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Colorado's second-oldest ski area opened its 75th-anniversary year on October 23, kicking off a season-long celebration that will build to a crescendo the weekend of January 12-13. "I think it's incredible that they've endured this long and stayed small and independent and family-owned, as nearly all of their competitors have gone corporate," says Matt Rinehart, owner of Origin Snowboards, a family-owned business specializing in "grom" boards for kids. "That's one of the charms of Loveland, and it's indicative of the type of resort that it is. I hope that they have another 75 good years ahead of them, at least, and that my kids are still ripping turns there with their kids and grandkids when it comes around."
Among the ski area's other charms: proximity to Denver, affordability, all-mountain terrain, and a family-friendly vibe. In fact, for his money, Rinehart says Loveland is the best place in Colorado to teach a kid to ride or ski. "It's where I learned to ride in the '90s, and it's where I've been teaching my kids over the last couple seasons," he says. "If you're just getting the groms started, head over to the Loveland Valley side, where they have a great lesson program, a kid-friendly chairlift, and a kid-sized beginner terrain park perfect for learning some of your first moves. If you're a pretty good snowboarder or skier yourself, I'd suggest skipping the lessons altogether and teaching them yourself. It's been some of the most rewarding time I've spent with my kids as a parent, and now we all ride together all over the mountain."
To catch Rinehart and his kids in action this season, watch for their Origin Snowboards hoodies in the terrain park — which moves back to its old home on Roulette under Chair 6 this season — or chasing powder under Chairs 4 and 8.
Splurge: "Loveland is a place where you can splurge without paying a high-end price," says spokesman John Sellers. "Our snowcat tours are free. Our sport shop has gear at Front Range ski-shop prices, not what you would expect at a resort. And even our high-end private lessons are very affordable when compared to prices at other resorts. We don't offer ticket or pass add-ons like early access or lift-line priority. At Loveland, everyone is treated equally. You can't buy preferential treatment here!" Still, Rinehart did offer one suggestion: "Splurge for the lunchtime wax deal there at the base-area shop. You drop your board off and then go eat, and by the time you're done, it will be all waxed up and ready to go."
Ski bum tips: Check out the Ridge Cat, a twenty-person shuttle, new this year, that will provide free access (when conditions permit) to Field of Dreams, Velvet Hammer, Tickler and Marmot for anyone with a lift ticket or season pass. Check skiloveland.com for "Hooky Days" sponsored by local radio stations, when ticket prices drop to just $20. And for lunch, hit the cafeteria or do it DIY style. "Another thing we love about Loveland is the tailgate vibe in the parking lot," Rinehart says. "We like to bring our tiny little propane grill and hang out by our car to eat lunch."
Drink locally: Step to the bar at the Wedge Bar or Rathskeller and ask for the new Pine Bough Ale from Tommyknocker Brewing in Idaho Springs, a special brew to mark Loveland's 75th anniversary that actually has pine needles collected from around the ski area among its ingredients.
Monarch Mountain added 500 new chairs for this season and has been busy remodeling its base lodge, adding 16,000 square feet, but the real appeal, says Nicholas Whittemore, is getting away from it all. "Monarch is a place where you can go take laps all day and keep finding untracked powder," says Whittemore, who owns Fortitude Skis in Arvada.
For that, he recommends the relatively short hike to the Mirkwood Basin terrain, along with the snowcat tour: " I first went three years ago with a group of other Colorado ski builders, and it's become one of my favorite Colorado adventures."
But no matter where you ski or ride in Colorado this winter, he adds, "Keep an eye out for Monarch's butterfly-logo stickers on people's helmets and car bumpers, because chances are that will be a person you'll want to take some runs with. In my experience, those are going to be people who know what's up."
Splurge: "If I had to name the top three splurge items at Monarch, I'd say to take the Monarch Snowcat Tours three days in a row," Whittemore says. "We got like ten laps in the snowcat last time I did it, and it's a real playground out there."
Ski bum tips: Monarch's One Planet. One Pass deal includes free days at 31 resorts around the world, including eight in Colorado and enticing ones elsewhere, like Revelstoke in British Columbia. The cost, $359, may sound like a splurge, Whittemore says, "but that's got to be the best season-pass deal anywhere if you actually go out and use a bunch of them, even just here in Colorado.... It'd pay itself off in a hurry."