What’s new at Colorado ski resorts
Where I live in Colorado’s high country, there’s already a dusting of snow on our jagged peaks, which only means one thing: ski season is just around the corner! For me, that means making sure my kids’ ski gear still fits them (darn children won’t stop growing). For ski-enthusiast visitors to Colorado, that means it’s time to start thinking about booking your ski vacation to my fine home state. You’ll find early booking deals aplenty at ski resorts across Colorado – from Aspen to Vail – before the snow really starts to fly in earnest.
To whet your appetite for a sublime ski vacation in Colorado, here are the highlights of what’s new this season at some of my favorite ski areas within two-hours’ driving distance from Denver International Airport.
Just 70 miles from downtown Denver, Winter Park is an incredibly popular ski resort for folks who live in and near the Mile High City. That’s why I suggest visitors head to Winter Park during the week; on the weekend, it’s packed with day trippers. That said, you can’t beat Winter Park for its convenience factor. Plus, new this season is a nifty Ski & Ride School program called the “Family Easy Start.” For one all-inclusive price ($679 for a half day/$859 for a full day), a family of four can get four lift tickets, four equipment rentals, a private instructor, and access to the Private Lesson Center (lockers, ski/equipment storage, refreshments), allowing those who want to enjoy the shared experience of learning to ski or snowboard to do so as a family.
Happy kids at Winter Park Resort
Also debuting this winter is Winter Park’s “Cirque Sled,” a snowcat ride that will provide intermediate and expert skiers and riders easier access to the Cirque, where they can access 1,332 acres of spectacular off-piste terrain.
New lifts at Copper Mountain mark an investment of nearly $7 million in capital improvements at the resort this season. The high-alpine Storm King surface lift, in operation since 1985, is being replaced by a brand new surface T-Bar lift. There’s also a new “West Ridge Platter” surface lift at the top of the Sierra chairlift, providing easier access to some of Copper’s premier black-diamond and bowl skiing. Other improvements include four new snowcats for faster and more efficient overnight grooming of the terrain.
I dig the sound of Copper’s new Sherpa mobile app. It’s a hands-free, geo-aware mountain guide that will tell you where you are on the mountain, with trail-specific tips from locals, ski patrollers, and longtime Copper employees who truly know the slopes inside and out. Since the app is audio-driven, you get all the advice delivered through your headphones; the GPS coordinates know where you are and what directions or other tips to give you. (Sure, it sounds a bit Big Brother, but also really cool.)
Viewfinder Tip: Spend at least one night in Denver at 5,280 feet before driving to the mountains to best acclimate to the high altitude. Ski trails in the Rockies top out at 11,000 feet or more in elevation.
At family-friendly Keystone, where kids 12 and under ski for FREE all season long, children and adults can ski and board together on a brand new Family Ski Trail. Dubbed “The SchoolYard,” on Keystone’s signature long, green cruiser Schoolmarm, this engaging learning area is designed for fun: glide over Rockin’ Rollers, navigate bumps for the first time on Magic Moguls, or maneuver through changing terrain in Tornado Alley. Families won’t want to miss the annual Keystone Kidtopia snow fort on the top of Dercum Mountain!
There’s huge news in Breckenridge this season, as the expansive ski resort adds even more terrain to its mountains: 400 acres of lift-served terrain and 143 acres of hike-to terrain in the Peak 6 area. This represents an incredible 23 percent increase in the resort’s total skiable acres, and it does include some high-alpine bowl skiing for intermediates (typically bowls are geared to only the most expert of skiers and boarders). All signs point toward the new terrain and lifts being open to guests by the end of the year when the rest of that upper mountain area gets enough snow (there’s no snowmaking up that high).
Festive entertainment in upscale Beaver Creek Village
Upscale Beaver Creek – with its heated sidewalks, complimentary warm chocolate chip cookies each afternoon, and its divine dining and lodging options – is known for its white-glove service as much as it is for its sublime skiing. This year brings a brand new place to eat: the European-inspired, on-mountain Talons Restaurant. Replacing the former Red Tail Camp, the new gourmet restaurant will be 17,000 square feet with seating for 500 indoors and 250 outside. If you’ve been to Beaver Creek before, this year you may notice a new escalator in the heart of Beaver Creek Village, above the huge ice rink, designed to make access to the slopes even easier.
Last year Vail introduced Gondola One, with heated seats and WiFi. This year’s new lifts aren’t quite that tricked out, but regular visitors to Vail will certainly appreciate the improvements. The Mountaintop Express Lift (#4) is being upgraded to a new high speed six-passenger lift with a loading conveyor. The lift is one of the most utilized on the mountain and the new capacity will make for more efficient travel for skiers and snowboarders through the Mid-Vail area up to Patrol Headquarters and beyond to Vail’s Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin.
The Gopher Hill Lift (#12) is being upgraded from a double to a triple, which is a great improvement for children who participate in Vail’s Ski & Snowboard School, as it doubles the capacity for little ones who are required to ride with an adult. This means more time learning and less time waiting for a grownup!
Where are you skiing this winter?
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