Westword's Guide to teh '96-'97 ski and snowboard season

Most of the good eating near Cooper, however is concentrated in one place: Leadville. "Well, there's The Grill [715 Elm] for Mexican, and The Delaware [700 Harrison Avenue], where I sent the crew for a Thanksgiving meal once," she says. But the place she would go if someone offered to take her is The Prospector (2798 Highway 91). "They have good fish and pasta," she says. The locals go to Wild Bill's (200 Harrison Avenue) for a burger, she says, and the best and cheapest breakfast in town is at "the Mullings residence."

"Oh, there's the Silver King [2020 Poplar], in a motel," she adds. "I know someone who goes there every morning for breakfast."

General information: 1-719-486-3684
Snow report: 1-719-486-2277
Location: 100 miles west of Denver via I-70 (exit 195), 24 miles west on Colo. Hwy. 91 to U.S. Hwy. 24, 9 miles west.

Opening and closing dates: November 23 to March 30
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 30% beginner, 40% intermediate, 30% advanced. 385 developed acres with a 1,200' vertical drop. Base: 10,500'; top: 11,700'; longest run: 1.4 miles.

Lifts: 1 triple chair, 1 double chair, 2 surface lifts.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $25, half-day $20; child (6-12) full-day $15, half-day $12; senior (60-69) $16; 5 and under/70 and over ski free.

Lessons: Group lesson $25 for 2 hours. Private lesson $45 for 1.5 hours. First-time package: 2-hour lesson, beginner lift ticket and rental for $33. Snowboard package: 2-hour lesson, rental and full-mountain lift ticket $55.

Rentals: Adult beginner package $12; child (6-12) $8. Snowboards: Full-day $23, half-day $13. Call 1-719-486-2277 for information.

Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboard park. Rentals and lessons available.
Cross-country: Piney Creek Cross-County Center has 24 km of groomed trails. Lessons and rentals available. Trail fee, full-day $8. For information call 1-719-486-1750.

Special events: In vicinity: snowmobiling, ice skating. Call 1-719-486-3684 for more information.

Erik Berkstrom skied and snowboarded for two days each the first time he did either, back in the 1987-88 season. Then he never skied again. Since then, he and his buddy, Derek Johnson, have opened two D&E Snowboard Shops, one in Snowmass and one in Aspen, and he's 'boarded all the area mountains except Ajax, which doesn't allow it. But Snowmass is the one he prefers.

"This is the mountain that I love the most," Berkstrom, who grew up in Phoenix, says. "I think it has the most to offer--green to blue to black--and it's the largest, so people get more spread out on it. I've been on it for six years now, and I'm not the least bit bored."

He keeps his interest piqued by taking on such extremes as Hanging Valley Wall. "On a powder day, you can't miss the Wall," he says. "It's a 'no runs' kind of area. You go through a chute, for the most part a steep grade, and then into open powder. It's not overdone, you know." And if he's really feeling masochistic, he chews on Baby Ruth off High Alpine or takes on Reidar's Run. "Brutal," he says about the first one. "And Reidar's is the best bumps you're going to find here." He sends those looking to get an introduction to bumps over to the top section of Showcase, also off High Alpine, for a "mellow ride" and tells 'boarders seeking air to look at Naked Lady. "No doubt the locals' favorite," he says. "A blue run with lots of rolls and banks." In fact, Berkstrom has a whole philosophy about progressing as a snowboarder at Snowmass. "Start at the Assay Hill," he says. "That's the 'boarder breeding ground. From there, move up to the Funnel Lift and Elk Camp. There you'll find some nice rolling stuff, good cruising, great scenery."

Berkstrom also likes the look of Sneaky's trees in the Big Burn. "Kind of moderate, mellow, with a lot of powder," he says. "It's kind of easygoing." When he wants to go really, really fast, he checks into Green Cabin from the top of High Alpine. "You can take it all the way down," he says. And when he wants to be alone and the snow is good, he goes to Powderhorn. "You have to look at a map to try to find it," Berkstrom says. "It's below the Big Burn and around Sam's Knob, which also happens to be good for bumps. Anyway, when you get to Powderhorn, you don't even feel like you're at the same mountain. You won't see anyone there. It's got kind of some double fall lines in it, little sections of bumps, and then drops a little bit before it takes you around to Campground chair. Very underused."

The word "underused," however, could never apply to the dining scene, Berkstrom says. "No one here offers you a deal, because they don't have to," he explains. "Every place is packed and charges top dollar." Even the locals' hangouts are well-known: for example, the Woody Creek Tavern (2 Woody Creek Road), famous for counting Hunter S. Thompson among its clientele; and The Timber Mill, on the right slope side of the mountain, with its karaoke and mixed drinks. "The Stew Pot [62 Snowmass Village Mall] has good soups and sandwiches and is at least pretty reasonable," Berkstrom says. "Local waitstaffers hang out at Zooms Saloon [10 Snowmass Village Mall], and Goodfellas [100 Elbert Lane] has good Italian subs."

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