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

Cross-country: Telluride's Nordic Center has over 30 km of trails. Lift to access fee $12. Tours, lessons and rentals available. For information call 1-970-728-4424.

Special events: Gondola opening Nov. 19; Arizona Days, Dec. 13-15; December Fest, Dec. 16-23; Gondola Grand Opening, Dec. 20; Surf the Rockies, Mar. 31-Apr. 13.

Vail
Annie Egan moved to Colorado in 1968 right out of high school "to major in skiing," she says. She had been skiing since she was about twelve, and her mom got so tired of driving her and her siblings to the ski areas--they lived outside of Washington, D.C.--that at age fifty, she decided to join them. "Hey, she's 83 and living in Colorado Springs," Egan says. "And she's still skiing."

Like many Eagle residents, Egan works part-time for Vail Associates to get a ski pass every year. "It's eat or ski sometimes, you know," Egan says. And at 46, she adds that she looks at skiing as a very necessary form of exercise. "Sometimes I have to force myself to go on a cruiser, because the bumps are the only way to stay in shape," she says.

When she does want to take a cruise, she grabs Lodgepole and takes it to Bear Tree. But she prefers the bumps, so the runs she hits most frequently tend to be bubbly. "Showboat, in Game Creek Bowl, is a nice, easy bump run," she says. "And I like the Berries over by Lodge Pole; it's got some bumps and some flats." She adds that Showboat is "real nice for just practicing moguls and building confidence--if you're having a bad day, it's a good one for getting your timing back." If you're young, Egan says to do Highline, the "mogul-mania slope" where "they don't get any bigger than that." And Ricky's Ridge is what Egan describes as being "like an armful of goosebumps." Her favorite run, though, is Northstar. "It used to be called 'Minnie's Mile,'" she says. "It's a long single-black, terraced, with varied terrain. It has some moguls, and it has a chute and some flats. Sometimes they'll groom one side and leave the other moguled up." She takes on the terraces on Gandy Dancer, too, but admits that it's often crowded.

"If there's a best-kept secret as far as Vail is concerned, it would have to be Lionshead," Egan says. "For some reason, everyone has to be on Vail Mountain, so the locals go to Lionshead." Once there, Egan says she never misses Simba or Born Free, a cruiser.

Egan lives in Eagle, so she tends to eat at places such as Shirkie's (701 Chambers), a "wonderful cowboy place" that serves Mexican, barbecue and "fantastic steaks." For pizza, she thinks Fortunes Pizza and Subs (221 Broadway) is a winner. "As far as I'm concerned, it's the best pizza in Colorado," she says. In Vail, Vendetta's, right at the base of the mountain by Vistabahn, sells pizza by the slice, and next to the Vistabahn ticket counter is The Meal Ticket, a "cute cafe with great sandwiches." Terra Bistro (352 East Meadow Drive in Vail) does "great organic veggies," and she also likes the "innovative American cuisine right on the creek" at Up the Creek (223 Gore Creek in Vail). Burgers are best at Vail's Hubcap Brewery and Kitchen (143 East Meadow Drive), "especially with a beer," Egan says, but to her, the number-one night-time spot is Club Chelsea (304 Bridge) in Vail. "They have a smoking room, a piano room and a dancing room," she says.

For some unintentional entertainment, Egan does lunch at Los Amigos in Vail Village, the eatery at the bottom of International, the last leg of which is called Pepi's Face and is notorious for its icy coating. "I'd say about a quarter of the people who come down it stay on their feet the whole way," Egan says. "And the ones who don't can be pretty creative about how they spill."

General information: 1-970-476-5601
Snow report: 1-970-476-4888
Location: 100 miles west of Denver via I-70.
Opening and closing dates: November 8 to April 20.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Terrain: 28% beginner, 32% intermediate, 40% advanced. 4,644 developed acres with a 3,330' vertical drop. Base: 8,120'; top: 11,450'; longest run: 4.5 miles.

Lifts: 1 gondola, 10 high-speed quads, 1 fixed grip quad, 3 triple chairs, 5 double chairs, 9 surface lifts.

Lift rates: Adult full-day $52; child (12 and under) full-day $35. Early-season prices available.

Lessons: Group and private lessons available. Call 1-970-476-3239 for information.

Rentals: Call 1-800-525-2257 for information and reservations.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Adventure Ridge at Eagle's Nest TAG Hauer Snowboard Park. Lessons available.

Cross-country: Cross-Country Ski Center at Golden Peak. Tours, lessons and rentals available. Call 1-970-845-5313 for more information.

Special events: Women's World Cup, Dec. 6-7; Hot Winter Nights, Dec. 15-21, Feb. 19, Mar. 5, 19; New Year's Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks at Vail, Dec. 31; Technique Weeks for Women, Jan. 15-21; Jimmie Huega's Ski Express, Feb. 9; World Cup Finals, Mar. 12-17; UnVailed Snowboard Event, Mar. 27-29; Warren Miller Mad Mountain Marathon, Mar. 29.

Winter Park Resort/Mary Jane
Lindsay Cathcart started coming from Down Under to a mile high ten years ago. "Each time I visited, I stayed longer and longer," the Australian says. The forty-year-old had been skiing most of his life, and although he'd skied nearly every mountain in Colorado, he chose Winter Park as his home when he moved here for good five years ago. "It's not like a city," he says. "It's not like a vacation place, either. It's more natural than the other ski areas, I think." Actually, he wound up at Winter Park during a visit one year because of a billboard. "I had just got off the plane," he says. "And I was wondering where to go. Then I saw this big sign, and I hopped on a train and went right there."

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