There's never much of a wait. Even on the busy Presidents' Day weekend, Jensen says the longest line was ten minutes, max. The lodge is set up so that a parent can see the beginner lift from inside, and the easy and intermediate runs are side by side so that Mom and Dad can do the harder terrain and then meet their kids at the bottom. SolVista's lower elevation even makes a family-friendly difference in temperature. "It tends to be a little warmer, which bodes well for keeping kids happy with middle-of-the-winter weather," Jensen says.
That also makes for pleasant night skiing under the lights, which the resort offers free a few times throughout the season, complete with live music and s'mores around the campfire.
"The thing I would say about SolVista is their terrain is pretty gentle," she says. "They have some black runs, but they're not terribly long and challenging, and there are not very many of them. So if you're going just to ski yourself and you're an avid skier, you might not find enough terrain there to keep you entertained. Their niche is the intermediate skier."
But it's a pretty good niche. Jensen loves it that the lodge is an easy hundred feet from where she parks, so if the kids forget something in the car, it's not a huge ordeal to get it. And this year, she can't wait to see that lodge: SolVista took the old building down to its studs and did a $5 million renovation, complete with a restaurant with a wood-fired pizza oven. That's another thing about SolVista, Jensen adds: Food and drink prices are reasonable.
General Information: www.granbyranch.com/ski; 1-888-850-4615.
Location: 78 miles west of Denver via I-70 to exit 232, U.S. Hwy. 40 west over Berthoud pass, through Winter Park, 2 miles south of Granby.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Snow Report: 800-754-7458.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $47-$49; child (5-12) day pass: $25-$27; senior (61-69) day pass: $33-$35; seniors 70 and over and kids under 5: free.
Terrain: 287 skiable acres with 33 trails; 30 percent beginner, 50 percent intermediate, 20 percent advanced. The base is 8,202', with a 1,000' vertical rise; summit: 9,202'.
Back in New York, Cathy Wiedemer and her friends decided they wanted to live in ski towns. She came out to Steamboat to be a camp counselor the summer between her junior and senior years of college, and after graduating, she and her friends all moved to Steamboat. They got restaurant jobs so they could work at night and ski all day. Wiedemer's friends have since moved back to the Big Apple, but she's stayed for twenty years now and has no plans to leave. She's been a ski instructor and mountain host, helped run the bike program and worked in marketing at the resort. When she left to form her own PR company, she named it after a run at Steamboat and put a picture of herself skiing that run in powder on her business card. The run is East Face, but locals call it First Pitch, so that's the name she chose for her business.
Originally an alpine skier, Wiedemer quickly picked up telemark because of all the great backcountry at Steamboat. "There's just something about Colorado snow you can't find anywhere else," she says. "That wave coming up your shins and thighs and up to your jacket — there's nothing like it."
On any given day, Wiedemer usually heads first to Storm Peak, where she stops to take in the view of the valley, then she'll do a cruiser, head back up Storm Peak and do some trees. Then maybe a hike in the backcountry. She always takes the recent snowfall into consideration and picks up a grooming report to seek out the fresh corduroy.
This season, she's pumped to hop on the new six-passenger, high-speed Christie Peak Express — part of the $16 million spent for on-mountain improvements.
General Information: www.steamboat.com; 1-970-879-6111.
Location: 160 miles northwest of Denver via I-70, exit 205; north on Colo. Hwy. 9 to Kremmling, west on U.S. Hwy. 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Snow Report: 1-970-879-7300.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $68-$85; senior (65-69) day pass: $58-$65; teen (13-17) day pass: $50-$65; child (6-12) day pass: $39-$52; senior over 70 day pass: $33; kids 5 and under day pass: free.
Terrain: 2,965 acres, with 165 trails; 14 percent beginner, 42 percent intermediate, 44 percent advanced. Base is 6,900', with a 3,668' vertical rise; summit: 10,568'.
Cross-Country: Call 1-970-879-6111.
Sunlight has played a big part in Ben Sarno's life. He first went there with his pre-school class, and he was married there three years ago this month. "It's a great mountain," he says. "Two weeks after a snowstorm, you can still find powder stashes nobody else knows about."
Because he likes his runs fast and steep, Sarno spends most of his time in the east ridge area, flying down steep chutes like Gnarly Knob, Banzai and Teed's Run, named for the man who died in an avalanche there. "I don't mind some air, but I'm not pulling off any backflips," Sarno says.