expand its Base Lodge, adding 16,000 square feet of space. Seating in the cafeteria will increase from 67 to 520 and in the Family Picnic room from 224 to 392 seats. In addition to the acres of often untouched tree skiing accessible by lifts, snowcats and cat-track trails let skiers dip into places like Mirkwood Basin. The 130 acres of extreme skiing, covering 1,000 vertical feet, puts your planks — and your mettle — to the test on chutes, glades and cliffs. Talk about getting butterflies.


Average Snowfall: 250”

Vertical Rise: 1,650’

Skiable Acres: 1,600

Lifts: 5

Trails: 63

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 20/50/30

Day Ticket Price: $59 Adult / $51 Sr. / $30 Child Opening

Date: Dec. 13

Powderhorn Mountain Resort | Courtesy of Powderhorn Mountain Resort

Small but mighty, Powderhorn boasts some solid tree runs through aspen groves, a family-friendly vibe and, best of all, small crowds and short lift lines. This is the second year under a new management team that seems determined to bring out the best in this small area. Three terrain parks can give you plenty to do if you’re looking to do your best to defy gravity.


Average Snowfall: 260”

Vertical Rise: 2,029’

Skiable Acres: 1,360

Lifts: 10

Trails: 88

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 20/45/35

Day Ticket Price: $75 Adult / $65 Sr. / $60 Student / $45 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 23

Purgatory, nestled in the San Juan Mountains just north of Durango, is a hidden gem featuring a variety of terrain and amazing views. An array of intermediate runs slice through stands of aspens and pines, while the steeper terrain can get tight and twisty. There are five terrain parks, and for advanced to intermediate skiers and riders, the powdercat tours serve as a backstage pass to the mountain’s wild side.


Average Snowfall: 400”

Vertical Rise: 3,087’

Skiable Acres: 1,819

Lifts: 1

Trails: TBD

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 0/0/100

Day Ticket Price: $49 Unguided / $139 Guided

Opening Date: Dec. 1

Silverton Mountain | Courtesy of Silverton Mountain

No groomers. No cut runs. Nothing under 35 degrees in pitch. No crowds. Just big mountain adventure scouting out backcountry-type terrain and snagging a handful of runs in a day that score you up to 10,000 feet in vertical drop. A single lift ride, followed by short hike, delivers skiers into 1,819 acres of expert terrain — plus some of Colorado’s only heli-skiing offers access to an additional 22,000 acres.


Average Snowfall: 260”

Vertical Rise: 1,200’

Skiable Acres: 400

Lifts: 5

Trails: 26

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 30/40/30

Day Ticket Price: $46 Adult / $34 Sr. / $26 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 22

Ski Cooper is quick to clarify that it’s only 400 acres but you can pack a lot into it — and for a reasonable ticket price. Terrain ranges from corduroyed cruisers to powder-stashed glades. Snowcat tours help access more terrain on the back side of the mountain for those searching for increasingly untouched terrain at an otherwise pleasantly untracked ski area.


Average Snowfall: 300”

Vertical Rise: 4,406’

Skiable Acres: 3,132

Lifts: 21

Trails: 91

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 6/50/44

Day Ticket Price: (for 2011) $92 Adult / $83 Jr. / Sr. / $58 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 22

With 91 runs and over 4,400 feet of vertical drop, Snowmass offers plenty of ground to keep skiers and riders entertained for days. But just in case that wasn’t enough for you to explore, they’re adding a new 22-foot-high superpipe this year, building on the three existing terrain parks.


Average Snowfall: 220”

Vertical Rise: 1,000’

Skiable Acres: 406

Lifts: 6

Trails: 37

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 30/50/20

Day Ticket Price: $63 Adult / $44 Sr. / $39 Jr.

Opening Date: Dec. 12

Formerly SolVista Basin, Ski Granby Ranch is ramping up its ski and snowboard instruction programs and touting itself as a great stop for families. The resort is family-owned and boasts that it’s easy to find space at Ski Granby, whether you’re looking for a spot to park your car or a run to carve on.


Average Snowfall: 354”

Vertical Rise: 3,668’

Skiable Acres: 2,965

Lifts: 18

Trails: 165

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 14/42/44

Day Ticket Price: $109 Adult / $69 Sr. / $65 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 21

Steamboat actually has the rights reserved for the use of the term “champagne powder.” And it’s theirs because the mountain, aside from boasting tree runs and snowcat skiing on side terrain, is known for deep powder that makes a sound like the fizz of a just-opened champagne bottle. Now that’s something to celebrate.


Average Snowfall: 250”

Vertical Rise: 2,010’

Skiable Acres: 470

Lifts: 3

Trails: 37

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 20/55/25

Day Ticket Price: $55 Adult / $45 Sr. / $45 Child

Opening Date: Dec. 7

Sunlight keeps its distance both physically and philosophically from resorts like Vail and Aspen. Its proximity to Glenwood Springs makes it a great stopover for a weekend away that includes a post-skiing soak in the hot springs. As for the mountain itself, it’s got aspen groves that offer the potential for fresh tracks. The surprise at Sunlight is the run The Heathen, a 52-degree pitch. And everything comes back to a single base area, making it easy to keep track of friends or kids burning laps ahead of you. Sunlight also offers 29 kilometers of groomed cross-country trails.


Average Snowfall: 309”

Vertical Rise: 4,425’

Skiable Acres: 2,000

Lifts: 18

Trails: 125

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 23/36/41

Day Ticket Price: For 2011 $92 Adult / $82 Sr. / $56 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 22

That Telluride takes its roots from a small gold mining town is a fact effectively buried by the carefully coifed downtown and its luxurious resorts. Your ride up into ski terrain can take place in a gondola that includes a blanket for draping your knees. For all the cushiness of the amenities, the terrain at Telluride is anything but soft-core. Steep steeps with major mountain views of the surrounding San Juans will get your heart pumping — if skiing at 13,000 feet hasn’t already.


Average Snowfall: 354”

Vertical Rise: 3,450’

Skiable Acres: 5,289

Lifts: 31

Trails: 193

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 18/29/53

Day Ticket Price: $102 Adult / $92 Sr. / $59 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 16

Vail | Photo courtesy of Jack Affleck, Vail Resorts

Vail’s the ski area that needs no introduction. Trees, terrain parks, cruisers and back bowls abound at this resort — it’s the largest ski resort in the country and it knows it. Enjoy the front side, the back bowls or drop into Blue Sky Basin, where you can almost conjure the feeling of not being at the biggest, and one of the most crowded, resorts around.


Average Snowfall: 327”

Vertical Rise: 2,610’

Skiable Acres: 3,081

Lifts: 25

Trails: 143

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 8/17/75

Day Ticket Price: $81 Adult / $43 Sr. / $42 Child

Opening Date: Nov. 14

Falling into the little-known facts about Colorado is that Winter Park combines four adjacent ski areas, each on distinct mountains, connected by trails and chairlifts. The two that tout the name, Winter Park and Mary Jane, are accompanied by Vasquez Cirque and Vasquez Ridge. A visit to Winter Park accesses variable personalities of terrain — off-piste terrain, glade skiing and some of the country’s best bump runs.


Average Snowfall: 465”

Vertical Rise: 1,604’

Skiable Acres: 1,600

Lifts: 7

Trails: 77

% of Beginner/Intermediate/Expert Terrain: 20/35/45

Day Ticket Price: $56 Adult / $30 Sr. / Child

Opening Date: Nov. 2

Wolf Creek snagged the earliest opening day last season — and it’s not hard to guess how considering the area’s average annual snowfall of 465 inches. The mountain saw a 46-inch storm that set it up to open Oct. 8. While this year hasn’t been so generous yet, Wolf Creek is sure to set up with consistently good conditions and powder days throughout the season. Hike to mountain tops to ski double-blacks, or stay in the in-bounds bowls and plow through powder stashes all day long.