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As that flaky white stuff starts to pile up on roofs and in back yards, Denverites turn their heads toward the hills, sniffing out winter adventures while they wax their skis and boards in anticipation. The Edge, Westword's annual winter activity guide, is here to help. Whether you're returning to your old stamping grounds or trying out a new favorite this year, the Edge has all the information you need to have a blizzard of fun this winter.Find six months' worth of winter event listings in our special Edge calendar.
Local skier Jeremy Dobish thinks Arapahoe Basin stands out from the crowd because of "the vibe. The fact that you can hang out with friends on the Beach, ski runs on Pali Cornice and still listen to the music from the parking lot." But make no mistake: The skiing is why Dobish is still hitting the Basin eight years after his first time — and still finding it challenging. His favorite runs are Pali Main Street, the Alleys off Pali Cornice, and First Notch. But it's hard to pick a favorite at a resort like A-Basin, with half the mountain above timberline and open-bowl skiing and snowboarding well through the spring. The front side of the mountain contains an assortment of runs for all ability levels, and intermediate-level skiers and riders can ride the Lenawee Mountain and Norway lifts for quite some time without getting bored. You can hike the Upper East Wall for some expert (and extreme) steep slopes like North Pole and the Corner Chute — plus, there's the back bowl of the resort, which features enough intermediate runs to keep your out-of-town relatives comfortable while you take the Zuma Cornice or Mountain Goat Traverse down to the hike-back terrain via Lightning Trees or Lower Elephant's Trunk.
"Make sure you carpool as much as possible," urges Dobish. "The mountain is a big place, but if everyone drives themselves, your friends who show up at noon don't have a parking spot. They even give discounts for people who carpool. How cool is that?"
And when you're ready to kick back and relax with your carpool buddies at the end of the day, Dobish recommends the Goat Soup & Whiskey, the Snake River Saloon or the Dillon Dam Brewery.
General Information: www.arapahoebasin.com; 1-888-272-7246.
Location: 68 miles west of Denver via I-70, exit 205, then twelve miles east on U.S. Hwy. 6.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays; 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekends.
Snow Report: 1-888-272-7246.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $49 through December 18, regular season TBA.
Terrain: 900 acres with 105 trails; 10 percent beginner, 30 percent intermediate, 37 percent advanced, 23 percent expert. Base is 10,780', with a 2,270' vertical rise; summit: 13,050'.
If you haven't checked out Aspen Highlands in a while, this would be a good year to do so. The area has added acres of skiable terrain, new lifts and other amenities over the past three seasons. And with its abundance of challenging runs and the infamous Highland Bowl, there's a reason the Highlands is known as the locals' favorite. You can warm up by taking the Thunderbowl lift for a quick run down Golden Horn, perfect for a fast lap or the first run of the day. The steep, big-mountain skiing in the Highland Bowl, Olympic Bowl and Steeplechase are perfect for thrill-seekers, and the new Deep Temerity lift makes it all even more accessible. You can ride a snowcat to the hike-in ridge, where you can drop into the Highland Bowl — with a summit of 12,392 feet — and enjoy the bliss of in-bounds backcountry skiing. Be sure to take in the breathtaking views after that 45-minute hike! If you want to go steep without hiking in, you can always hit up Go-Go Gully.
Aspen Highlands has also expanded its Mushroom trail for all you bumps fans, guaranteed to challenge even the most muscular legs. On powder days, you'll want to check out Deep Temerity's Log Jam Gully, Bowling Alley and Fran's Love. Then take your lunch break at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, a lovely little cabin serving delicious and hearty European fare, including wild game and fondue. You can also catch a snowcat dinner at the bistro, scheduled throughout the season. And art lovers will want to check out the contemporary ceramic art, paintings and jewelry at the base of Aspen Highlands. Bring your friends, too: High-occupancy vehicles (those with four or more people) park free at Aspen Highlands, saving $12 on your ski adventure.
General Information: www.aspensnowmass.com/highlands; 1-800-525-6200.
Location: 219 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Snow report: 970-925-1221.
Lift Rates: TBA.
Terrain: 1,028 skiable acres with 119 trails; 18 percent beginner, 30 percent intermediate, 16 percent advanced, 36 percent expert. Base is 8,040', with a 3,635' vertical rise; summit: 11,675'.
Aspen is known for its people-watching — much of it done on the lifts or in the on-mountain restaurants Bonnie's, Ajax Tavern (now open for dinner; try the truffle fries), Montagna Restaurant and the beautiful Sundeck at the summit. It's also known for the shrines hidden in the woods and erected in honor of various celebrities, local or otherwise, including Elvis, Jerry Garcia, Marilyn Monroe and last year's addition: an homage to John Nicoletta, who died at the Freeskiing World Championships in Alaska in 2008. You can even ask a mountain ambassador for a shrine tour.
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