General Information: www.sunlightmtn.com; 1-800-445-7931.
Location: 160 miles west of Denver via I-70, Colo. Hwy. 82 and Four Mile Road (County Road 117).
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Snow Report: 1-970-945-7491 or www.sunlightmtn.com/the-mountain/snowreport/.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $50.
Terrain: 470 skiable acres with 67 trails; 20 percent beginner, 55 percent intermediate, 20 percent advanced, 5 percent expert. Base is 7,885', with a 2,010' vertical rise; summit: 9,895'.
Telluride Ski Resort
After expanding nearly 350 acres last season, Telluride is at it again. Revelation Bowl, with its new, locally manufactured Leitner-Poma quad lift, will add 52 acres and 800 vertical feet of above-treeline, jaw-dropping scenic, wide-open skiing. Located off the back side of Gold Hill and Chair 14, the bowl has four advanced/expert runs. Skiers and riders can choose ridgelines in either direction, with steeper pitches and rock features on the far sides of the bowl. The center is rolling advanced terrain, with a groomed cruising path.
And because last year's new terrain opened mid-season and post-map production, Telluride technically boasts an additional 23 runs this season between Revelation and the Black Iron Bowl, Palmyra Peak, and Gold Hill Chutes 6-10. The resort's vertical drop is now one of the largest in North America, at 4,425 feet.
Needless to say, Ryan O'Hara — a ski bum turned business owner who fled Boulder for the Western Slope thirteen years ago — can't wait for the season to start. Though even without the Revelation Bowl, he'd be content. "We have it all," he says. From Prospect Bowl — which has terrain for all abilities — he can see all the way to Utah. Off of Chair 9 are great steep bump runs and trees, as well as open skiing. Off of Chair 10 are long beginner and intermediate trails with views just as breathtaking as some of the advanced areas.
"We have the best skiing in the state, for real," O'Hara says, "with wonderful weather. It's always warm here. And we don't have crowds. We're totally disconnected from the Denver day skier. We have people on vacation that come here for a destination resort and then they leave. It keeps our mountain quiet, no lines. We're just people on vacation here. We don't have to deal with driving. We walk out our door and ski."
And that makes it a much happier place than the "madness," for example, at Copper, where his parents live.
They take their vacation at Telluride, and O'Hara thinks people in Denver should do the same.
Without the worry of the drive home, there's plenty of time for après-ski at the new Hop Garden, with ten specialty beers on tap to wash down a panini or pasta dish.
General Information: www.tellurideskiresort.com; 1-970-728-6900.
Location: 335 miles southwest of Denver via I-70 to Grand Junction, Colo. Hwy. 50 south, Colo. Hwy. 550 to Ridgway, Colo. Hwy. 62 and Colo. Hwy. 145 to Telluride.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Snow Report: 1-970-728-7425.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: early season $69, regular season $92.
Terrain: 2,000 acres, with 115 trails; 21 percent beginner, 32 percent intermediate, 47 percent advanced/expert. Base is 8,750', with a 3,845' vertical rise; summit: 12,570'.
Winter Park Resort
Before Paul Fenerty gave Winter Park what he recommends as the best margaritas in town at his Mirasol Cantina (he's biased), the New Orleans native followed some friends to "the great American melting pot" he calls Colorado a dozen years ago. He settled in Winter Park for its down-to-earth feel, proximity to Denver, and — of course — the snowboarding.
"There are so many good stash spots on this mountain," he says, which is why you can usually find him somewhere on the Mary Jane side, in the woods, looking for powder. "Mary Jane is known for its bumps, but if you like riding trees, it's fabulous," Fenerty says. "As many days as I've had on the Jane... and I don't like bumps. They're skier tracks, not snowboard tracks." But he's learned to ride them well in order to get to the phenomenal tree riding, and — just as she's done for countless skiers — Mary Jane has made him an all-around better and more technical snowboarder.
Some of Fenerty's favorite spots are the Mushroom Patch and the Bella Fouche area on the back side of Parsenn Bowl. "It's not that steep, really wide open, great intermediate higher trees, above the tree line or right at tree line," he says of Bella Fouche. Usually, he heads out of bounds to the 40 Trees, an area outside of Gate 8. He says it's easy to find, but it's not a place he'd suggest to just anyone. "It's unmarked, unpatrolled, and if you don't know where you're going, the trees can get really super tight."
Winter Park this season will complete five years and $40 million worth of enhancements. So far, Fenerty likes what he's seen. The new lifts that have opened in recent seasons, like the Eaglewind and Panoramic Express, have made a huge impact on the Derailer side of the mountain, he says. "The Derailer side would get beat up immediately, but I've seen less impact over there since the other lifts opened up. They've taken the average skier and spread them around the mountain more, which makes the whole day better."