By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Drink locally: Bonfire Brewing in Eagle is "killing it with beers like their High Altitude Pale Ale and Mistress Winter Wheat," Clark says. Or try the SnowCat Coffee Stout at Crazy Mountain Brewing in Edwards.
Find more on winter recreation and special events in the Calendar section and Show and Tell blog at westword.com.
Breckenridge opens its 51st season this year and marks the 50th anniversary of its signature Ullr Fest, in honor of the skiing Norse god. And there's a good reason why people keep coming back.
"Breck has every aspect of terrain covered, from the parks to the steeps," says Mike Waesche, a Breck local and owner of the Rocky Mountain Underground ski company. "Breck's terrain parks are the perfect testing ground for our skis, and when the snow is good, there are some great spots on the mountain to do some hiking and really put them to the test."
Waesche suggests picking up Rocky Mountain Underground demo skis — which have earned editors' nods this season from Freeskier, Powder, Skiing and Backcountry magazines — at the Mountain Wave shop on the way into town, then heading for Peak 8 or Peak 7. Time your visit to coincide with the Dew Tour's Mountain Championships, December 13-16, for a tutorial on how to slay Breck's parks, pipes and party scene like a pro.
Splurge: For a night out, Waesche suggests Blue River Bistro, a gourmet Italian place in town, and for an experience, try Breck's Ski & Ride Camps and special events like the Rocky Mountain Park & Pipe Camp and the Ladies' Snowboard Fest.
Ski bum tips: "I like to send people to the Northside Bar at 315 Main Street," says Waesche. "Pizza. Beer. Wings. What more do you need?" For discount lodging, try the Fireside Inn Bed & Breakfast and Hostel, with winter dormitory rates as low as $45 per night and the highest-end four-person suites maxing out at under $200.
Drink locally: "You can't go wrong with the Breckenridge Brewery," Waesche says (try the Avalanche Amber Ale or the seasonal Christmas Ale). "But that's the obvious choice. I also really like the Backcountry Brewery in Frisco," where he's partial to the Whiteout Barleywine.
BUTTERMILK SKI RESORT
The Winter X Games will return to Buttermilk for the thirteenth year in a row January 24-27, and the entire spectacle is free. The mountain boasts world-class terrain parks and the superpipe that sent Shaun White launching toward a perfect score last year. But once all the pros and their energy-drink sponsors roll out of town, it can all be yours. And the X Games notwithstanding, Buttermilk is actually the mellowest of the Aspen/Snowmass resorts, in terms of both terrain and temperament. In fact, the mountain is best known for its long, rolling groomers.
Nursing ambitions of X Games glory? Buttermilk's Ski & Snowboard School can get you into the restricted S3 Park, where beginner and intermediate terrain parks will help you get your legs under you before taking on the bigger features in Jacob's Ladder Park and the X Park. And when you're ready to test your mettle, register for the Aspen/Snowmass Freeskiing Open (an FIS-sanctioned event held on the X Games superpipe and slopestyle courses), set for February 21-24, or the Buttermilk Rail Jams on March 24 and April 7.
Splurge: Book a room at the ski-in/ski-out Inn at Aspen, at the base of Buttermilk ($99/night for hotel-style rooms, $204/night for the Royal King Suite), and dine at the Elkhorn Bar & Grill.
Ski bum tips: The grab-and-go Bumps cafeteria at the Buttermilk base area has good grub and is among the most affordable of any of Aspen's on-mountain options. Head higher for the similarly priced Cliffhouse Restaurant.
Drink locally: The Elkhorn Bar & Grill has Colorado beers including Aspen Brewing's Independence Pass IPA — a beer that comes with a warning: "Independence Pass marks the eastern boundary of the Roaring Fork Valley and the City of Aspen. With a summit elevation of 12,095 feet, we HIGHLY recommend that the inexperienced beer drinker is EXTREMELY careful drinking this high-alcohol brew at such altitude. You wouldn't want to fall down the pass!" On your way back to Denver, stop in Carbondale for a visit to the Carbondale Beer Works Ale House & Wienery for beers and sausage (no, "Wienery" is not a typo).
For forty years, Copper Mountain has been building its reputation as a mountain with something for everyone: Head to the back bowls for the steep stuff, catch a free Tucker Mountain Snowcat ride to get into the deep stuff, stay on the front side for groomers, head west to Union Creek for beginner terrain, or hit up the ever-expanding network of progressive terrain parks and the Olympic-sized superpipe to learn some new tricks.
"Copper is a favorite Colorado resort because it's not too far, has the full package of terrain and is friendly throughout — in the park, bowls and bars," says Andrew Langford, art director for Snowboard Colorado magazine, which published its twentieth issue this month and is now in its third season. "For me, the biggest attraction is the terrain parks. Ever since they brought Jason George on as park manager, the park has had a real skatepark flow. They've started building more creative features, and each time you come up there's something completely new or switched up. You can tell a lot of time and effort goes into the park, and the partnership with Woodward at Copper has been very good for snowboarders and freeskiers."