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Woodward at Copper has also made the mountain a premier destination for some of the world's top athletes; you can catch them in action January 9-12 at the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix — a qualifier for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, where ski halfpipe and ski and snowboard slopestyle events will make their Olympic debut.
Splurge: If you're looking to learn some new tricks, try the One-Hit Wonder first-timer's session in the Barn ($59.99) or other camp and clinic offerings at Woodward at Copper; the three-day Holiday Camp, December 27-29 is $499 if you already have a lift ticket or season pass, $599 without. A trip to the Copper Mountain Spa & Athletic Club for a massage (starting at $50) or the popular après-ski foot reflexology treatment ($45) might be in order. And lastly, "Copper Mountain does have some pretty tasty sushi at Storm King Lounge," Langford says.
Ski bum tips: "The decent way to save some money when it comes time for shelter is the Edge employee housing," says Langford. "On a first-come, first-served basis, you can sometimes get a room at the Edge for just $40." Check out the over-the-hill throwback deals when Copper celebrates its fortieth birthday (December 7-9), including $40 lift tickets, 72-cent beer at Endo's, $40 equipment rental for two, and $40 Ski & Ride School and Woodward at Copper packages. For cheap eats all season long, try Pizza Carlo.
Find more on winter recreation and special events in the Calendar section and Show and Tell blog at westword.com.
Drink locally: Coors rules at Copper, but you can also find New Belgium beers on tap at Endo's Adrenaline Cafe, or cans of Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues at Pizza Carlo.
The ungroomed extreme skiing on the Headwall and North Face of Crested Butte is what gets all the attention and differentiates the resort from other ski areas,"says Caleb Weinberg, co-owner, with his brother Morgan, of Romp Skis in downtown Crested Butte. "But I think the real secret about Crested Butte is that it's a great mountain for everybody. The word's been getting out, and we're starting to see more and more families and more and more kids, which is pretty cool."
The ski area has been pushing its Camp CB winter kids' program in recent years and built kid-friendly terrain parks and a year-round Adventure Park with tubing, bungee trampolines, zipline tours and other family activities.
But if you're in it for the steeper stuff, try the Crested Butte North Face Guide program, a new CBMR Ski & Ride School offering that takes guests out for guided in-bounds tours of the North Face terrain served by the High lift. And when the backcountry beckons, try the $350 five-hour session with Crested Butte Mountain Guides to learn harnessed climbing techniques and how to safely make the most of some of Crested Butte's most famous terrain.
Splurge: "Two of my favorite 'splurge' restaurants in town are the Lobar sushi bar and Soupçon Bistro, a great French restaurant in an old mining cabin," Weinberg says. "But the best way to drop a chunk of money around here is absolutely the Cat Skiing Irwin operation, where they get unreal amounts of snow.... It's definitely a very high-end experience, with leather seats in the cats and everything, and you'll get about ten of the best runs of your life if you time it right. It's a very top-of-the-line, over-the-top experience, and it's well worth the money."
Ski bum tips: Ski free on opening day (November 21), or pick up the $275 Getaway Pass, good for one night's lodging and two days of lift tickets for two people. The Secret Stash offers a pizza slice, a PBR, and a shot for $6. And if you want a piece of the pow, wear an avalanche beacon: Crested Butte ski patrollers give preference to the first fifty guests with transceivers when they're opening new runs after a big snow.
Drink locally: Weinberg's favorite local hangout is Talk of the Town, at 230 Elk Avenue. But there's also The Eldo Brewery and Taproom, and Montanya Rum Distillers.
Boulder-based meteorologist Joel Gratz issues reliable powder forecasts at OpenSnow.com, which keeps tabs on snowfall at ski areas nationwide. But his favorite storms are those closest to home. "I love Eldora for two reasons," he says. "First is that small-ski-area feel. There's plenty of terrain, but it feels homey. Second is that it gets big-powder days when other ski areas don't. Eldora benefits from 'upslope storms,' which hit Colorado with winds from the east. These winds rise from 3,500 feet in elevation at the Colorado/Kansas border to over 10,000 feet at Eldora, and this rising air creates lots of powder on the east side of the Continental Divide."
To find the biggest powder stash on the mountain, follow Gratz to Corona Bowl or into the trees on the front side of the mountain. Beyond that, he's keeping his secrets to himself. "Rather than give up all the local favorites, I'll let you explore and find your own secret stashes," he says.
Splurge: After the powder gets tracked at Eldora, Gratz suggests contacting Eli Helmuth at Climbing Life Guides for insight and backcountry skiing adventures in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and in Rocky Mountain National Park (get information at climbinglife.com).