the Edge

The resort has a new ski school, Camp CB, with a remodeled building that includes new play areas and kid-friendly bathrooms. For the grownups, there's more expert terrain in the Teocalli Bowl, as well as added features in the DC Terrain Park, and a new intermediate terrain park. At the base, the ski-rental shop will be moved to a new, updated retail store in the Treasury Center building, and the old ski shop will become Spellbound Pizza. For convenience, the resort is opening a ski, snowboard and boot valet service, as well as overnight storage. And if you're looking for a nice place to stay, Elevation Hotel & Spa has undergone a $25 million remodel.

General Information:; 1-800-810-SNOW.

Location: 231 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: $59 through Dec. 17; $82 Dec. 18-Apr. 5.

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'.

Durango Mountain Resort

Kris Oyler was born in Boulder, raised in Greeley and educated at Metropolitan State College in Denver. In all that time on the Front Range, he was always looking west and hoping to live there someday. Durango drew him in because it had all the lifestyle amenities: the skiing, hiking, fishing and camping. Unlike some of the ski resorts, however, it felt like a real town, one with college students, ranchers, and families who had lived there for generations. It was grounded.

He settled in and, twelve years ago, co-founded the Steamworks Brewery in town. In addition to running his business, he's still managed to rack up more than 250 days on Purgatory Mountain. With the resort just 28 miles from town, he can get up, have a cup of coffee, be on a chairlift at 9 and back at his desk by noon. Oyler spends most of his time on the back side of the mountain, where it's a little colder, the snow's a little deeper and he can find some solitude. Getting back there takes a little bit of work, he says, but it's worth the effort. Chair 3 has some great groomed runs if you're into carving turns. Chair A has some of the best gladed skiing anywhere, and Paul's Park and Poet's Glade are perfect if you like tree skiing.

Resort-goers are going to see some major change this season as the result of an ongoing $100 million revitalization. A new base area is opening with new restaurants and retail. There's also four-star lodging on the way, with such toys as an outdoor pool and giant hot tub that will put Durango on par with the larger resorts, says resort manager Hank Thiess. And he's not worried about the resort losing its remote, small-town feel. After all, it's still three and a half hours from an interstate. "We're all about the San Juans, and we've got a very strong local population that have been especially faithful to us through some ups and downs over Durango's 42-year history," he says.

General Information:; 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: $62-$67.

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

Capitalizing on being "Denver's closest, cheapest and freshest" ski resort, Echo Mountain is out to prove that it's more than a terrain park. In addition to hard-core snowboard enthusiasts, an increasing number of beginners and families have been attracted to Echo Mountain in its first two seasons. Revenue at the ski school alone went up 78 percent in that time, just through local parents' word of mouth. This season, marketing director Molly Mueller says a new magic carpet will help the mountain grow its ski-school programs and lend it more legitimacy.

But don't think Echo's going to neglect its core audience of freestyle skiers and riders. Tree skiing's been expanded in the West Side Glades and more features added in the middle of the woods. Park designer and creative director Marc Moline explains that Echo has Colorado's only resort-maintained wood-jib area, which basically means features made of wood in the woods. "They pose more of a challenge than regular steel or plastic features, and the wood allows you to do different things you wouldn't be able to with steel or plastic," Moline says. "And it keeps it in tune with the environment. Bringing steel and plastic into the woods doesn't make much sense."

There is also a wood wave this year — a wedge that's twenty feet tall and thirty feet long — and a tree bridge made of logs with handrails that can be functional for people wanting a clean exit from the woods; freestyle riders can also do tricks on it.

The biggest unveiling of the season will be the Burton Echo Stair Set, a 24-foot stair set with three styles of boxes and rails in the Junkyard, dubbed that because the features are made of things like concrete barriers and picnic tables. New to the Junkyard is a seventeen-by-thirty-foot propane tank painted to look like a gel cap pill.

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