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

Johnson says that both intermediates and experts looking for powder stashes should check out Larkspur Bowl, which is not only good for stashes but for a stoked view, too. "Ride up Strawberry Park Express lift, get off to the left and ski toward Larkspur," Johnson says. "You'll see Beaver Creek Village and the whole front side of the mountain. And if the wind is blowing in the right direction, Larkspur gets some neat stashes," she adds. "We always say, 'On a powder day, ski Vail; ski Beaver Creek the day after,' mainly because it just doesn't get skied out, especially if you know where to go." Johnson names more powder-day places: the aforementioned Harrier, along with Buckboard and Moonshine.

Another locale that doesn't see a lot of action is the single-black bumper Screech Owl, Johnson says, and neither does Goshawk, a double black on Birds of Prey. But in all the time she's spent at Beaver Creek, no stash has come close to matching the one she found last year on Yarrow, in Larkspur Bowl. "I came blowing down and landed in a powder stash over my head," she recalls. "It's an open bowl with no trees, and the way the wind blew the powder in that day, it was just incredible. Of course, I came back again the next day."

After a couple of days like that, Johnson, who lives in Edwards, ten minutes away from the mountain, says she always stops in at Marco's Pizzeria (Edwards Plaza), an Italian place that does a "killer naked pizza with cheese and tomatoes and tons of basil." She also raves about their ravioli. And she enjoys the pizza at the Blue Moose (45 West Thomas Place) in Avon, too, along with its calzones and its prices. Another good value: the Mexican fare at Fiesta's (Edwards Plaza), where she usually gets the chiles rellenos and washes them down with their "top-notch" margaritas. And since Mexican is one of her favorite cuisines, she also recommends The Saloon (146 South Main) and its neighbor, Chilly Willy's (101 Main), both in Minturn. "Chilly's is more Tex-Mex," she notes. Also in Minturn is the Minturn Inn (442 Main), which Johnson considers to be a reasonably priced bed-and-breakfast. In Edwards she tells people to stay at the Lazy Ranch (57 Lake Creek Road), an old farmhouse with Victorian decor run by a husband-and-wife team. "It's not that expensive," Johnson says. "Plus, the woman's an incredible cook."

So are the folks at the Popcorn Wagon, according to Johnson. "It's this little red-and-yellow wooden stand at the base of the mountain. They make these great egg sandwiches that are cheap and delicious," she says. For lunch, the Golden Eagle (50 Promenade in Avon) is the burger spot, especially for the buffalo version, but when the sun starts to set, she contends that everyone goes to the Coyote Cafe (20 Promenade in Avon) for drinks. "It gets a real diverse crowd," she says.

"And then, when it's all over, you can always get on I-70 at Edwards," she says. "You'll totally avoid the traffic in Avon at the end of the day."

General information: 1-970-949-5750
Snow report: 1-970-476-4888
Location: 110 miles west of Denver via I-70 (exit 167).
Opening and closing dates: November 22 to April 13.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Terrain: 34% beginner, 39% intermediate, 27% advanced. 1,625 developed acres with a 3,340' vertical drop. Base: 8,100'; top: 11,440'; longest run: 2.75 miles.

Lifts: 5 high-speed quads, 4 triple chairs, 4 double chairs, 1 surface lift.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $52; child 12 and under full-day $35; senior (65-69) full-day $39. 70 and over ski free. Early-season prices available.

Lessons: Group and private lessons: Call 1-970-476-3239 for information.
Rentals: Call 1-800-525-2257 for information.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Stickline snowboard park. Lessons available.

Cross-country: Beaver Creek Cross-Country center has 32 km of groomed trails. Rentals and lessons available. Call 1-970-845-5313 for information.

Special events: Snowmobiling, ice skating, overnight hut ski trips, snowshoeing, dog sledding, hot-air ballooning, dinner sleigh rides.

Morgan LaFonte is extremely good at snowboarding.
The 29-year-old from Michigan started skiing at the age of eight, and she continued to do the two-stick thing even after she moved to Frisco in 1985 with the intention of going to college between ski seasons. "Then, in 1987, I tried snowboarding," she says. "And I was totally hooked." She was good enough at it to compete in extreme snowboarding contests and has worked as a snowboarding instructor, although now she makes most of her living from snowboarding in films and for sponsors' photo shoots. But that may change come the year 2000. "Half-pipe is going to be an event at the next Olympics, in Japan," LaFonte says. "And I want to be there."

In the meantime, she's happy to be at Breckenridge. She now lives in the town at the base of the mountain, and while she 'boards other mountains when the snow hits, Breckenridge is still her favorite. "It is way cool here," LaFonte says. "I love all the Peaks, and there's just so much snow and fun going on here. Lots of heavy stuff." In fact, LaFonte has a particular favorite on all of Breckenridge's Peaks. "On the back side of Peak 9 off the E Chair, there's Tom's Baby and Mind Shaft," she starts. "They're both steep bump runs. And on Peak 8, Chair 6, the one that's fun is Psychopath." She adds that it's a big gully run, and "when there's a lot of snow, it's just awesome."

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