But usually Rockwood is on her own at Silverton, enjoying the steeps and the powder. "There's so much to ski above tree line, which is something we never get to do," she says. And every time she goes anywhere but Silverton — places with lots of people and electronic signs and ticket scanners — she's reminded of how unique Silverton is.
Brill says he's making Silverton even more unique this year with helicopter ski drops. Selling $150 spots for drops will help defray the cost of the avalanche control he's already doing with those helicopters. The ski drops will be offered on just a few days, and he won't know the dates until the nights before. Anyone interested in knowing more should get on Silverton's e-mail list.
General Information: www.silvertonmountain.com; 1-970-387-5706.
Location: 300 miles southwest of Denver via I-70, Colo. Hwy. 550 south, and Colo. Hwy. 110. Base is 6 miles from Silverton.
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. weekends only, or Thursday-Sunday depending on time of year.
Snow Report: www.silvertonmountain.com.
Lift Rates: Day pass: $49; Day pass with guide: $99; Guided only skiing Jan. 17-April 1.
Terrain: 1,819 acres; expert and advanced only. The base is 10,400'; summit: 12,300'; hike-to summit: 13,487'; vertical drop of 3,000' possible with hiking.
Many of the instructors at Ski Cooper's ski school learned how to ski there as toddlers. It's common to find a grandparent teaching his grandkids to ski in the same spot where he himself started and later taught his children. "I think most people like Ski Cooper because it's not a big resort area," says Bob Casey. "It's a family-oriented, affordable ski area. We don't have the hustle and bustle of the bigger resorts, and you can't lose your kids at Ski Cooper."
The terrain is beginner, intermediate and advanced, with a few expert runs. And the snow is all-natural, with no snowmaking ability. "It's a great place for people to learn, and we have an excellent ski school," Casey says. For years, that award-winning school has been run by Franci Peterson, who is in the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame.
Casey himself has skied at Ski Cooper since he was a kid; over the years, he worked for the resort in a variety of capacities. And after he retired from public life, the former county commissioner went to work for the resort full-time. "I paid my dues," he says. "This is a lot more mellow."
But even though it's small, Ski Cooper keeps up with big innovations. This year it's embracing technology in the form of an electronic ticketing system, which should make getting on the lift a lot more convenient.
General Information: www.skicooper.com; 1-800-707-6114.
Location: 120 miles west of Denver via I-70 and U.S. Hwy. 91.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Snow Report: 1-719-486-2277.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $39; child (6-14) day pass: $20; senior (60-69) day pass: $28; senior 70 and over day pass: $15; kids 5 and under: free.
Terrain: 2,400 snowcat acres; 400 lift-served acres with 26 trails; 30 percent beginner, 40 percent intermediate, 30 percent expert. Base is 10,500', with a 1,200' vertical rise; summit: 11,700'.
Cross-Country: Call 1-719-486-1750.
Snowmass has everything. That's what Kiffor Berg, two-time defending champion of the Colorado Freeride Championships, likes about it. "Snowmass is great because it has whatever you want to do in any given day," he says. "Terrain park. Trees. Powder stashes. It's all there for you. There's so much terrain, you'll find the untracked and the fresh snow. There are always big lines to ski and big rocks to drop. It's definitely one of my favorites."
Berg particularly likes the Hanging Valley Headwall — a wide open bowl with rock features — as well as the newer Burn Cliffs area of trees with unique pillow drops throughout. "You can find a new way down every time," he says. But there's no easy way down; it's mostly mandatory airs.
Snowmass has great groomers, too, and a daily noon groom (check the day's conditions report to find the run). And after a storm, Berg tries to get in a fast lap at Sam's Nob before it's all crudded up.
"It's very casual," he says of Snowmass. "There's a lot of great locals there, but not local attitude. Everyone's out there having fun and helping each other out and not afraid to tell you where to go or where you might find the better snow. And the après on the mall is always a great scene."
This year, Snowmass has expanded its learning and kids' amenities, too, with the new Elk Camp Meadows mid-mountain learning area, a bigger and better terrain park, and the $17 million Treehouse Kids' Adventure Center.
General Information: www.aspensnowmass.com/snowmass; 1-800-525-6200.
Location: 209 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Snow Report: 1-970-925-1221.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $87.
Terrain: 3,132 acres, with 90 trails; 6 percent beginner, 50 percent intermediate, 12 percent advanced, 32 percent expert. Base is 8,104', with a 4,406' vertical rise; summit: 12,510'.
Cross-Country: Call 1-970-923-0959.
SolVista Basin at Granby Ranch
By all accounts, SolVista is a family-friendly place. Kim Jensen started going there five years ago, when her oldest daughter was learning to ski at eighteen months. "It has amazing terrain for the little kids, and it's really nice to know everything dumps out in one place," she says. "You're not going to lose your children as they gain a little more independence. You don't have to worry they're going to be in the back bowls."