"It's what skiing should be and used to be and will always be," she says. "We've got great skiing, great intermediate and beginner skiing, and the best in-bounds extreme terrain in the country. All of our extreme terrain is within our boundaries, so it's all controlled and patrolled, which I think is important rather than going out a gate." Some of the best extremes are to be found in North Face, High Lift and Teocalli Bowl. "You feel like you've gone to heaven when you get up in these extremes," Prout explains.
The resort has some of the best corduroy, too. International is a "navy blue" run, but it's groomed every night, so it makes for excellent steep cruising; Paradise is an intermediate cruiser that goes on for two miles. There's a lot for beginners to get their bearings on, too. When Prout tried telemark skiing last year, she found the runs off the Painter Boy, Gold Link and Prospect lifts were good places to start.
With 300 inches a year, the snow is always good, and the old town is worth exploring. "It's the end of the road and exceptionally charming and fun," Prout says. "You're liable to meet your waiter on the chairlift that day. It's really the heart and soul of Colorado, with a sense of home. Rather than a man-made ski resort, it's an old mining town."
General Information: www.skicb.com; 1-800-810-SNOW.
Location: 230 miles southwest of Denver via U.S. Hwy. 285, U.S. Hwy. 50 and Colo. Hwy. 135.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Snow Report: 1-888-442-8883.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $79.
Terrain: 1,167 skiable acres with 121 trails; 23 percent beginner, 57 percent intermediate, 20 percent advanced. Base is 9,375', with a 2,775' vertical rise; summit: 12,162'.
Cross-Country: Call 1-970-349-1707.
As a partner in the television and video production company Animas Media, John Trousdale spends a lot of time on Purgatory Mountain because it's so photogenic — particularly that hour in the morning when the sun makes everything look golden. The sun was one of the first things Trousdale noticed when he moved to Durango from Montana two and a half years ago — "chasing snow and, to some extent, a girl," he says. But the snow fell at night, and during the day, the sun was always shining, revealing clear views of alpine peaks and aspens and great secret stashes of powder that lasted weeks after a storm.
Trousdale likes the terrain's "roly-poly" cruisers and groomers on the front side. And on the back, there's steeper, deeper, tighter glade skiing with mini-cliff bands and rock drops. Snag is the run that all the powder hounds gun for every powder morning because of the non-stop jumps all the way down. But Styx, which isn't groomed, is Trousdale's favorite run, with Pandemonium a close runner-up. It's steep, rolling and "total Hollywood" right under the lift line, so you can show off if you're so inclined.
The town itself is a trip, too — a place where the steady stream of hitchhikers don't wait long for a ride, especially if they have skis in hand. "I think one of the things that a lot of people love is a lot of low-key vibe, local flavor, not pretentious, not about wearing the right designer parka — just a bunch of people up there to have a good time," Trousdale says. After turns, he and other locals still in their long johns and boots drop by the Olde Schoolhouse Cafe, for libations and pizza. And anyone visiting Durango has to stop by El Rancho Tavern. "It's more infamous than famous," he says. "That's where you go to tell your lies about how big the cliff you jumped off of was."
The weather in the southwest corner of the state isn't bad, either, and the lower elevation at Durango means that late in the season, you can leave Purgatory Mountain in your ski gear and put on shorts when you get to town.
General Information: www.durangomountainresort.com; 1-800-982-6103.
Location: 340 miles southwest of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 550 south.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Snow Report: 1-970-247-9000, ext 1.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $60-$65; child (6-12) day pass: $32-$34; student (13-18) and senior (62-69) day pass: $44-$48; senior 70 and over day pass: $20.
Terrain: 1,200 acres with 85 trails; 23 percent beginner, 51 percent intermediate, 26 percent advanced/expert. The base is 8,793', with a vertical rise of 2,029'; summit: 10,822'.
Echo Mountain Park is no longer. Denver's "newest, closest and cheapest" ski resort is growing up, and it wants to be known as Echo Mountain from here on out. "There's a misperception. People think it's only a park," explains Chad Lee, Echo's marketing director. And this year, Echo is going for a broader appeal. Intent on attracting more traditional riders and skiers, it's enhanced its tree skiing, thinning trees and adding new wood features. There's also a new beginner area with a handle tow lift, and programs for kids and families.
Echo Mountain got its liquor license at the end of last season, and now has a full bar. The next project could be something like a softball beer league, but for skiers and riders. Teams will be able to compete in the evenings in a boardercross or snowcross-type event; the terrain will have some turns and rollers, but nothing too intimidating. "It will be more social than competitive," Lee says. "Have a few beers and ski at night."