"We've been able to allow those separate identities to exist without taking away from each other," says Buttermilk terrain park manager Greg Boyd. "It's a cool thing to be able to tell someone who wants to bring their family up here; we've got the pro-level pipe and park, and we still have some of the best snow, one of the best grooming operations, and some of the best intermediate runs anywhere. Those paths never have to cross if you don't want them to, but we're increasingly finding people love Buttermilk for everything it has to offer.

"Even Shaun White likes to blast down a good groomer every once in a while," he adds, "and it's not uncommon to see families heading into the park together."

This season's Winter X Games (15) will be held January 27 through 30, 2011. The X Games are truly a spectacle to behold and — better yet — they're free for spectators. It's Aspen's craziest weekend, so book a hotel room early or get a place out of town, then spend the day exploring Buttermilk (you might just end up on the chairlift with your favorite athlete or celebrity).

General Information: www.AspenSnowmass.com/Buttermilk; 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: 470 acres with 44 trails; 35 percent beginner, 39 intermediate, 26 percent advanced. Base is 7,870', with a 2,030' vertical rise; summit: 9,900'.

******

Copper Mountain Resort

Want to learn to fly? The ski and snowboard camps at Woodward at Copper will have you soaring with trampolines, foam pits, Snowflex indoor ramps and rails, and an enormous outdoor airbag in the Catalyst Terrain Park. But Woodward program manager Phoebe Mills recommends starting small. "The Eagle Jib park at the top of American Eagle is the best place for absolute beginners, and we're recommending our One-Hit Wonder sessions for anybody who wants to try getting some air or hitting the rails for the first time." Eventually, you'll be able to hit the five terrain parks at Copper and the 22-foot Olympic-sized superpipe.

If you're content to leave the rail tricks and triple corks to the next generation while you hit the slopes, however, drop the kids off at camp: The eight-week Park Rats program ($899, includes an unrestricted Copper Mountain season pass) runs every Saturday from January 8 through February 26; Woodward also offers two-week holiday park and pipe camps (starting at $949) and single-day winter camp experiences (starting at $129).

"We're providing a critical piece of the puzzle as these tricks get harder and the terrain park features on the mountain get bigger and more dangerous," Mills says. "Our facility can help professional athletes at the highest level, but we can also be an avenue for anybody who wants to get into the park by providing a safer environment for learning basic aerial awareness and body control. We'll get you in the air and on the rails and give you a better sense of how your body is moving when it's spinning or getting upside down."

Mills moved to Frisco from Vermont in 2009 to help open Woodward and has fallen in love with the mountain. She says expanded free parking in the Corn lots, a recent rebranding effort, improved family offerings and increased snowmaking this season are hallmarks of the first full season under new ownership by Powdr Corp. "Copper's a great all-around mountain no matter what kind of rider you are," she says. "There are great beginner and intermediate runs and some of the best expert skiing and snowboarding anywhere."

A final tip for experts: "Take the Tucker Mountain snowcat," Mills adds. "It'll get you far out into the back bowls and untracked terrain. A lot of people don't seem to know about it, but it's free with your lift ticket, and it's incredible."

General Information: www.CopperColorado.com; 1-866-841-2481.

Location: 75 miles west of Denver via I-70, exit 195.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays; 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

Snow Report: 800-789-7609.

Lift Rates: TBA.

Terrain: 2,450 skiable acres with 126 trails; 21 percent beginner, 25 percent intermediate, 36 percent advanced, 18 percent expert. Base is 9,712', with a 2,601 vertical rise; summit: 12,313'.

******

Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Wendy Fisher raced with the U.S. Ski Team for seven years and competed in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, then decided she was burned out on skiing.

A trip to Crested Butte made her fall in love again. "After a lifetime of racing, it took coming here to remember how fun skiing can be," Fisher says. "I got talked into doing the U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championships, and the excitement and newness of it all made me feel alive again." She moved to town and began filming in the backcountry with Crested Butte-based Matchstick Productions and with Warren Miller Entertainment, and in short order — so much for retirement — began dominating the women's pro freeskiing circuit.

A well-kept secret is that Crested Butte is also great for families. In fact, Fisher is now teaching her own kids, ages three and five, and says they've also helped make skiing new for her all over again. No matter what kind of skier you are, she recommends taking the Red Lady Lift up to family-friendly intermediate terrain like Paradise, Painter Boy and Bubba's Trail.

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