Traditionally the calm before the storm before Spring Break mania takes over in the mountains, the last weekend in February has become a storm of its own, with challenging events at just about every ski area in Colorado. Here's a preview of the top five ways you could be busting your butt this weekend:
Freeride, take it easy! Snowmass has had about a foot of snow this week, good news for the cliff huckers looking for lines on the Hanging Valley Headwall and Burn Side Cliffs this weekend during the Colorado Freeride Championships. Qualifying runs for men's and women's skiing and snowboarding are today; bring some binoculars and head up on Saturday to watch the insanity from the deck of Gwyn's High Alpine mid-mountain lodge. Alternatively, you could head over to Aspen Highlands and put yourself through hell in the 10th annual Inferno (the hike-and-ski race starts at 10 a.m. at the top of the Loge Lift; registration is $30).
Hey, ladies! Want to know where the women will be this weekend? Try the Women's Snowboard Fest at Breckenridge ($275 for two days of freestyle instruction in the park and pipe with Breck's best female instructors), Keystone's two-day Betty Fest (led by Annie Black, recognized as this year's Colorado Ski Instructor of the Year by the Professional Ski Instructors of America), or the Babes In the Backcountry telemark clinic at Loveland on Saturday ($125, all levels welcome, discounted lift tickets and rentals available).
Go big! Keystone hosts its 3rd annual Helly Hansen's Big Mountain Battle on Saturday, sending teams of two equipped with GPS trackers racing to checkpoints all over the mountain in a three-hour time period (with $2,000 worth of Helly Hansen gear on the line). Registration is $85 per team and closes tonight (Friday February 25) at midnight.
Where there's smoke, there's HOTS! The American Cancer Society brings its Hope On The Slopes fundraiser to Breckenridge on Saturday for an Epic Mix competition utilizing the resort's new passive chip tracking system to log vertical feet and collect virtual scavenger hunt pins all over the mountain (register online today by 3 p.m. to get in the system; walk-ups are welcome on Saturday but won't be tracked). Registration is $35 plus a $200 fundraising minimum.
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Come on out! Telluride Gay Ski Week starts this weekend with daily Meet & Ski events on the mountain and nightly après-ski parties. On Sunday check out the Bloody Mary Brunch and the Oscar-Watching Party, both at The Peaks Resort in Mountain Village. A T-Pass ($199 full week, $99 half-week) provides access to all the Telluride Gay Ski Week-produced events, with proceeds supporting Telluride AIDS Benefit.