Beyond the park, Buttermilk has a lot of beginner terrain for those just learning (hence its name), or anybody else who wants a nice, easy day of cruising wide-open groomers.
General Information: www.aspensnowmass.com/buttermilk; 1-800-525-6200.
Location: 218 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Snow Report: 1-970-925-1221.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $87.
Terrain: 470 skiable acres with 44 trails; 35 percent beginner, 39 percent intermediate, 26 percent advanced. The base is 7,870', with a 2,030' vertical rise; summit: 9,900'.
Cross-Country: Call 1-800-525-6200.
High Point is the only run that freestyle snowboarder Caroline Onzik needs. "I lap that area all day, and I never get bored," she says. Onzik, who lives in Breckenridge but now always goes to Copper, had just started hitting a couple of freestyle features here and there when she moved to Colorado from Wisconsin six years ago. She fell in love with the freestyle parks around Summit County, but High Point quickly became her favorite.
Now she'll head straight for the American Flyer lift that takes her to the top of High Point. On that run are three parks — High Point, Jibberish and Catalyst — with natural terrain in between, so that the entire run takes at least a half-hour. "High Point has more jumps, but smaller jumps," she says. "And Jibberish has more rails and boxes, and Catalyst has bigger versions of everything and half-pipes. It's a world-class park. I feel like they do a really good job. With so many resorts here, it's hard to be unique, but they pull it off. I love it. At any of those other parks, you can take a park run and maybe hit two features, and then there's not much of a run left; you have to get back on the chairlift. At Copper, you can play around with things from the second off the lift until the bottom. That's what makes it exciting to me." And right next to High Point, you can dip into the trees to find really good tree runs, she adds.
When Onzik can tear herself away from High Point, which is rare, she goes up the backside or takes the T-bar from American Eagle to the very top. "There are incredible tree runs," she says. "You can go even a couple of days after a snowstorm and still find stashes of powder. I go off and explore and still find new runs on powder days. It's pretty huge. Copper has some good natural steeps."
She thinks that something about the way Copper is situated keeps the wind from getting at and dispersing the snow as it does at other places. And after a big snowstorm, Copper often makes out best. "Because I live in Breck, oftentimes it will look like we got a couple of inches here — no big deal — and I'll get to Copper, and they'll have, like, twelve inches," she says. "One day last season I went with a couple of friends, thinking it's going to be kind of fun. We ended up going all over the mountain finding all this powder. We were freaking out. We couldn't believe it. No one was there. It was the greatest day."
This season, Copper's Catalyst Terrain Park and Main Vein Superpipe will host the US Freeskiing Open February 1-3 and the USASA Nationals March 30-April 4.
General Information: www.coppercolorado.com; 1-800-458-8386.
Location: 75 miles west of Denver via I-70, exit 195.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays; 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends.
Snow Report: 1-800-789-7609.
Lift Rates: Early-season adult day pass: $59; early-season child (6-12) and seniors 70 and over day pass: $35; early-season senior day pass: $50. Rest of season TBA.
Terrain: 2,450 skiable acres with 126 trails; 21 percent beginner, 25 percent intermediate; 36 percent advanced and 18 percent expert. The base is 9,712', with a 2,601' vertical rise; summit: 12,313'.
Crested Butte Mountain
This season, Crested Butte is putting its money where its mouth is. The resort is so convinced that people who get a taste of what it has to offer will become repeat customers that it's letting everyone ski for free.
That's right. Between November 25 and December 15, the Butte's lift tickets are absolutely, positively, 100 percent free. Free Ski is a deal the resort offered back in the '90s, and the Mueller family, who bought Crested Butte in 2004, are bringing it back. April Prout, communications director, says it's the perfect way to show off all the money that Tim and Diane Mueller have invested in the mountain over the past few years — now visible in the form of snowmaking, grooming, more signage and increased staff. Chris Gunnarson, president of Snow Park Technologies and the man who's designed the X Games since 1997, helped do a facelift of the DC Terrain Park, where freestylers will notice twelve new features, including a flat-to-down rail, a thirty-foot rail, boxes as big as fifteen feet, C-boxes and an A-frame rail.
This summer also saw the opening of the Mountaineer Conference Center, with 9,000 square feet of event space that can accommodate groups as large as 500. The development, part of $200 million in improvements currently under way, is exciting for the community, Prout says. It means that more people like her — people who move out to Crested Butte after college to be ski bums — will be able to find jobs and stay. Prout has stayed for 25 years.