Arapahoe Basin was first -- as usual -- but two other Summit County ski resorts, Copper Mountain and Keystone Resort, will open today, despite warm weather recently that pushed back Keystone's original opening-day plan. In addition, Wolf Creek down in southwestern Colorado, opens this weekend as well.
But with temperatures dropping and snow falling, the rest of this state's resorts will soon be online. We profile them all in The Edge, our insider's guide to the 2014 ski and snowboard season that's inserted in the November 6 issue of Westword; we'll be rolling out those profiles as the mountains open, but here are your guides to the three that cranked up the lifts today.
See also: Photos of Opening Weekend at A-Basin
COPPER MOUNTAIN coppercolorado.com 866-841-2481
Nowhere in Colorado is the "something for everyone" claim more true than at Copper Mountain, where the terrain naturally progresses from beginner-friendly runs to the west to expert terrain to the east and in the high alpine back bowls. Copper's famed terrain parks follow a similar progression, and you'll find little kids ripping their first tricks on the rails as well as the world's top pros training in the superpipe and slopestyle courses. For your own virtual guide to the best of it, download Sherpa: The On Mountain Intelligence App to your phone. The hands-free app is now open-sourced, meaning you can use it to get tips from locals or leave tips of your own as you explore the resort.
Signature experience: Ready to try some new tricks? Start at Woodward Copper, an indoor-oudoor action-sports training facility designed to safely help everyone from first-timers to experts looking to step up their game. Sign up for an intro or drop-in session in the indoor Barn or full-day freestyle lessons starting at $169. Multi-day Winter Camp sessions start at $369, beginning December 27.
Splurge: Spring for the $519 Secret! Season Pass (the regular season pass is $419), which gets you on the mountain fifteen minutes ahead of everyone else -- pretty much guaranteeing fresh tracks on a powder day or first cuts in the corduroy on groomed runs -- and also lets you cut lift lines all day.
Ski bum tips: Rides on the Tucker Mountain Snowcat are free with any lift ticket or season pass and will pick you up at the base of the Mountain Chief chairlift, Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., then dump you into in-bounds terrain that feels like pure backcountry, including steep chutes and wide-open treeless runs above timberline. Tucker Mountain has been a focus of The 12's, a two-phase high-alpine development plan to expand the resort's offerings on its three peaks above 12,000 feet. The project has also seen the installation of a new T-bar lift on Storm King and the Celebrity Ridge lift, serving Union Peak, Union Meadows, West Ridge and Copper Bowl.
Drink locally: Look for local beers on tap at Endo's Adrenaline Cafe, a base-area favorite, then head for the Backcountry Brewery in Frisco to sit out the ski traffic before getting back on I-70.
KEYSTONE RESORT keystoneresort.com 800-468-5004
Keystone is all in on the family-friendly front with the return of its Kids Ski Free program for any kids twelve and under who stay at least two nights. Also look for the new Family Ski Trail; a full program of kids' ski-school offerings at Camp Keystone; and signature details like the Kidtopia snow fort on Dercum Mountain. Of course, the resort is also known for catering to skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels and for its award-winning A-51 Terrain Park system.
Signature experience: Looking for a sufficiently cheesy way to close out the final night of your trip? Der Fondue Chessel, at the top of North Peak Mountain, offers a traditional Bavarian dining experience complete with fondue pots and raclettes, chocolate fondue for dessert, and live Bavarian musicians making the rounds. Reservations required; call 800-354-4386.
Splurge: The $275 ladies-only Betty Fest Weekend, January 24-25, makes the perfect gift for your loved one (or yourself): Keystone's top female instructors lead the charge on the two-day clinic for intermediate and advanced skiers ages fifteen and up, with an emphasis on skill-building and, more important, confidence-building.
Ski bum tips: If Keystone and A-Basin are the only ski areas on your agenda, grab the $309 Keystone/A-Basin pass. You'll pay it off in about, oh, three days, then exult in the knowledge that you'll be riding gratis for the rest of the season. Enjoy!
Drink locally: Head to Dillon Dam Brewery on your way out of town, then kick back and let the ski traffic up to the Eisenhower Tunnel do its thing.
WOLF CREEK SKI AREA wolfcreekski.com 970-264-5639
Wolf Creek (motto: "The Most Snow in Colorado") is also celebrating its diamond anniversary this season, and owner Kingsbury "Pitch" Pitcher, who turned 95 over the summer, was recently inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. Aside from developing the small ski area into a powder-chaser's paradise, Pitcher was one of the first certified instructors of the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association and a racer for the Stanford University Ski Team. He still gets out on the slopes, too. Look for the new Elma lift this season, named for Pitcher's dog, to expand access to beginner and intermediate terrain, and a new Race Hutch to host the Wolf Creek Fun Race Series. Other summer projects included extensive glading and removal of beetle-kill pine trees.
Signature experience: If you're coming all the way from Denver, check the powder forecast at opensnow.com to help you plan your trip. Time it right and you could be in up to your waist. Oh, and check the Colorado Department of Transportation Road and Weather Conditions website, because those powder forecasts tend not to over-exaggerate.
Splurge: Take that silly GoPro mount off your helmet and put your iPhone in your pocket before your fingers get frostbite. Whether you're after a family portrait or some pow-in-the-face action shots, do it right with Powder Portraits Ski Photography. Prints come as small as 4x6, but if you get the ski porn you're looking for, Powder Portraits can print it as large as 40x60 and immortalize the moment.
Ski bum tips: You'll find ridiculously cheap lodging deals on either side of Wolf Creek Pass, and be sure to check the online calendar for Local Appreciation Days (no ID required), when adult lift tickets drop to $41.
Drink locally: Rest your weary legs at Pagosa Brewing or Riff Raff Brewing, both in nearby Pagosa Springs.
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Watch for profiles of all of Colorado's other ski areas on Show and Tell as they open in the coming weeks.