Colorado ski areas got pounded with as much as twenty inches of early-season snow in late October, just as we were going to press with the Edge, our annual guide to Colorado's ski resorts — and Loveland was the first to announce an opening date: October 29. You can find the Edge in print this week inside of Westword — or follow along as we roll out the guide online. Each description lays out what's new, what the signature experience is at each resort, what to splurge on, how to go cheap and, of course, what to drink. Now, head for the trees.
LOVELAND SKI AREA
What’s new: “We shortened Lift 2 to the midway point and built the new Ptarmigan Lift to serve the upper terrain previously served by Lift 2,” says Loveland spokesman John Sellers. “This new configuration will provide riders of each lift more efficient access to the mountain. Beginners won’t have to deal with midway unload and reload points when they ride Lift 2 from the bottom, and intermediates/experts will be able to access the upper terrain more quickly on the new lift without all the slows and stops on the old lift.”
Signature experience: Sign a waiver at the base-area ticket office to pick up a free access pass to ride the Ridge Cat, which picks up near the top of Chair 9 Wednesday through Sunday (conditions permitting), then prowls along the Continental Divide to save skiers and riders a hike to some of the ski area’s most difficult and most extreme “sidecountry” terrain in the areas known as Field of Dreams, Velvet Hammer, Tickler, 13,010’ and Marmot.
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Splurge: “No real high-end add-ons here,” says Sellers. Loveland loves its no-frills reputation. “Maybe private lessons or performance demos? But even those are affordable.” There’s no lodging at the ski area itself, but for something special, Sellers has a favorite spot in nearby Georgetown. “Come up from the Front Range for a night or weekend to avoid traffic and stay at the Hotel Chateau Chamonix. Some rooms have private hot tubs, and they have croissants and fresh OJ every morning and wine at check-in. It’s a unique experience, for sure.”
Ski bum tips: All parking at Loveland is free; get there early to park up close, and you’ll be just steps from the ticket office and base-area chairlifts. “Other than that, at the free snowcat rides, we’ve got Taco Tuesday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. with cheap tacos and deals on PBRs, plus daily beer and drink specials in the Rathskeller, a throwback to the classic ski-area bar,” says Sellers. “The day-olds at the bakery are also super-cheap!”
Drink locally: In addition to the Rathskeller at the base area, stop in at the Ptarmigan Roost Cafe, at the top of the new Ptarmigan lift. “Best views around!” Sellers boasts, and serving made-in-Colorado brews, to boot. Try the Pine Bough Pale Ale, brewed by Tommyknocker in nearby Idaho Springs using spruce pine needles from the ski area. The brewery itself is also worth a stop: When you hit traffic right around Idaho Springs, take it as your cue to get off the road.