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Ski bum tips: "Try Oak BBQ and La Cocina de Luz, two really great restaurants that are a lot of fun and have great food at an affordable place," Wagner says. "The Mountainside Inn (rooms as low as $30/night) and the Victorian Inn are two affordable places you can stay in town in walking distance of all the bars and chairlifts and still get a good rate."

Drink locally: One-year-old Telluride Brewing just won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for its Face-Down Brown Ale and another at the World Beer Cup in San Diego. "So I'd say they're off to a good start," Wagner says. "Their beer is awesome, and the brewer, Chris Fish, is amazing. Definitely worth checking that place out."

VAIL SKI RESORT

Loveland celebrates 75 years this season.
Loveland celebrates 75 years this season.
Ski Cooper is one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets.
Ski Cooper is one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets.

www.vail.com, 970-476-5601

Vail's fiftieth-anniversary season opens on November 20, and a luxe new heated gondola will be the first change many visitors notice. "One thing I like about Vail is the amount of high-speed quads, and I'm looking forward to the new gondola," says Tim Canaday, co-owner, with his brother Tracey, of Denver's Never Summer Industries snowboard empire. "Even when there's large amounts of people on the mountain, you don't end up standing around in a lot of lift lines."

His favorite runs to hit with his riding buddies are in the back bowls: Ptarmigan Ridge, Sundown Bowl and Game Creek Bowl. But these days he mostly rides with his kids, ages ten and thirteen, and has come to love the more family-friendly terrain around the Sourdough Express lift and North Woods. "The amount and variety of terrain at Vail is phenomenal, so pretty much anything you're looking for you're going to find," he says.

Director Roger Cotton Brown will premiere his film on Vail's fifty-year history on December 14 at the Vail Marriot Resort & Spa, and the official birthday celebration will be held on December 15 at Mountain Plaza. The Winter Mountain Games return on February 8-10, and the venerable Burton US Open — the longest-running snowboarding competition in the world — comes to Vail this year, February 25-March 2, following a thirty-year run in Vermont.

Splurge: Dine at the 10th, a new "modern alpine cuisine" ski-in/ski-out restaurant that opened last season at Mid-Vail and recently appointed Vishwatej Nath as executive chef. "We always stay with Grandma and Grandpa when we're up there, but there's plenty of high-end lodging in Vail," Canaday says. Try Vail Cascade Resort & Spa, the Sebastian, or the Christiana Lodge to make your visit extra awesome.

Ski bum tips: If you're turning fifty this season, too, you can ski or ride for free on your birthday, you old bum. Also free, regardless of your age: a visit to the Colorado Ski & Snowboard History Museum. Several of Canaday's boards, including one of the early Swift Snowboards he and his brother made in the 1980s and the first Never Summer prototype they made in 1991, are on display in the museum's Colorado Snowboard Archive exhibit, which opened last season.

Drink locally: "I'm a Coors Original drinker, if you want to buy me a beer," Canaday says, "since Never Summer is turning 21 this year." For craft brews, try the Bonfire Brewing tap room in Eagle or Crazy Mountain Brewing in Edwards.

WINTER PARK RESORT

www.winterparkresort.com,

970-726-1564

"I love the commute over Berthoud Pass to Winter Park, especially compared to having to go further up I-70 to get to the rest of the resorts," says Pat Milbery, founder of the So-Gnar Snowboard Camp Tour and Shred Circuit Contest Series, which concludes at Winter Park on April 13, 2013. "That drive reminds me of everything I love about the mountains, with gorgeous views as you get near the top. Some days I'm planning on making it to Winter Park and decide Berthoud Pass looks really good, and I'll just go shred the backcountry there instead."

Milbery's camps specialize in making the most of freestyle terrain parks, which Winter Park now has all over the place, but it's the full-mountain experience that attracts him.

"I love Winter Park because you can cruise the groomers, play around in the beginner and intermediate Rail Yard terrain parks, go big in the Dark Territory jumps, and get over into the trees and bumps at Mary Jane, all within a couple of runs," he says. "It's a great place to become a well-rounded rider and get a great taste of all aspects of snowboarding or skiing. The place also just has a good vibe, very laid-back, that I think sets it apart from a lot of the other big resorts around here. It's one of the oldest ski areas in Colorado and one of the biggest, but it still feels like a locals' secret."

Splurge: "For lunch, get up to the Lodge at Sunspot, which has a classy little bar by a big fireplace that's great for getting warmed up and getting some good grub," says Milbery. "And for a bigger splurge, try the Powder Addiction snowcat operation on Jones Pass, because there's some amazing terrain just beyond the ski-area boundaries, too." (Go to powderaddiction.com; rates start at $350 per person, which includes a beer from Durango's Steamworks Brewing and lunch from Winter Park's Back Bowl Soup Company.) Need a regular place to stay while you're up there? Pick up a $699 Vintage Lodging Pass and get credits for up to ten nights at the Vintage Hotel during the season, bringing the per-night rate to as low as $69.

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