By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
SKI GRANBY RANCH (formerly SolVista Basin)
Find more on winter recreation and special events in the Calendar section and Show and Tell blog at westword.com.
"I actually grew up riding at this mountain with my family, and it's always been one of my off-the-grid favorites," says Jeff Popp, owner of Mile High Mountaineering, a Denver-based backpack company that recently won the 2012 Something Independent Award for Colorado entrepreneurs.
Ski Granby Ranch spent the summer thinning out beetle-kill trees and opening up five acres of new gladed terrain between the Bounty Hunter and Jackpot runs. (Let the beetles know what you think of them with a slash in Ted's Secret Stash, a log-jib terrain park where some of those trees have been finding a new life.) The area also opened three new expert runs on West Mountain.
"What's special about it is it's a hidden little place where you can find plenty of good powder lines," Popp says. "My family always liked to go there because there are two peaks, but no matter which run you take, it's going to feed you back down to the same base, which makes it super family-friendly. You don't have to worry so much about going at the same pace or having everybody stick together, because you'll catch up with each other or see each other riding under the lift sooner or later."
Splurge: Book a private condo cabin — from $85/night for a traditional hotel room to $349 for a mountain home that can accommodate up to eighteen people — and make it a multi-day adventure, with options for night skiing, tubing, or dining at the Granby Ranch Grill.
Ski bum tips: Bring a giant posse and get a 25 percent discount for groups of twenty or more, or pick up a $329 season pass (with extra discounts for family passes) and get three free days at Monarch and Sunlight. "If you want 'ski bum,' you can't go wrong anywhere in the town of Granby," says Popp. "It's a cool little low-key town, and there's not a lot of fancy stuff. If you want to go fancier, you're going to have to head back toward Winter Park."
Drink locally: The bar at the Granby Ranch Grill in the Base Lodge has a rotating selection of Colorado beers on tap.
The biggest news at Colorado's second-biggest ski area is the addition of 230 acres of new expert terrain dubbed Burnt Mountain, where lightly gladed trees connect a series of open, powder-filled rolling meadows — and the opening of the new $13 million Elk Camp Lodge, a 300-seat mid-mountain restaurant at the top of the Elk Camp Gondola.
"The only problem with Snowmass is you'll get spoiled and won't want to go anywhere else," says Matt Cudmore, owner of Glenwood Springs-based Meier Skis, whose Big Nose Kate (BNK) ski was an official selection in the Skiing magazine 2013 Gear Guide. "Snowmass reminds me of a European mountain because it's just so big, and exploring all over the place is really cool — cruising all over this huge mountain. There's good snow and cool trails everywhere, and there's no lift lines."
The mountain's long, groomed cruisers make it a favorite among beginner and intermediate skiers and riders, but Cudmore says he favors the big-mountain lines of the Hanging Valley Headwall, served by the High Alpine lift, and suggests expert skiers and riders explore the just-beyond-the-boundaries terrain outside the backcountry gates near the top of the Cirque poma lift, which tops out at 12,500 feet.
Splurge: Cudmore plans to check out the new Elk Camp Lodge, and says "you'll find high-end splurge options within a snowball's throw of anywhere you stand in Snowmass!"
Ski bum tips: "Load up the car with four or more people to get free parking at Snowmass or any of the Aspen resorts — which is easy to do, especially if you have kids," Cudmore suggests. "Stay here in Glenwood Springs or one of the other awesome little towns on the way into Aspen to save on lodging. And keep in mind that most of the events and concerts up here are free. I'd also recommend getting the $219 4-Day or $349 7-Day Classic Pass, which can bring the lift-ticket price under $50 a day and save you a ton of money. It started out as kind of a locals' discount, but now it's available to everybody."
Drink locally: Check out the New Belgium Ranger Station, set to open on November 15 at the newly renovated Wildwood Snowmass hotel bar, featuring ten of the Fort Collins brewery's beers and a selection of other seasonals on tap, along with a lunch and dinner menu and a restaurant theme inspired by the label design of New Belgium's Ranger IPA beer. And Cudmore loves This Season's Blonde, Pyramid Peak Porter and Midnight Mine Imperial Stout from the Aspen Brewing Company.
STEAMBOAT SKI RESORT
Known for its deep, fluffy "Champagne Powder," Steamboat managed to get one of the biggest dumps of the year even in the midst of last year's bum season. "I was there on my thirtieth birthday and got thirty inches overnight, the best snow day I got all year," says Ben Anderson, owner of Denver-based Icelantic Skis and the newly launched First Degree Boots. "It was the best birthday present ever, and solidified my lifelong love of Steamboat."