By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Some of Colorado's favorite ski resorts will mark big anniversaries this season, and you're invited to the party with The Edge, our annual insider's guide to all of Colorado's ski and snowboarding destinations. Copper Mountain turns forty, Vail and Steamboat celebrate fifty years in business, and Loveland is entering its 75th "black diamond" season. And then there's little Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, which has 100 years of service under its belt.
"It's going to be a fun year to get a little bit nostalgic and celebrate the great history of skiing and snowboarding," says Colorado Ski Country USA spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph. "It's also an exciting time, as many of those areas are looking to the future with their master development plans and some big things in store this season and the next couple of years."
To help us get the most out of this year's season, though, we turned to the owners of some of the coolest local ski, snowboard and winter outerwear companies for tips to make the most of our local winter wonderland. Not only did they give us recommendations on how to splurge and how to save like a ski bum, but they also pointed us toward some great local beer choices.
Find more on winter recreation and special events in the Calendar section and Show and Tell blog at westword.com.
Now, let's see that white stuff fly!
ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI &
888-ARAPAHOE (press 1 for snow conditions)
A-Basin won first-to-open bragging rights again this year, spinning the wheels on the Black Mountain Express high-speed quad chairlift on October 17. "Arapahoe Basin always has the best early-season skiing, and the best part is, it just keeps getting better and better throughout the year," says David Liechty, owner of Denver-based Grace Skis. "Don't think skiing in Colorado is just December, January, February; at A-Basin, things really start to get fun in April, May and even June or July. I always tell people, 'Don't quit skiing once those golf clubs come out of storage, because in Colorado you can do both!'"
Liechty uses some of the steepest terrain at A-Basin as a research-and-design lab for his company's three-ski quiver concept, which includes big-mountain, all-mountain, and powder skis. All of them have bamboo topsheets and a no-frills design aesthetic he says was inspired by the classic skiing experience offered at his favorite mountain.
"I love the simplicity at A-Basin," Liecthy says. "You can drive up, park for free, and ski quality vertical right off of the Pallavicini lift from the base area. And, when it opens a little bit later in the season, the North Pole and Upper East Wall area is very fun. Second notch is hands-down my favorite little slot up there when it's open. It's about as extreme as you can get in-bounds at any ski area I know of. A-Basin is also super family-friendly, so you get the best of both worlds."
This season, the ski area is pushing the latter, with the addition of the new Pika Place Learning Area, a surface lift for beginners, and the Ace's Kids Park, a new intro-level terrain park adjacent to the Black Mountain Express lift.
Splurge: Tickets to chef Christopher Rybak's popular Moonlight Dinner series at the mid-mountain Black Mountain Lodge have become a hot commodity in recent years, frequently selling out months in advance, thanks to his reputation for stuffing diners so full they're glad to have the option to burn some calories by snowshoeing down. This year's first dinner is the ski-up/ski-down Night in Bavaria Randonee Dinner ($69, no lift service) on November 24, followed by A-Basin's annual New Year's Eve celebration ($95, lift service only) and monthly themed dinners worthy of howling at the full moon over ($82 each, lift service optional).
Ski bum tips: With free slopeside parking, a free spring concert series, regular bashes on the base-area "beach" and an overall no-frills vibe, A-Basin has been a ski bum mecca since 1946. To get the best deals on lift tickets, order them online at arapahoebasin.com, and check the "Hot Deals" tab for lodging discounts. Or just go full-out dirtbag style: "I have a six-foot bed on my truck, and I'll sleep down the road in a pull-off to make sure I'm up and at 'em for first tracks in the morning," says Liechty.
Drink locally: The 6th Alley bar at the base area offers brews from Odell, Avery and New Belgium. "Oh, and another dirtbag tip: If you can't afford to buy a drink and a meal, step to the bar and ask for the Bacon Bloody Mary," Liechty suggests. "It's worth every penny."
"The Highlands Bowl at Aspen Highlands is probably the single biggest draw for me out of all the in-bounds terrain in Colorado," says Mike McCabe, master builder at Folsom Skis, which recently expanded to add off-the-shelf skis to its full-custom business. "It's natural, steep terrain that makes for good, consistent high-alpine skiing. It's off the beaten trail a little bit, so you're never waiting in a lift line for more than a minute."
Folsom recently topped Freeskier magazine's 2013 list of the "Top 10 Microbrew and Independent Brand Skis" and is also outfitting the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol with new planks this season. Austin Nelson and Jordan White, two of Folsom's sponsored athletes, won the Helly Hansen Battle of the Bowls last year at Aspen Highlands, and McCabe says he's looking forward to the brand-new Highlands Bowl Slopestyle competition this year, set for January 28-30. "That's going to be a sweet event," says McCabe, who competed on the big-mountain freeride circuit before joining Folsom.