"All I can think about is getting up on the mountain and going big this season," Charles says. "We're really stoked, because our new FR Rocker skis just got one of the highest scores in the Freeskier guide. All of our products are tested, engineered and dreamt up right here at Snowmass, and the soul of every board was born here. We figure if a board can handle all the conditions here, it can hold up and make someone happy just about anywhere else."

General Information: www.Aspen Snowmass.com; 800-525-6200.

Location: 218 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Snow Report: 970-925-1221.

Lift Rates: TBA.

Terrain: 3,132 skiable acres with 91 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'.

******

SolVista Basin at Granby Ranch

Finally, some good news about all the beetle-kill trees around Granby: SolVista's chopping them down as fast as it can and turning them into terrain-park obstacles for Ted's Secret Stash, a new all-natural log park off of the Jackalope run that will open this season. "We've been downing trees left and right up here," says Teresa Hill, resort marketing director for Granby Ranch. "We're inviting people to come up here and show those beetles what they think of them."

Other new features at SolVista include two dedicated bump runs on Ghost Rider and Speculator, and two designated powder runs, High Roller and South Forty. A new beginner terrain park under the Milestone lift will keep your little beetles busy, and the SolVista Basin Terrain Park will feature "The Tank," a thirty-foot-long underground storage container with an eight-foot diameter that's being repurposed for whatever Front Range freestylers want to make of it.

"Try to get up here on a weekday," Hill says. "Take a sick day, take a powder day, and get up here and have the place to yourself. This is a place where you can come and not worry about the lines or the parking. I love it because it's really laid-back and has that old-school Colorado ski mountain feel."

SolVista has nearly doubled its skiable terrain in recent years, but it's still an intimate setting in which to make some turns. Stick to the East Mountain and the Quick Draw Express lift for beginner and intermediate terrain, or take the Conquest lift up West Mountain for blues and blacks.

SolVista also offers night skiing and tubing until 8 p.m. on Saturdays from January 1 through April 2, with additional nights around the holidays, and its Nordic trail system has become a favorite for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. For après-ski entertainment, check out the Fireside Acoustics Saturday singer-songwriter series at the slopeside Seven Trails Grille.

General Information: www.SolVista.com; 888-850-4615.

Location: 78 miles west of Denver via I-70 (exit 232), then U.S. Hwy. 40 west over Berthoud Pass, through Winter Park, two miles south of Granby.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Snow Report: 800-754-7458.

Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $56.

Terrain: 406 skiable acres with 36 trails; 30 percent beginner; 50 percent intermediate; 20 percent advanced. Base is 8,202', with a 1,000' vertical rise; summit: 9,202'.

******

Steamboat

Steamboat's always been known for its trademarked "Champagne Powder," and locals raise a glass to runs like Shadows, 1 O'Clock, and 2 O'Clock. "The trees are definitely where it's at," says Steamboat spokeswoman Loryn Kasten. "It piles up in there during a storm, it gets blown in there for a few days after, and it keeps falling from the branches for weeks. When it does start to get tracked out a little bit, start looking for the little in-between spaces. You won't see them on the map, but, for example, locals know that 1:30 and 2:30 are the sweet spots. There are a lot of magic little in-between spots like that up here if you poke around."

But Steamboat also beefed up its terrain parks for the coming year. "We've really worked to make the parks more progressive to help people build up to the bigger features," says Kasten. "Start in the Little Rodeo terrain park and our new minipipe, and work your way to the 18-foot superpipe and new features like our massive 20-x-24-foot wall ride."

For the real rodeo, don't miss Steamboat's 36th annual Cowboy Downhill on January 19, which coincides with the National Western Stock Show in Denver. "You haven't lived until you've seen a bunch of cowboys and cowgirls busting their chops in the terrain parks and stampeding their way down the mountain," Kasten says. Another must-see event is the 98th annual Winter Carnival on Main Street, February 2-6, featuring the only skiing marching band in the United States. "Snow like this is worth celebrating," says Kasten.

And at the end of the day, she adds, "don't miss a dip in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, which will help you get ready for the next day."

General Information: www.Steamboat.com; 970-879-6111.

Location: 160 miles northwest of Denver via I-70, exit 205; north on Colo. Hwy. 9 to Kremmling, west on U.S. Hwy. 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Snow Report: 970-879-7300.

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