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Colorado Ski Guide

skiNEwhere

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This is something I've been working on for a little while. These already exist in bits and pieces, but not to my liking and not encompassing all of this. It's still a work in progress and I hadn't had a chance to ski everywhere in CO, I'll add more if people find this to be of use.(Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, El Dora, Breck, Copper, Winter Park, Steamboat) Please provide feedback, whether it be about content, editing style, ease of reading, or something else.

Traveling from Denver: If you're heading to the mountain's you'll want to leave Friday at or before 3-4PM, or you'll be stuck in I-70 ski traffic. Yes, there is horrible traffic created just by the sheer volume of people going skiing. Or you can take the colorado mountain express or Summit Express

Arapahoe Basin

Rating: 8 out of 10
Lodging: 15 minutes away in Keystone.
Après-ski: 6th alley bar on site, Keystone 15 minutes away.
Bus: The SummitStage offers FREE travel within Summit County, which is beneficial if you are staying at a hotel in the area.
Distance from Denver: 64 miles. About 70-80 minute trip dependent on weather and traffic.

Snow Quality: A-Basin has primarily N/NE exposure (Zuma Bowl is S/SW exposure) so this combined with the base and peak elevation keeps the snow around longer. It’s almost always the last ski area to close in the state, if not the country! A typical season runs from Mid-October to Mid to Late May!

Crowds and Price: Due to the lack of “amenities” and its small size (relative to nearby ski resorts), this place does not get overly crowded on the weekends, unlike its much larger counterparts. A lift ticket for the 2014-2015 season is only $45.99 if you purchase ahead of time, $67 if you purchase at the counter. Not bad!

Parking: Free and within walking distance (No bus required unless you're on the upper lot, only a 2 minute ride)

There are 2 separate ways to get here.
· Option A: Take I-70W through the Eisenhower tunnel down the steep 7% downgrade to the town of Silverthorne. Got off on exit 205 and take your very first left which will be route 6 eastbound, past the town Keystone to get to the ski area. Other than the steep downgrade on the interstate this is generally an easier route with less turns.

· Option B: Take I-70W to the last exit before the tunnel (exit 216). You'll pass directly under chair 5 of Loveland Ski area and drive up twisty route 6 westbound to the top off Loveland pass, just shy of 12,000 ft. elevation. You should be able to see A-Basin once you get about one to two miles pass the top. This route is 10 minutes faster than route A, but not for those who get nervous because of heights. There are portions of the road near the pass that have a 35-40 degree drop-off and no guardrails. If the weather gets bad, CDOT is quick to shut down the road but you may be stuck on the road while it is in the process of being closed. The only downside is that HAZMAT vehicles trailers are mandated by law to use this pass instead of the tunnel, so there is a chance you may get stuck behind one of these.

Overview: A-Basin (for short) as it is often called skips all the "overhead" that is typically added to Colorado ski resorts and cuts to the chase, just great skiing. There are no condos, gold courses, or nightlife slopeside so to speak of, but this can be found in the town of Keystone, which is only 15 minutes away. Check groupon for good deals that will surface from time to time. A-Basin almost always has the longest season in the state, often over 200 days!

· If you're a beginner, there are only 5 green trails, so you may want to ski at nearby Breckenridge if you are looking for more easy terrain. Note that the green slope Sundance is pretty steep and would probably be a blue at any other resort.
· Experts will love the Pallavicini trail complex, as this has a great deal of double blacks that are steep, have bumps, glades, or a combination of all three. Personally I think the trail Gauthier is the hardest trail in this group, it is about 45 degrees with trees!
· The Pallavicini trail is a fun, steep, wide, bump trail.
· The top of West Turbo is a rocky, tough trail overall. Don’t use your nice skis ;)
· The East wall offers terrific hike-to terrain, but the summit is almost 13,000 ft. If you are coming from sea level, you may want to get acclimated because even the most fit of skiers can get winded and/or altitude sickness if they try to ski it the first day. 1st Notch, as it is called, offers a 45 degree slope and is about 10-15 feet wide at its narrowest point.
· The Montezuma (or Zuma) Bowl is a great area to ski right after a big dump. If you don't get first tracks, head to the furthest skiers left you can take from the top of the Zuma lift and you may be able to find freshies, as there is a lot of a traverse involved that keeps some of the crowds away.
o At the bottom, you'll find "hike-back" terrain that keeps powder fresh for a longer period, since you'll need to hike back up the base of the Zuma lift.
The Negative: High altitude can be hardest on skiers than other nearby ski resorts. Only one High Speed Quad. Lenawee lift can be a long ride, especially since the top 1/3 is completely exposed to the wind causing it to run at a slower speed sometimes. The East Wall, which is revered by locals, takes a long time to fill in, it usually doesn’t open up until late February in a good year, March most years.

Backcountry: There is an area known as "The Beavers" that you can legally access from the top of the Pallavicini lift through the BC gates. It's steep, and rocky, and very avalanche prone. I mention it because you may see people skiing/boarding down it from US Route 6. If you DO try this, make sure you either know what the hell you are doing or take someone with you that has a clue. Besides, A-Basin has it in their Master Development plan to incorporate this into their ski area so you'll be able to ski it whenever that happens (Hopefully in the next 3-5 years)

Misc: If you ski here in October when they first open, expect to wait a half an hour in line, for like only 1-3 open, overcrowded runs.

Loveland

Rating: 7 out of 10
Lodging: 15 minutes away in Georgetown or Silverthorne.
Apres-ski: None on site, 15 minutes away in Silverthorne.
Bus: Only to get from Loveland Basin to Loveland Valley
Distance from Denver: 56 miles, 50 to 60 minutes depending on weather and traffic. Take I-70 to exit 216, you can’t miss it, although if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss the exit and have to drive 10 miles to Silverthorne to turn around so keep your eyes open!

Snow Quality: Loveland has exposure in every direction except for the West. Since Loveland sits on the Continental Divide, it gets the storms that hit summit county but also picks up the storms that hit the front range and Denver area that mostly miss resorts in Summit county. The winds on peak 9 sometimes blow wind from the western side of the continental divide onto the eastern side, so they’ll be powder even if hasn’t snowed in a couple of days. Of course, the exact opposite happens sometimes as well.

Crowds and Prices: Crowds? What’s that? I skied Loveland on the President’s Day weekend and never waited more than 2 minutes. You will not find crowds here. Period. The price is a very reasonable $61. There are many kiosks scattered through Colorado where you can buy a discounted lift ticket (Not sure of the exact discount, I think it’s in the 40’s). Click here for locations.

Parking: Free (No Bus Required). If you do get to Loveland late on a busy day though, the main parking lot will be full and you’ll have to park at the Loveland Valley Parking lot (Smaller, geared towards intermediates) and take 2 minute ride to the main Loveland Basin ski area.

Overview: While it’s hard to call Loveland a little known ski resort, it’s definitely not appreciated as much as I think it should be. I like to joke that “There’s no love for Loveland.” I remember asking some people from my office if they wanted to ski there, and they just kind of rolled their eyes like “Why would I want to ski there”? Their loss. Also like A-Basin, Loveland has no amenities (actually, even less), or even a high speed lift. This place is VERY popular with locals, who will swear by it like it’s the only true skiing left in the state. Loveland is the closest ski area to Denver since Echo Mtn is now private, and very easy to get it. Loveland and A-Basin often compete to be the first ski area to open. Loveland always seems to close the first week in May, regardless of snow, not sure why.

· Beginners will find a nice assortment of terrain to begin to learn in the Loveland Valley side, which has some nice greens and moderate blue’s to work up to.
· Advanced/Expert skiers will enjoy the terrain off of chair 1 and chair 9. Chair 1 has some pretty nice steeps. Over the Rainbow has some sustained steeps for about 1000 ft. It’s hard to say how steep it is since it always has huge moguls on it, but I’ll venture to say its around 35 degrees.
o Note: This is the Eastern edge of the ski area, and you’ll be right against the ski area boundary. You may be tempted to duck the ropes, but don’t. You’ll head into an area knows as the 7 Sisters which is extremely avalanche prone. So just don’t do it.​
· Avalanche bowl offers some nice steeps around 37 degrees.
· There are some nice, unmarked gladed areas in here. That’s all I’m gonna say :)
· Chair 9 takes you to the top of Loveland and the Continental Divide. From here, the views are pretty amazing. You can see clearly see Breckenridge in the distance and parts of Keystone. This lift is very exposed to the wind and often subject to closure. This is a great area to ski open bowls on powder days.
o Patrol bowl offers Loveland's steepest terrain, at over 41 degrees.
o There is a free snow cat that operates Wednesday through Sunday. But you MUST get a free pass from the ticket office or no ride for you.

· Chairs 2 and 6 takes you to access a bunch of nice groomed blue trails that any intermediate skier should enjoy. Personally I loathe chair 2, it is very long and very slow. I timed it this season, it was over 13 minutes with no stops, which rarely happens. With stops it’s usually about 15 minutes. I’d only use it to get to chair 9. Thankfully it has a mid-unload station so you can limit the agony.
· Chair 8 is my favorite chair. It’s the furthest away, and hardest to get to, therefore it’s also the least used. And it holds powder for a long time. There was one day this season I went over there and stayed over there most of the day and was able to find fresh tracks the whole time I was there. Definitely a hidden gem. Hook Em’ Horns is one of my favorites in that area. East Ropes is a nice, steep gladed trail, but it does take a lot of snow to open up and it is very short.

The Negative: No High Speed Lifts. The portion of chair 2 above treeline, and chair 9 are very exposed to the wind. Both of those factors do keep crowds down though. Chair 9 has frequent wind holds, some days it may not even open at all. If you’re looking for a gourmet lunch, you’ll be disappointed. Just like A-Basin, altitude is more of a factor than other ski areas.

Misc: Loveland really goes out of the way for people who bring their own lunch. They have microwaves for you heat up your food and filtered water and cups to use.
 
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thetrailboss

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Very nice. I'm looking forward to more....

I concur with your comments on Loveland. My visit there in 2010 was a lot of fun. Though it was early December, the conditions were awesome. I also hated Lift 2....seemed like you could avoid it by hitting Lift 1 and heading over to Lift 6 or cross-over to Lift 4 (maybe?) Lift 1 had some pretty steep stuff and I loved it. Having just come from early-season machine made snow cruisers in Vermont to this was a real big adjustment, but it tasted pretty good. It got my adrenaline going for sure...steep and deep. I can see how if you went to far to skier's right how you'd be in trouble.

The place was really Jekyl and Hyde on my two days there...the Thursday was amazing blue bird and cool temps. Friday was snow and high winds...we were probably the only ones to ride up Lift 9 and it honestly sucked. It was like being on Mount Washington during a hurricane. Nice mix of trees and open areas.

The bag lunch comment was interesting. I read before my visit that Loveland was VERY anti-brown baggers. That was not my experience at all. I found the staff to be really, really friendly and laid back. It really had a MRG vibe to the place...locals and low key. Overall some good blue terrain everywhere it seemed. Nothing really crazy like at Alta-Snowbird, but an enjoyable place to ski. The fixed grips were decent...older Yans and Pomas, but all well cared for and decent (except the slow Lift 2).

Very odd layout with the highway right in the middle of it and the tunnel. 70 was an interesting drive...windy in places. The second day that nasty blizzard made for interesting driving...especially returning to DEN in a cheap rental with summer tires.

We were looking at Denver as a place to move to. So I was checking out resorts to "move to". I had mixed feelings about Loveland...as you said, folks don't give it much love. And, though I had a great time, I felt as if I'd get bored with it and that I'd be settling for it because it was the closest to Denver. I was really disappointed with Denver. Sprawl, bad traffic, no good access to the mountains, and it was just not what we expected.
 

Smellytele

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Great descriptions. No driving directions for Loveland and in this day and age just and address usually suffices or a google maps (or similar) link. What would be considered a 10 out of 10 or below a 5 out of 10?
 

skiNEwhere

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What would be considered a 10 out of 10 or below a 5 out of 10?

That's something I need to work on, because right now the rankings are purely subjective.

For example, when I do winter park, they will rank very highly, due to their abundance of bumps. If you look at their yelp review all the 5 star, but also the 1 and 2 star negative review mentions the same thing: bumps. So clearly it's a preference thing.

I'm thinking maybe I can break up the rating further into 5 indisputable categories/metrics from 0 to 2, and add them up. Amount of snow, ease of access, price, crowds, and diversity of terrain.

Or since most AZ'ers are advanced skiers to begin with, I can add a disclaimer at the beginning stating the reviews are geared toward that.

Aspen Highlands would be a resort I want to give 10/10. They just had a really cool vibe and awesome skiing, but according to my metrics, I should give them a 0 zero on price because not only are they expensive, it's very difficult to find liftopia deals for them.

I can't think of a resort I'd give lower than a 5 or 6. Maybe Vail since they are expensive, flat, crowded, and not exceedingly difficult
 
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Smellytele

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That's something I need to work on, because right now the rankings are purely subjective.

For example, when I do winter park, they will rank very highly, due to their abundance of bumps. If you look at their yelp review all the 5 star, but also the 1 and 2 star negative review mentions the same thing: bumps. So clearly it's a preference thing.

I'm thinking maybe I can break up the rating further into 5 indisputable categories/metrics from 0 to 2, and add them up. Amount of snow, ease of access, price, crowds, and diversity of terrain.

Or since most AZ'ers are advanced skiers to begin with, I can add a disclaimer at the beginning stating the reviews are geared toward that.

Aspen Highlands would be a resort I want to give 10/10. They just had a really cool vibe and awesome skiing, but according to my metrics, I should give them a 0 zero on price because not only are they expensive, it's very difficult to find liftopia deals for them.

I can't think of a resort I'd give lower than a 5 or 6. Maybe Vail since they are expensive, flat, crowded, and not exceedingly difficult

Maybe break it up to grade 1-10 for price, terrain, crowd, lift system, vibe - etc. Then average it out.
 

thetrailboss

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I went to Aspen/Snowmass last month for a convention. All I can say is wow. Highlands does look cool and I'd ski there. Snowmass looks like the Sugarloaf of the West. That is one HUGE mother mountain. I really want to ski there....

Buttermilk--meh. Maybe worth a day.

Aspen reminded me of a bigger Cranmore. Interesting steep terrain. But I have no idea where one parks to ski Aspen.
 

skiNEwhere

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I went to Aspen/Snowmass last month for a convention. All I can say is wow. Highlands does look cool and I'd ski there. Snowmass looks like the Sugarloaf of the West. That is one HUGE mother mountain. I really want to ski there....

Buttermilk--meh. Maybe worth a day.

Aspen reminded me of a bigger Cranmore. Interesting steep terrain. But I have no idea where one parks to ski Aspen.

Yea, buttermilk is geared towards either beginners, or those skiers/riders who enjoy hitting 40+ ft kickers and a superpipe :-o There's a reason the X-games is held there.

I've heard there are a few good runs off of Tiehack, that's about it though. It's hard to justify going there. Deals for Aspen are very hard to come by, and considering Aspen is 3 hours away from me, I'd want to ski any other aspen resort considering the price and distance. I got a lift ticket for $93 last season, and that was WITH a discount. (Add $5 if you don't have their RFID card)

Parking in Aspen is a work in progress.....last time I was at AH, I was prepared to pay in the garage and but there was a sign up that said "today is free parking day." Completely random, but I'll take it.
 

jaytrem

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Yea, buttermilk is geared towards either beginners, or those skiers/riders who enjoy hitting 40+ ft kickers and a superpipe :-o There's a reason the X-games is held there.

I've heard there are a few good runs off of Tiehack, that's about it though. It's hard to justify going there. Deals for Aspen are very hard to come by, and considering Aspen is 3 hours away from me, I'd want to ski any other aspen resort considering the price and distance. I got a lift ticket for $93 last season, and that was WITH a discount. (Add $5 if you don't have their RFID card)

The guide is good stuff, makes me want to go skiing.

One good thing about checking out Buttermilk is that you don't have to commit to a full day there. You can ski there for as long as you want then take a short bus ride to any of the three other Aspen areas and your lift ticket is good.
 

snoseek

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This is a great write up.

Skied well over 200 days at Loveland between 07-10. Chair 4 has some good stuff also, although a bit short. If the weather is right then chair 9 is worth riding all day IMO. A little hiking goes a long way. I miss 225 daily beer specials downstairs in the bar.

As for brown bagging I used to bring a piece of salmon layered on thin sliced potatos, green beans, shallot, butter and wine. Wrap the whole stack in parchment, then foil, drop it in the upper chamber or the Oregon stove in the rock house, ski a few runs then come back and eat lunch with a pocket beer...followed by that Colorado kind. Or theres those grills with propane tanks if feeling more ambitious.


And then there's Telluride....
 

catsup948

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Loveland Pass itself is very fun to ski from either side. Someone is always willing to give you a ride and show you around. My first "backcountry" experience out west.
 

skiNEwhere

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Loveland Pass itself is very fun to ski from either side. Someone is always willing to give you a ride and show you around. My first "backcountry" experience out west.

+1. The first time I skied the pass was this year, May 11th, there was almost 2 feet of untouched snow in some places and it kept snowing heavily the entire day. There is some avy danger but it's much lower than surrounding areas due to fact that cdot blasts it and skiers pack it down daily.

It's also a great way to meet people
 

snoseek

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You can exit the ski area via the gate/hike above chair 1, ski the back, cross the road and come out down at the valley, no hitching needed and can be good for a lap or two.

When things are unstable it can be deadly up there
 

jimk

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Very cool.

If you want to expand this i can maybe find some non-forum page to permanently host this.

Does AlpineZone have a resorts review section like some other sites? I think it's quite valuable to hear comments like this from knowledgeable and trustworthy forum members instead of from random newbs or a biased source.
I concur with everything SkiNEwhere said. Did he mention the fairly long tunnel you can sometimes ski through to go under Interstate 70 to return to base lodge from Chair 8/Zip Basin? I have two and six days at A-Basin and Loveland respectively and don't know them nearly as well as he does, but well enough to suggest they offer some of the better low cost/anti-resort skiing in America:)
 

skiNEwhere

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Maybe break it up to grade 1-10 for price, terrain, crowd, lift system, vibe - etc. Then average it out.

I like that, I think I'll either do that or add them up to say something like "Resort X is 84 out of 100." If I do the latter though, each resort will need the exact same criteria, which it probably should anyways for continuity

Or theres those grills with propane tanks if feeling more ambitious.

Did not realize that you could grill

Does AlpineZone have a resorts review section like some other sites? I think it's quite valuable to hear comments like this from knowledgeable and trustworthy forum members instead of from random newbs or a biased source.
I concur with everything SkiNEwhere said. Did he mention the fairly long tunnel you can sometimes ski through to go under Interstate 70 to return to base lodge from Chair 8/Zip Basin? I have two and six days at A-Basin and Loveland respectively and don't know them nearly as well as he does, but well enough to suggest they offer some of the better low cost/anti-resort skiing in America:smile:

Thanks for the feedback. I did not mention the tunnel, I'll have to add that. I've never skied through it or seen anyone do it either. The snow only builds up in there gradually with residual snow that falls off of peoples skis or boards, so it takes a while. There were some bare spots when I went through and I just bought new skis so I didn't want to scratch them up. I think it's pretty cool that you can ski under a frickin' interstate!

Great writeup! I'm jonesing!

The jonesing is what's been making me want to write this. It's a chicken-egg scenario lol

Very cool.

If you want to expand this i can maybe find some non-forum page to permanently host this.

That would be cool. I think I need to break up the review a little better though. I wrote this in MS Word and hoped the bullets and formatting would stay the same when I copied it over, but it didn't so personally I think it's kind of hard to read. If there is a dedicated page for unofficial guides or whatever you want to call it, I should probably add pics to break up the monotony of words. To add to what jimk said there should probably be a place for comments too, because no matter how unbiased you try to make something, if there is one author, bias may develop.
 

Nick

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Does AlpineZone have a resorts review section like some other sites? I think it's quite valuable to hear comments like this from knowledgeable and trustworthy forum members instead of from random newbs or a biased source.
I concur with everything SkiNEwhere said. Did he mention the fairly long tunnel you can sometimes ski through to go under Interstate 70 to return to base lodge from Chair 8/Zip Basin? I have two and six days at A-Basin and Loveland respectively and don't know them nearly as well as he does, but well enough to suggest they offer some of the better low cost/anti-resort skiing in America:)

I would like to add this in. WE have trip reports but they aren't tied to the resorts section of the site (yet). I've been wanting to make that connection a little stronger.
 

nhskier1969

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Does anyone know if there is a similar forum site like this(alpinezone) in Colorado? I am skiing out there in December and then in January. Ever since Epicski went down you can't find much info for forums in those areas?
 
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