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 bum tips: To save on lodging, try Airbnb.com or VRBO.com, which are very popular. "You can also stay in Avon, Edwards or Minturn to save some money and then drive over, since Beaver Creek has free parking. I like to send people to the Christie Lodge in Avon," Merritt says. And don't miss the free chocolate chip cookies, served hot daily at 3 p.m., and the free s'mores at the outdoor firepits by the Ritz and Hyatt hotels just after the lifts close. "The best pizza in the valley, hands down, is Pazzo's Pizzeria in Avon."
Drink locally: The locals bars are the Dusty Boot and "my personal favorite, Coyote Cafe. I'm a member of their mug club, and their head bartender, Heather, is awesome," Merritt says. Crazy Mountain's beers are available in Beaver Creek at Hooked, Coyote Cafe, Beaver Creek Chophouse, C-Bar, Dusty Boot, Blue Moose, Black Diamond Bistro, and Spago at the Ritz-Carlton. "I'd definitely recommend coming up to check out the brewery, too, because we have some seasonal specials you can only get here, and because there's a great food truck outside, the Crazy Wagon."
"The big news on the mountain this season is going to be the Peak 6 expansion," says Miyuki Takeda, operations manager at Breckenridge Distillery and a former Breck ski patroller, referring to the 543 acres of new in-bounds terrain opening this season. The expansion represents a 23 percent increase in the resort's skiable acreage, including three new bowls and ten new trails of mostly intermediate terrain.
"It's going to be a lot of fun back there, especially because there will be hike-to access to some of the better spots — but personally, I prefer the steeper stuff elsewhere on the mountain," says Takeda, who suggests heading for the upper mountain steeps on Peak 8 first thing in the morning to make fresh tracks on Snow White and the Lake Chutes, then heading to Peak 10 to dodge the crowds later in the day. Opening day at Breckenridge is November 8.
Splurge: Takeda suggests staying at the Beaver Run resort, because it's right at the base of Peak 9, and going to the Hearthstone Restaurant for a high-end dining experience. "On the mountain, I would always recommend going to Peak 9 Restaurant, near the top of Beaver Run chair, because they have the best food," she adds. "And, this isn't really a splurge, but if you're an expert skier, there are some great spots to get out into in the sidecountry at Breck. A lot of visitors never go through those gates, and that's probably for the best, but it's worth it if you know what you're doing and have the right safety gear."
Ski bum tips: "Almost all of the bars and restaurants in Breckenridge have really great happy hours with two-for-one appetizers, so you really can't go wrong," Takeda says. "One of my favorite spots, where a lot of locals go, is the Motherloaded Tavern. Get the deep-fried pickles , with a deep-fried Twinkie for dessert. It's probably not the most healthy place in town, but it tastes great after a day on the slopes."
Drink locally: Spirits from the Breckenridge Distillery are on the menu at the T-Bar on Peak 8 and other bars on the mountain, as well as at the Breckenridge Distillery's downtown tasting room. "We also offer complimentary tours at our distillery, which is north of town, at 1925 Airport Road," Takeda says. "We'll show you how we make our booze, show off our new 3,000-square-foot barrel-house expansion, and give you a free taste." Try the Breckenridge Vodka, a platinum award winner at the 2012 SIP Awards International Spirits Competition, and the Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey, a 2012 gold-medalist at both the International Whiskey Competition and the MicroLiquor Spirit Awards.
Snowboarder Josh Boeser, a server at the Backcountry Brewery in Frisco, has competed at the USASA Nationals and other slopestyle contests at Copper Mountain, so Woodward's Central Park there is a big draw for him. "It's my favorite mountain in Summit County, because on a powder day there's plenty of good stuff to get into, and you always have the terrain park and perfectly groomed superpipe to play in."
Copper has made itself a pivotal stop on the road to Sochi for skiers and snowboarders, hosting the U.S. Ski Team for early-season Olympic training on its Speed Center race course under the Super Bee lift and bringing U.S. Grand Prix halfpipe and slopestyle events to the other side of the mountain in December. For the rest of us, there are $7 million in new capital improvement projects around the resort, including an overhaul of the Woodward Barn, where skiers and snowboarders can practice their airs over trampolines and foam pits, as well as a new surface T-Bar lift serving the high-alpine Storm King terrain and a new "West Ridge Platter" surface lift to improve access to Union Peak, Union Meadows, West Ridge and Copper Bowl.
"Woodward at Copper is another major draw for any serious skier or snowboarder looking to learn some new tricks," Boeser says. "And bring your skateboard, too: the wood bowl at Woodward is so much fun."