Jeff Cormack, a pro rider who lives in Boulder, likes Echo for its unique features, but also because it has an old-school vibe despite being the newest park around. "Echo is fun because it's just really low-key and kind of the experience you had at every resort ten or fifteen years ago," he says. "No parking fees. Don't have to wait thirty minutes for a bus. Don't have long lift lines. Don't really deal with traffic. It's nice. It's really easy. As someone who's been snowboarding my whole life and snowboarding for a living, I like the convenience of Echo a lot.... If I have other pro friends come in from out of town and they don't want to spend a ton of money on lift tickets, we go shred there for a day or two before we go film."
General Information: www.echomt.com; 303-325-7347.
Location: 19285 Hwy. 103; 35 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 103.
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Wed.-Sat.; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. and Mon.; closed Tuesdays.
Snow Report: 303-325-7347.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: early season $29, regular season $43.
Terrain: 85 acres; 4 terrain parks, groomers and tree skiing. Base is 10,050', with a 600' vertical rise; summit: 10,650'.
Eldora Mountain Resort
For people who live or work in Boulder, there's no need to use up a whole sick day after a good storm. Eldora is so close that it's easy to play hooky for just a few hours. "A lot of people will take advantage, getting a half day in before going into the office, or cut out of the office early," says Boulder skier Melissa Delp.
Eldora, a resort that has in recent years been using the traffic on I-70 as a marketing tool to attract more Denver business, is small, but Delp says that's not a bad thing. "You don't feel like you get lost in the crowd," she says. "The people are friendly. You can get on a chairlift and talk to an employee or person there riding for the day, and they're happy to give you the dish on where the good powder is or what's a good trail."
There's also a chair that's fifty feet from the parking lot, and the ski area is not so small that Delp's ever found herself bored there. "I've been skiing forever, and the terrain there still challenges me every time I go," she says.
She's challenged in places like the Jolly Jug Glades, where she likes to start her day, and on her favorite black run, Lower Diamond Back. "It's an easier black," she says. "I like West Ridge, but West Ridge is something I will only ski with somebody else."
And recently, Delp learned to appreciate the beginner area, when she hung up her skis to learn to snowboard in the Little Hawk Family Zone. "It's far east, and it's nice because the beginners are pulled away, so I didn't have expert skiers blow by when I was trying to learn." As a skier, it's also great because she doesn't have to dodge any beginners who inadvertently made their way onto an intermediate or advanced trail.
At lunchtime, Delp likes to stick a sandwich in her pocket and head to the Lookout at the top of the Corona lift. "It has gorgeous views of the divide," she says. "It's a great place to warm up."
Eldora has better snowmaking this season, with twenty more guns and a Nordic groomer for the cross-country area; it also has renovated women's restrooms in Timbers Lodge, three more play areas in Kids' Adventure Land, and a new demo ski and snowboard fleet.
General Information: www.eldora.com; 303-440-8700.
Location: 45 miles northwest of Denver via I-25, U.S. Hwy 36 west and Colo. Hwy 119; 21 miles west of Boulder.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Snow Report: 303-440-8700.
Lift Rates: TBA.
Terrain: 680 skiable acres. Base is 9,200'; summit: 10,800'.
Loveland Ski Area
Doug Evans claims to ski 200 days a year, which may sound impossible, but when you consider that he skis the backcountry during the summer after the resorts have closed, his claim is actually feasible. During what the rest of us think of as the actual ski season, Evans — a ski tech who lives just eight miles away, in Silver Plume — will be at Loveland's Chair 4 or 8 as soon as they open most days.
There's not a lot he doesn't love about Loveland. "There's the variety of terrain," he says. "It has pretty much everything. You've got big, wide-open powder bowls. Then you've got really good tree skiing, and also good beginner skiing, with two whole lifts dedicated just to groomers. And the amount of snowfall: It snows like 400 inches a year, more than any resort in Summit County.
"And also value," he continues. "You get a lot for your money there. You can get a meal and a drink for under $10, which is pretty hard to find anywhere else." Not to mention the lack of crowds: "It's such a large ski area and fairly unknown. You can still get away from everyone and have a whole chair to yourself on a weekday."