Forget which ski area has the lowest lift-ticket prices and what mountain has the most high-speed quads--you already know that (or the resorts themselves will tell you). The 1996-97 season has begun, and now that the skis are waxed and the snowboard has been tweaked, the most important info to know is where to find the secret powder stashes and the buffest food bargains. That's why, for the third year in a row, Westword has gone to the locals to ask them to get vocal about their favorite bump runs and their burgers of choice. We tracked down the ski bums, the part-time waitresses/full-time 'boarders, the professional racers and others who make their living on or near the slopes. They're the ones who do whatever's necessary to get on the mountain as much as possible.

All the people we interviewed have lived near their preferred resorts for years. And they've shared their experiences and their expertise here, giving up the dope that can come only from a local's perspective. Which means you're going to find stuff here you can't get anywhere else. It means you have The Edge.

Arapahoe Basin
Vlasta Bovee was one of Copper Mountain's first ski instructors when it opened in 1972, but she has a soft spot for Arapahoe Basin, which celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year. "We've skied the Basin first and last every year for almost thirty years," says Bovee, who was transferred to Colorado from her native Nebraska in the early Sixties by United Airlines. "It's become almost nostalgic. It's still a wonderful small area, although that's changing quickly."

Bovee is one of the locals who laments the possibility that A-Basin may start snowmaking operations--possibly year-round--and add an alpine slide within the next year or two. "Certainly there are improvements that we could use up there," she says. "Better lift service would be nice. But snowmaking would change the whole scene, although I wouldn't object if they did it just part of the year, not year-round." Bovee adds that if A-Basin makes snow in the summer, during the day the top layer would melt and freeze again at night, making for less than ideal conditions. "We get a lot of ice to begin with," she says. "You really have to pick your days at A-Basin. The conditions are either very good or very bad because of the high elevation and extreme exposures."

"One thing, though: You learn to ski well, with good edges," she adds.
For carving "great big, round GS turns," Bovee recommends Lenawee. "It's pretty," she says. "A cruiser with lots of humps and rolls, and you can go all the way to the bottom and then just start over." But the less-experienced looking for a kinder, gentler run should head off Exhibition to the east, where Bovee says there's a "whole bunch of nice runs geared more toward the beginner, ones that are nice and flat, with a little bit of a lift." A-Basin, she explains, doesn't offer a whole lot for the intermediate. "It's for the beginners or the solidly advanced," she says. "There's not a whole lot in between."

But intermediates still can find something that won't do them in, particularly at the end of the day. "All the gentle slopes at the bottom are nice after a lot of people have been at them," Bovee says. "The runs are very narrow, and they take on an easy, steady slope." More expert skiers and snowboarders will appreciate what they find off Palivacinni--"Pali" to the locals--certainly the best-known area of A-Basin, but not necessarily the one hit by the most people. "I only like the Pali itself if the moguls aren't too high," Bovee says. "And there are some other good runs off the Pali lift." Bovee also mentions that getting over to the East Wall off the Lenawee lift can reward skiers with "quite a few fun shoots," and she lists the Alleys and North Woods as two favorites--but again, only when they're not too bumped up. "When the weather is bad, I stay down in the trees," she says.

Her preferred tree run is the Turbo Chute. "Over the years, I've really enjoyed the Alleys," she says. "But especially Turbo, which is a real challenge. And I love the North Woods trees, too. I feel really great when I've accomplished those." She notes that the area might "scare a few people, but there are also some easier runs to be found in there, if you keep your eyes open." And while A-Basin "still is never really busy," Bovee says that those looking to be alone should think about doing some hiking. "Head off to the west of the Pali and then hike back toward the area a bit," she says. "There's skiing all the way around to the chutes on the East Wall, but it can get a little windblown. But if you take a really long trek over, you can drop off in fifteen- or twenty-minute intervals." And from the top of Lenawee, skiers who stay on the ridge can drop into the expert chutes found there. "No matter what, on A-Basin it's almost guaranteed that you're going to get a workout," Bovee says.

And once off the mountain, Bovee suggests that skiers and 'boarders refuel at Antonia's (817 U.S. Highway 6), an Italian eatery in Dillon that she says "walks the fine line between red-sauce and gourmet." She adds that "it's a small, quiet restaurant on the way from A-Basin to the interstate." Also in Dillon is Pug Ryan's (104 Village Place), which Bovee proposes as one of the better fine-dining establishments in the area; she also likes The Pioneer Saloon (105 Village Place), which she says is for those looking to down some beers. In Frisco, the next town over, Bovee points to Frisco's Bar and Grill (720 Granite Street) and Barclay's Basement Cafe (620 Main). "The Frisco has been good to the locals," she says. "And Barclay's is where the younger crowd hangs out." Also in Frisco are the Moose Jaw (208 Main Street)--"They have excellent burgers," Bovee says--and her choice for breakfast, the Log Cabin Cafe (121 Main Street). "The food there is very hearty," she says. "I love the huevos or the Denver omelette. Don't expect to hit the slopes right after that one."

General information: 1-800-468-5004 or 1-970-496-4242
Snow report: 1-970-468-4111
Location: 90 miles west of Denver via I-70 to exit 205 at Dillon, 12 miles east on U.S. Hwy. 6 through Keystone.

Opening and closing dates: Mid-November to early July.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 10% beginner, 40% intermediate, 30% advanced, 20% expert. 490 skiable acres with a 2,250' vertical drop. Base: 10,800'; top: 13,050'; longest run: 1.5 miles.

Lifts: 1 triple chair, 4 double chairs.
Lift rates: TBA
Lessons: Group lesson $36 for 2.5 hours. Lesson with beginner lift ticket $45; lesson with all-mountain lift ticket $74. Private lesson $75/hour.

Rentals: Recreational package: Adult full-day $17; child full-day $11.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Keystone Nordic Center. Call 1-800-258-9553 for

Special events: KBCO Cardboard Downhill Derby, Feb. 22; Beach n' Egg Hunt, Mar. 30; 8th Annual Bikes and Bumps, April; Beach n' Bikini Contest, May.

Arrowhead Mountain
Nikki Ramsey has a great view of Arrowhead Mountain from her house--it's right across the street. "I grew up around here," says Ramsey, 42. "My husband built the Singletree Golf Course years ago, and now we live on it." The close proximity means Ramsey can ski Arrowhead anytime she wants--last year she skied five days a week through the season--but she's not as inclined these days to choose Arrowhead over, say, Beaver Creek as she was when her kids were young. "Arrowhead only has thirteen runs," she explains. "So there's not a lot to choose from if you're above the beginner stage." It is, however, an excellent family mountain, she adds, and her son is proof: Tres is sixth in the nation in Super G competition.

But when Tres was a young thing, it was runs like Arrowhead's Little Bear that he cut his teeth on. "It's perfect for putting the straps on and bringing them down the mountain," Ramsey says. But when she hits the slopes, it's always on Golden Bear and Powwow Cresta. "They're both blue cruisers," Ramsey says. "They go from underneath the lift to the bottom." She adds that this season, Arrowhead will get a boost from Bachelor Gulch, the new section that was opened between Arrowhead and Beaver Creek, its sibling resort. "There will be some trees there, which Arrowhead doesn't have, and it'll be really good for 'boarders."

Good for eaters coming off Arrowhead is the Gashouse (U.S. Highway 6) in Edwards, Ramsey says, and Fiesta's (Edwards Plaza). "Fiesta's has got good Mexican," she says. "It's reasonable, too." For drinks, Ramsey stops by Champions (34444 B-1, U.S. Highway 6), and for sandwiches she picks Perks Deli (34295 U.S. Highway 6). But her absolute favorite is The Bristol at Arrowhead in the Country Club of the Rockies, located at Arrowhead Golf Course right at the base of the mountain. "It's fine dining, and you're gonna pay," Ramsey says. "I'll tell you what, though--the food is incredible."

General information: 1-970-926-3029
All other information: 1-970-845-5728. Arrowhead Mountain is now owned by Vail; see the section on Beaver Creek for further details.

Aspen Highlands
It took Dianne Garzoli a few years to come up with an occupation that would make it possible for her to live in Aspen and ski every day. "First I was a lift operator," the 37-year-old says. "But you can't be a ski bum and do that job. So then I was a waitress, and I worked in the hospital and for the Aspen Ski Company. Then, ten years ago, I decided to become a massage therapist." Now she has some say in her hours and can devote as much time as she wants to skiing, which wasn't always one of the San Francisco transplant's top priorities. "I had met this woman at a Girl Scout camp a million years ago," Garzoli says. "And she finally convinced me to stop by Aspen sixteen years ago on my way back from a trip to the Midwest. I had skied before, but this time I really fell in love with it. So I stayed."

And she's made her mark by being one of the original members of a group called Chicks on Sticks that's been congregating weekly on Aspen Highlands. "It just sort of evolved," Garzoli says. "I had a pass for all three mountains, but me and my girlfriends ended up on Highlands a lot. We started skiing together on Wednesdays, and we were being really rowdy on a lift once and some guy yelled something at us. One of my girlfriends said, 'Hey, you'd better leave us alone--we're chicks on sticks,' and the name stuck. Then this bartender friend of ours got beer donated for apres-ski, as sort of our sponsor, and more women started joining us." Garzoli estimates that there have always been between ten and twenty Chicks on the mountain at any given time, but she stresses that it's not one of those exclusive Aspen clubs. "Hey, if you show up at Highlands and see us and want to ski with us," she says, adding that they now assemble on Fridays, "then you are a Chick on Sticks."

Because the group has faithfully skied every week for more than a decade--"Even on lousy days we motivated each other to get out there"--Garzoli thinks she's seen just about everything the mountain has to offer. "My overall favorite, the run with the biggest rush, would have to be Snyder's Ridge in Steeplechase," she says. "When it's got enough snow, it's exhilarating." Steeplechase is also the place for a lot of good trees. "It's half open, half trees," she adds. "It's a huge area, too, so you can usually get pretty alone." Garzoli claims that the most intense trees, however, can be found in P-Chutes. "That is the most extreme tree skiing I've ever done, except maybe in Crested Butte," she says. "For P-Chutes to work, though, they need a lot of snow."

Garzoli also notes that of all the Aspen mountains, "Highlands has more crud," adding that skiers looking for bumps should head to Aspen Mountain, but for the intermediates she does point out that Scarlett's Run can get some steep bumps on it. For cruisers she lists Golden Horn and Thunderbowl as the best. "The bottom of the mountain is always groomed, so there's usually some good stuff there," Garzoli says. She thinks, though, that the finest line can usually be had at the very bottom of Glade Chute.

To save time between skiing and working, Garzoli says she often grabs a bite to eat on the mountain. "If I'm going to eat anywhere before or after skiing, it's at the Merry-Go-Round, midway on the mountain," she says. But off the mountain she heads to Milan's (304 East Hopkins Avenue), which has "great deals and great elk, and it's a real deal--fifteen bucks apiece nets you an appetizer, an entree and dessert." For apres-ski--"Hey, when you live here, you call it 'apres-work,'" she says--residents head to The Cantina (411 East Main) or the Flying Dog Brewpub (424 East Cooper Avenue). "The Flying Dog is a ritual," Garzoli says. For a good burger, she sends everyone to either Little Annie's Eating House (517 East Hyman Avenue) or the Silver City Grill (308 South Hunter), and for pizza, nothing but New York Pizza (409 East Hyman Avenue) will do. "It's great there because you can get it by the slice after you've been skiing and just want something to take the edge off," she says. "And you can do the take-and-bake, too, when you've really got the munchies." But her secret vice is the rich eggs Sardou dish for breakfast at the Aspen Grove Cafe (525 East Cooper Avenue). "I wish they had good coffee," she says. "But the eggs will knock you off your feet."

General information: 1-970-925-1220
Snow report: 1-970-925-1221
Location: 219 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.
Opening and closing dates: December 14 to April 6.
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Terrain: 20% beginner, 33% intermediate, 17% advanced, 30% expert. 619 developed acres with a 3,635' vertical drop. Base: 8,040'; top: 11,675'; longest run: 3.5 miles.

Lifts: 2 high-speed quads, 5 double chairs,
1 Poma lift.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $56; child under 18
full-day $33; age 18-27 $39; senior (65-69)
full-day $45. Early-season prices available.
Lessons: Ski or snowboard. Group lessons: Half-day $49, full-day $57.
Rentals: Rental center at base of mountain.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Lessons available.

Cross-country: 80 km of groomed trails available nearby. Call 1-970-923-2145 for rentals and information.

Special events: See Aspen Mountain for information.

Aspen Mountain
"I'm 76," says Klaus Obermeyer, one of Aspen's best-known residents, "but I feel like I'm 25."

It must be his lifestyle. Obermeyer, founder of the skiwear company that bears his name, skis, plays tennis, mountain bikes, windsurfs and practices aikido, sometimes all in the same day. "You have to keep using your body or you lose it," says Obermeyer, who came to the United States from Bavaria in 1947.

He kept losing students when he was teaching at the ski school in Sun Valley, New York--they would nearly freeze to death on the ski lifts. "There was no nylon yet," he says. "And people had to be very determined to keep skiing in the freezing cold." One day he got the idea to cut up a quilted blanket he had brought from Bavaria. "I looked like the Michelin man," he says, laughing. "Some guy offered me $250 for it, and this was when $1,200 bought you a Chevy. And that's how I started Sport Obermeyer."

This year the skiwear emporium and Aspen Mountain share a fiftieth birthday. "I am delighted," says Obermeyer. "There are many reasons why I love Aspen. The ski conditions and climate are phenomenal, plus you have the most intelligent and interesting people here. The cumulative energy in this town is a rare thing." The cumulative energy in Obermeyer is a rare thing, too--he skis every day there's snow on the ground, every year. And while he does visit a few other mountains, he spends 90 percent of his ski time on Aspen Mountain.

And when he's there, he tends to gravitate toward the bump runs. "I like Silver Queen," he says. "And Elevator Shaft, that's very steep and beautiful." He believes that bump runs aren't what do your knees in, but concrete. "Your knees are like a bank account," he says. "You can spend them by running on hard surfaces or you can bike more and save. But the bump runs aren't going to deplete them." So he adds Ridge of Bell to his list of bump selections. He also thinks The Glades are "fantastic," and he recommends Ruthie's in the morning. "There's nobody there and great light," he says, adding that in the evening, if you ski down Ruthie's again, "you'll miss the busy Spar Gulch bottleneck." And he has some advice for skiers tired of the crowds at Aspen: "Most people go up the gondola," he says. "The runs off there are always busiest. Get away from the gondola." He also endorses 1A Lift. "No line, great lift," he says. "Take Aztec; it's a fabulous run, very steep and beautiful. Hook up with Point of No Return or end up in Corkscrew. It's a favorite."

As is The Restaurant at the Little Nell (675 East Durant Street). "The food there is incredible," Obermeyer says. "So is the service." He also finds the Hotel Jerome (330 East Main Street) to his liking, especially their light dinners. "I don't eat lunch," he says. "If I do, I sink into the snow. And I like dinner to be small." Breakfast, however, is another story. For that he heads to Wienerstube (633 East Hyman Avenue), famous for its Viennese pastries and sausages. "Best Austrian west of the Mississippi," Obermeyer says. "It's been here for years."

And so has he. What's changed the most in fifty years? "There are better, faster lifts, that's for sure," Obermeyer says. "Grooming has gotten better, and in the town, I have to say I was glad when they blacktopped the streets, because in the early days the whole town was a dust cloud when a storm came.

"The biggest change, though, has been the price of real estate."

General information: 1-970-925-1220
Snow report: 1-970-925-1221
Location: 221 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.
Opening and closing dates: November 28 to April 13.
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Terrain: 35% intermediate, 35% advanced, 30% expert. 631 developed acres with a 3,267' vertical drop. Base: 7,945'; top: 11,212'; longest run: 3 miles.

Lifts: 1 high-speed six-passenger gondola,
1 quad Superchair, 2 quads, 4 double chairs.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $56; child under 18 full-day $33; age 18-27 full-day $39; senior (65-69) full-day $45. Early-season prices

Lessons: Ski or snowboard. Semi-private lessons: Half-day $85, full-day $135.

Rentals: Crystal Ski Shop at base of mountain.
Snowboarding: Not permitted. Welcome on all other mountains.
Cross-country: 80 km of groomed trails available nearby. Call 1-970-925-2145 for rentals and information.

Special events: Torchlight Parade with Santa at Snowmass, Village Mall, Dec. 24; 45th Annual Winter Skol Carnival, Jan. 15-19; Gay Ski Week, Jan. 25-Feb. 1; Aspen Shortsfest at the Wheeler Opera, Apr. 2-6.

Beaver Creek
Even when Carol Johnson lived in East Vail, she drove the thirty miles to ski Beaver Creek. "It's like skiing with a big family," Johnson, 30, says. "I like seeing the same people over and over, and it's not crowded, like Vail. And even on the rare days when it is, you can still get way away from people."

That's what stopped Johnson in her tracks on her way from her hometown of Westchester, New York, to San Francisco in 1989. "My parents own a condo in East Vail, and I said I would work one season as a waitress and just enjoy the skiing, and then I'm going to move on," she says. "Then somebody told me my concierge job might turn into a year-round thing. I said, 'Year-round? You mean people actually stay here all the time?' I was very intrigued by that concept."

So intrigued that she took the year-round job and never left--an odd move for somebody who initially hated skiing. "I first went when I was in eighth grade," Johnson says. "I broke my thumb, and I was miserable." Then her father moved the family to Fort Collins when she was in high school, and a couple of years later moved them back to New York. "I knew for sure I didn't want to stay on the East Coast," Johnson says. She met her husband, a ski patroller, and became a part-time ski instructor herself, which means she can be on the mountain for business and pleasure.

And when she's really looking to let loose, the cruisers Johnson never misses are Centennial and, off that, a newer run called Harrier. "It's a hidden run off the front side of the mountain," she explains. "You ride the main lift, Centennial Express, and get off on the right. Start heading down Centennial, and on the left is Harrier. It has a variety of undulations that are roller-coasterish." She adds that Harrier is rated blue but says she thinks sections of it are more for experts; the added bonus is that "there are some tree islands that give the feeling of being in the trees, but you're really not."

For real tree skiing, Johnson heads to Royal Elk Glades, off Grouse Mountain. "It's considered backcountry," Johnson says. "But two years ago they opened the gladed portion, and there are some great spots thick with trees that are never groomed, so you're gonna find varied conditions. It's steep in some areas, and if you know what you're doing, you can pick your own line and be alone, but I definitely recommend doing it with a buddy, because you can get lost in there."

Royal Elk Glades is also a good spot for bumps, but those who are more in the advanced-and-under group should hit Ripsaw in Rose Bowl--what Johnson calls a "really long, fun bumper"--or Bald Eagle on Grouse Mountain, which is designated a single black diamond but turns double-black in some sections where the grade hits 43 percent. Intermediates looking for a bit of a challenge should try C-Prime, a blue run in Rose Bowl, and beginners willing to push themselves can swoop down Lower Golden Eagle. "I don't recommend Upper Golden Eagle," she says. "But I've taken kids over to Lower, and they have a good time. It's a good spot if you're still learning but are feeling confident." Johnson adds that a lot of intermediates are drawn to Beaver Creek, so experts often find themselves completely alone on the double-black runs. "Until this past year, Beaver Creek was considered to be an intermediate mountain," she adds. "But now about 40 or 50 percent of it is advanced since they increased the terrain."

Johnson says that both intermediates and experts looking for powder stashes should check out Larkspur Bowl, which is not only good for stashes but for a stoked view, too. "Ride up Strawberry Park Express lift, get off to the left and ski toward Larkspur," Johnson says. "You'll see Beaver Creek Village and the whole front side of the mountain. And if the wind is blowing in the right direction, Larkspur gets some neat stashes," she adds. "We always say, 'On a powder day, ski Vail; ski Beaver Creek the day after,' mainly because it just doesn't get skied out, especially if you know where to go." Johnson names more powder-day places: the aforementioned Harrier, along with Buckboard and Moonshine.

Another locale that doesn't see a lot of action is the single-black bumper Screech Owl, Johnson says, and neither does Goshawk, a double black on Birds of Prey. But in all the time she's spent at Beaver Creek, no stash has come close to matching the one she found last year on Yarrow, in Larkspur Bowl. "I came blowing down and landed in a powder stash over my head," she recalls. "It's an open bowl with no trees, and the way the wind blew the powder in that day, it was just incredible. Of course, I came back again the next day."

After a couple of days like that, Johnson, who lives in Edwards, ten minutes away from the mountain, says she always stops in at Marco's Pizzeria (Edwards Plaza), an Italian place that does a "killer naked pizza with cheese and tomatoes and tons of basil." She also raves about their ravioli. And she enjoys the pizza at the Blue Moose (45 West Thomas Place) in Avon, too, along with its calzones and its prices. Another good value: the Mexican fare at Fiesta's (Edwards Plaza), where she usually gets the chiles rellenos and washes them down with their "top-notch" margaritas. And since Mexican is one of her favorite cuisines, she also recommends The Saloon (146 South Main) and its neighbor, Chilly Willy's (101 Main), both in Minturn. "Chilly's is more Tex-Mex," she notes. Also in Minturn is the Minturn Inn (442 Main), which Johnson considers to be a reasonably priced bed-and-breakfast. In Edwards she tells people to stay at the Lazy Ranch (57 Lake Creek Road), an old farmhouse with Victorian decor run by a husband-and-wife team. "It's not that expensive," Johnson says. "Plus, the woman's an incredible cook."

So are the folks at the Popcorn Wagon, according to Johnson. "It's this little red-and-yellow wooden stand at the base of the mountain. They make these great egg sandwiches that are cheap and delicious," she says. For lunch, the Golden Eagle (50 Promenade in Avon) is the burger spot, especially for the buffalo version, but when the sun starts to set, she contends that everyone goes to the Coyote Cafe (20 Promenade in Avon) for drinks. "It gets a real diverse crowd," she says.

"And then, when it's all over, you can always get on I-70 at Edwards," she says. "You'll totally avoid the traffic in Avon at the end of the day."

General information: 1-970-949-5750
Snow report: 1-970-476-4888
Location: 110 miles west of Denver via I-70 (exit 167).
Opening and closing dates: November 22 to April 13.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Terrain: 34% beginner, 39% intermediate, 27% advanced. 1,625 developed acres with a 3,340' vertical drop. Base: 8,100'; top: 11,440'; longest run: 2.75 miles.

Lifts: 5 high-speed quads, 4 triple chairs, 4 double chairs, 1 surface lift.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $52; child 12 and under full-day $35; senior (65-69) full-day $39. 70 and over ski free. Early-season prices available.

Lessons: Group and private lessons: Call 1-970-476-3239 for information.
Rentals: Call 1-800-525-2257 for information.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Stickline snowboard park. Lessons available.

Cross-country: Beaver Creek Cross-Country center has 32 km of groomed trails. Rentals and lessons available. Call 1-970-845-5313 for information.

Special events: Snowmobiling, ice skating, overnight hut ski trips, snowshoeing, dog sledding, hot-air ballooning, dinner sleigh rides.

Morgan LaFonte is extremely good at snowboarding.
The 29-year-old from Michigan started skiing at the age of eight, and she continued to do the two-stick thing even after she moved to Frisco in 1985 with the intention of going to college between ski seasons. "Then, in 1987, I tried snowboarding," she says. "And I was totally hooked." She was good enough at it to compete in extreme snowboarding contests and has worked as a snowboarding instructor, although now she makes most of her living from snowboarding in films and for sponsors' photo shoots. But that may change come the year 2000. "Half-pipe is going to be an event at the next Olympics, in Japan," LaFonte says. "And I want to be there."

In the meantime, she's happy to be at Breckenridge. She now lives in the town at the base of the mountain, and while she 'boards other mountains when the snow hits, Breckenridge is still her favorite. "It is way cool here," LaFonte says. "I love all the Peaks, and there's just so much snow and fun going on here. Lots of heavy stuff." In fact, LaFonte has a particular favorite on all of Breckenridge's Peaks. "On the back side of Peak 9 off the E Chair, there's Tom's Baby and Mind Shaft," she starts. "They're both steep bump runs. And on Peak 8, Chair 6, the one that's fun is Psychopath." She adds that it's a big gully run, and "when there's a lot of snow, it's just awesome."

Also on Peak 8, LaFonte feels lucky to have Horseshoe Bowl because of its steep wideness. Peak 9 has the racecourse to get up some cruise speeds, she says, and on Peak 10, the trees that make up The Burn are "widely spaced and excellent. Boy, is it a burn. Oh, my God."

For air, LaFonte reaches into the top of Psychopath. Or she heads for the "couple of rocks in Horseshoe Bowl that are fun to jump off." In general, though, she says there's not a lot of air to be had at Breckenridge. "Yeah, I'd take the hits off the top of Horseshoe, which is fun anyway, and then you get down to the bottleneck part where it gets steep and bumped up. That's a good ride." Also, she says, "there are a couple of hits at Saddleback on the south side of Peak 10." And anytime she wants to be alone on any of the Peaks, she makes for the trees. "I find that so few people want to take on the trees here," she says. "There are just so many untouched stashes in there."

You're guaranteed not to be alone Downstairs at Eric's (111 South Main), however. "It's one of my faves," LaFonte says. "They've got burgers and pizza, but they're really known for their pizza. And they've got like a hundred beers on tap." She says that another good burger can be had at the Breckenridge Brewery (600 South Main)--"good chicken wings, too, and a drink special every night." The place to go for breakfast after a night at the brewpub is the Blue Moose (540 South Main), right next door. "You see it in a drunken haze the night before while you're leaving the Brewery," LaFonte says. "The Moose has good egg burritos and good chiles, and they also do nice things with potatoes and eggs and vegetables."

More "super-good" Mexican food is available at Mi Casa (600 South Park Avenue). "Delicious and cheap," LaFonte says. Likewise a value is the Main Street Bistro (216 South Main), with its "super-simple menu on the wall," LaFonte says. "They offer five pastas and five sauces, a specialty bread and salad, and then they have a decent wine list. The entrees are under ten bucks, which is pretty good for a ski town." She mentions that Breckenridge actually felt like a real town when Jackson's Sushi House (318 North Main) came in. "Sushi!" she exclaims. "We were like, 'Whoa, we have sushi!' Everyone was so stoked, and it's really good sushi, too."

But nothing's as good as LaFonte's favorite dish in town, the eggs Benedict at The Horseshoe (115 South Main). "You will die when you try these," she says.

General information: 1-970-453-5000
Snow report: 1-970-453-6118
Location: 104 miles west of Denver via I-70 (exit 203). Colo. Hwy. 9 to Breckenridge.

Opening and closing dates: October 25 to late May.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 15% beginner, 19%

intermediate, 31% advanced, 35% expert. 2,031 developed acres with a 3,398' vertical drop. Base: 9,600'; top: 12,998'; longest run: 3.5 miles.

Lifts: 4 high-speed quads, 1 triple chair, 9 double chairs, 4 surface lifts.
Lift rates: Adult full-day TBA, 2 days $78; child (6-14) full-day TBA, 2 days $24; 5 and under/70 and over ski free.

Lessons: Adult full-day lesson with beginner lift ticket $54; full-day lesson with all-mountain lift ticket $83; children: full-day lesson, lunch and all-mountain lift ticket $64. Private lessons and special clinics available.

Rentals: Call 1-970-453-5000 for rental shop.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Half-pipe and terrain garden. Lessons available.
Cross-country: The Breckenridge Nordic Center has 50 km of groomed trails. Call 1-970-453-6855 for more information.

Special events: Ice skating, snow skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, sleigh rides, dog sledding, sledding; NASTAR races daily; Alpine World Cup, Nov. 24-30; Hot Air Balloon Festival, Nov. 27-30; Disabled Sports USA Ski Spectacular, Dec. 9-14; International Snow Sculpture Championships, Jan. 7-11; Ullr Festival, Jan. 20-26; Breckenridge World Cup Freestyle, Jan. 23-26; ; The Senior Games of the Summit, Feb. 2-4; The American Airlines Celebrity Ski, Mar. 7-9; Breckenridge Beach Daze, April 1-30.

When people ask Lorenzo Semple III what brought him to Aspen, he always answers, "My parents' green Volvo station wagon." Twenty years later the Volvo's gone, but Semple's still here. He was nine when his screenwriter father decided Aspen would be a better place for his family to grow up in than Los Angeles--and Semple says Father knew best. "I rode my bike to school, and I could walk around anywhere without my parents worrying that anything could happen to me," Semple says. "We were going to live here for a year, but it was too good to leave." And while Semple has been on all of Aspen's mountains, it was on Buttermilk that he first learned to ski--and it was to Buttermilk that he returned when he decided to learn how to snowboard last December during the first 'Boarderfest, when Buttermilk shut down to all but 'boarders in an attempt to attract newcomers to the sport.

It certainly worked on Semple. While he still intends to ski--and telemark and snowshoe--snowboarding has changed his life. "I was so anti-'boarding," says Semple, who has started his own company, Suit Yourself, the first operation to offer winter-sport clothing rentals in the Aspen area. "But so many of my friends were doing it, I was getting confused and feeling left out. And so then I went to the 'Boarderfest, and it was as if I'd had an out-of-body experience. It was almost spiritual."

And now he gets to relearn the mountain he calls "the Mothership" in a whole new way: on a 'board. "I'm definitely seeing Buttermilk in a refreshing light," he says. But his all-time favorite run hasn't changed. "It's Javelin, over on the Tiehack side," he says. "It's got a real nice, consistently steep pitch, and it's always groomed to perfection. Real nice rolling, and there's a couple of big lone trees kind of scattered on the run. And every time I'm on it, it seems like I'm by myself." Next to Javelin is another of his top picks, Racer's Edge, which he considers to be the toughest run on the mountain. "Depending on conditions, you never know what it's going to throw at you," Semple says. "It's unbelievable."

Semple feels the same way about a cruiser run he links together. "Start at Buckskin, which takes you from the top and runs into Magic Carpet. That takes you all the way down to the bottom of lower Tiehack." A few other cruises he likes: Red's Rover, over on West Buttermilk, Ridge Trail and Jacob's Ladder. "There's also a nice network of tree trails," Semple says. "Mr. Bill and Devil's Gut are both faves of mine." And he calls Bear Jump a classic. "There's a single aspen up there that is scarred with bear-claw marks," he says. "Stop there and take the Bear Jump from there. If you start way higher up from there, you can do some great tricks, 'cause there's always lots of deep, deep snow." Semple says the deepest snow and secret powder stashes, however, are to be found in Timberdoodle Glade. "It's one of those glades where, if you fall in, we will never find you."

It's not hard to find what Semple says is the best-selling sandwich shop around. Called Johnny McGuire's (730 East Cooper Avenue), this deli is an old VW Bug with a pickle on top. "It's pretty popular with the younger crowd," Semple says. He adds that everyone thinks the Hickory House (730 West Main) smokes, with its casual, truck-stop atmosphere, and ditto for the Main Street Bakery (01 East Main). "You can hardly get in the door, it's always so crowded at Main Street," he says. He thinks he probably eats most often, though, at Takah Sushi (420 East Hyman Avenue). "The owner is the hostess," he says, "and she is just the most beautiful person, really warm and friendly. And it's great to see the sushi chefs out skiing on the mountain all the time." For Italian, he loves the early specials at the Italian Caviar--"Heavy on the garlic," he adds--and in the space above it, the Tippler (535 Dean) is a must for Tuesday-night disco. "It's one of the things you just can't miss," he says. Also at night, the Flying Dog Brewpub (424 East Cooper Avenue) is a good bet to find locals, but he personally prefers the more sophisticated scene in the bar at the Hotel Jerome (330 East Main). "I guess I'm getting old," he sighs.

When he does stay out late, the Popcorn Wagon is the after-hours site. "They have awesome spinach crepes and these fried pita-bread things filled with vegetables," Semple says. "And they've got a killer chili dog and a flaming chocolate crepe. And, as you can imagine, there's a pretty raucous crowd."

General information: 1-800-525-6200 or
Snow report: 1-970-925-1221
Location: 218 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.
Opening and closing dates: December 14 to April 6.
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Terrain: 35% beginner, 39% intermediate, 26% advanced. 2,030' vertical drop. Base: 7,870'; top: 9,900'; longest run: 3 miles.

Lifts: 1 high-speed quad, 5 double chairs, 1 handle tow.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $56; age 18-27 full-day $39; child under 18 full-day $33. Early-season prices available.

Lessons: Call 1-800-525-6200 or 1-303-262-7736 for information.
Rentals: Buttermilk Sports at base of mountain.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Half-pipe and snowboard park. Lessons and rentals available.

Cross-country: Call 1-970-925-1220 for information.
Special events: 'Boarderfest, Dec. 14-15.

Copper Mountain Resort
Shawna Martin credits her boyfriend, Seth Lawrence, with making it possible for her to ski at Copper for the past three years--Lawrence's parents live in Frisco, and when the snow starts coming down, Martin goes to live with the Lawrences for a few months. "Seth stays in Denver, where we have this groovy apartment," Martin says. "He drives up on the weekends, and it's great." Martin is a housepainter, so she works only during the warmer months. "When I'm working, though, I'm really working," she says. "I put in fourteen-hour days, and I only take a day off every few weeks. I just schedule the jobs back-to-back."

The work pays off in more ways than one, however: The grueling task of painting houses inside and out puts her in powerful shape to ski Copper nearly every day during the season. And she says she needs extra energy to take on the trees in Spaulding Bowl. "When there's fresh powder," Martin says, "that area is stashed-out. In all those tight trees you get pockets of fluffy stuff, especially at the top of Spaulding Glades, where the wind will push it in." She adds that you can get into some good trees to skier's left of Far East, where she likes the workout on this black diamond that she says is best early in the season, and she also relishes popping into 17 Glade, off Collage.

When she really wants to knock herself out, though, she heads to the Upper Enchanted Forest. "Steep, steep, steep," she says. "A little bit of everything--trees, a couple of rocks if you want to head down Looking Glass and dump into Coppertone, which I recommend, because Coppertone's a green, and you'll need it. The Forest will take your breath away." To catch her breath again, she heads to the top of Union Peak and admires the view for a while. "I never get sick of that," Martin says. "There's just no excuse for not checking that out." Particularly, she says, because then you can swing over to Iron Mask, with its short-but-sweet steep on top and wide-open section. "Iron Mask and Lalla Rookn, which is just a little farther over from Mask, get so few skiers because they're treks from the lift," she adds. "Most people drop in much sooner, 'cause they get so excited about the steeps, especially when they have to take that twelve-minute hike off "S" Lift."

Since Martin stays in such good shape, she tries to be careful about what she eats. "I guess you could say I'm kind of a health nut," she says. "But I'm not a vegetarian or anything like that." To prove it, she offers that her very favorite place to eat is at the Moose Jaw (208 Main Street) in Frisco. "God, the burgers there are too good," she says. "Really juicy, and their buns are good, too, which is important." She adds that the Moose is also where she and her friends usually hang out. "Seth's parents, they go to Frisco's Bar and Grill [720 Granite Street] all the time." She says his parents also like Kokomos, at the base of the mountain, for apres-ski, but she thinks that "even with the drink specials, it's too expensive." Instead, she heads to Ge-Jo's (409 Main Street) to get a beer and some free food during happy hour.

Earlier in the day, Martin says she'll most likely have stopped at the Butterhorn Bakery (408 North Main Street) for one of their "killer cheese pastries" and an "energizingly good" cup of coffee. For lunch when she's not on the mountain all day, she heads back to Ge-Jo's for pizza or to the Log Cabin (121 Main Street). And on the mountain, Martin claims the B Lift Pub has "hefty" sandwiches and that it's a haven for the locals. "No question," she says. "It's thick with ski bums, so I fit right in. Although I think of myself as more of a ski bum without the 'bum' part."

General information: 1-970-968-2882 or 1-800-458-8386
Snow report: 1-970-968-2100 or 1-800-789-7609
Location: 75 miles west of Denver via I-70 at exit 195.
Opening and closing dates: Mid-November to late April.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Terrain: 20% beginner, 24% intermediate, 32% advanced, 24% expert. 2,433 skiable acres with a 2,601' vertical drop. Base: 9,712'; top: 12,313'; longest run: 2.8 miles.

Lifts: 3 high-speed quads, 6 triple chairs, 8 double chairs, 4 surface lifts.

Lift rates: Adult full-day $45; child (6-14) full-day $19; senior (60-69) full-day $28; 5 and under/70 and over ski free.

Lessons: Group lessons $41/person. Half-day private lessons $155/person.
Rentals: Novice complete recreational package: Adult $18; child $15. High-performance skis and snowboard equipment available for $29.

Snowboarding: Welcome. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: 25 km of groomed trails. Trail fee $10. Call 1-970-968-2882 for information. Lessons and rentals available.

Special events: Racing clinics, snowboard camps, telemark clinics, skating and classical Nordic instruction, backcountry hut trips, ice skating, Dining in the Woods, sleigh rides, NASTAR races daily; Snowboard Series, Dec. 21, Jan. 4, 18, Feb. 1, 8, 22; Christmas Eve Torchlight parade/fireworks, Dec. 24; New Year's Eve Fireworks/Party/Dance, Dec. 31; two-day Telemark Race Camp and women's skiing seminar, Jan. 11-12; Eat, Ski, and Be Merry, Feb. 15; International Masters Criterium, Feb. 22-25; one-day telemark clinic, Mar. 1; Colorado Special Olympics, Mar. 2-4; ; John Elway Celebrity Ski Race, Apr. 4-6.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort
Right after Janet Antram tried snowboarding for the first time, she gave away all of her ski equipment. "I'd been skiing since I was eight," the 22-year-old Antram says. "But then, during the 1987-88 season, I got on a snowboard and never looked back--and I knew I wanted to put in some heavy time on one." To make it happen, the South Burlington, Vermont, native looked at one major criterion when she went to pick a college: its proximity to a ski area. "Basically, I just took a list of colleges and a map and located the schools that were close to a mountain," she says. And that's how she wound up in Gunnison, attending Western College thirty miles south of Crested Butte. "Officially, I'm majoring in European history and environmental science," says Antram, who works as a promoter for Aggression Snowboards. "But you and I both know I'm on that mountain every chance I get."

And when that happens, one of the runs she rarely misses is Head Wall. "It's a great black diamond, really steep and in the trees, but you can hit it from one of the lower lifts." She explains that when there's a blizzard on Crested Butte, the upper areas are inaccessible. "So it helps to know what the good lower parts are," she says. In good weather, Antram thinks International speaks her language, but only when it's groomed. "They groom it for races, so those are the days to drop in there," she says. "Right before and after the races. It's a smooth cruiser, but when it's not groomed, it can sometimes get bumpy." Another run worth stepping into: Staircase. "There's a certain part on Staircase where it gets all steep and you're sort of in a gully with rocks on each side. But be aware--it's the only way down once you're in it." To get in it, she says, "take the North Face Lift up and hike to Spellbound. Then ski Spellbound or High Life, and then traverse skier's left from Spellbound and get up on the next ridge. Go down through the trees from there--it's really fun." She adds that when you're standing at the top of Spellbound, you can see a bunch of bowls you can get trapped into. "It's real pretty, too," she says. "Actually, the view from there is pretty insane. Enjoy the moment of relaxation before you drop in, because from then on, it gets pretty hairball."

To Antram, the best hairy rides are found on the following: Slot Rock, Sock It to Me, Dead End Chutes and, a name favorite, Body Bag Glades. "You can just drop off into the cliffs on those," she says. For more air, she finds the Paradise cruisers and jumps off the 'Cat tracks there. "There are a lot of 'Cat tracks near Twister Lift, too," she adds. "Good bumps, and it's on the front side of the mountain, so it stays open during a blizzard."

Antram, an extreme snowboarder, rarely lets a little snow stop her. "To get really radical in some serious trees, I'd go to Head Wall," she says. "Take the T-Bar Extreme Lift that goes almost all the way to the top of the peak, and get off mid-way. There are some big chutes there--the Figure 11 chutes that got their name because they're straight and parallel to each other." Then there's Big Chute, which is more open. "I'd call it tree skiing," Antram says. "It's not quite like a trail." To get information on the little-known extreme areas of Crested Butte, Antram relies on a booklet called the Extreme Limits Ski Guide. "You can get it at ski shops here," she says. "It has photos and names of chutes, stuff that isn't on the resort trail map. Some locals did it way back when." For more tame rides, Antram names Keystone, both the run of that name and the area of the Keystone Lift, where she says things are more intermediate to expert. "They usually keep upper Keystone groomed," she says. "And intermediates will like the trail under Paradise called Canaan. It's a cruiser where you can get big air if you go fast enough." And beginning 'boarders should head to Teocalli, she says, for an introduction into what Crested Butte has to offer.

For an introduction into the dining scene in the town of Crested Butte, Antram delivers this caveat: "I'm a vegetarian," she says. "So I'm going to give you a totally different view." In her mind, the best that the area has to offer is the Backcountry Gourmet (435 Sixth). "There's a beautiful bar, and the food is kind of pricey but really good," she says. "You can go in with a couple of friends and share two or three apps and a salad, and you'll be fine." She adds that the Backcountry serves an international menu heavy on curries and pastas. She says hungry 'boarders looking for cheap Mexican usually go to Donita's (332 Elk Avenue), which she says is "okay, but greasy," adding that "better margaritas can be had at the Power House (130 Elk Avenue), a cool hangout that used to be a generator building." And, she notes, the Idle Spur (226 Elk Avenue) "sometimes has good bands."

In the early hours, Antram says the cheapest breakfast comes from the Bakery Cafe (302 Elk Avenue). "They do an excellent onion cheese roll," she says. Her other morning pick: the Paradise Cafe (307 Elk Avenue). "I only go there when I'm really hungry," she adds. "And you have to get there early, because it gets packed. It's great for carbo-loading, though--the Paradise skillet is the thing to order, with potatoes and mushrooms and cheese, and you can get salsa on it, too, and eggs if you want 'em.

"But really, I mostly hit the grocery store for cheap food. Listen, Gunnison is only thirty minutes away," she says. "There you can find your Wal-Mart and way cheaper groceries than you're ever going to find in Crested Butte."

General information: 1-800-544-8448
Snow report: 1-970-349-2323
Location: 230 miles southwest of Denver via U.S. Hwy. 285, U.S. Hwy. 50 and Colo. Hwy. 135.

Opening and closing dates: November 27 to April 20.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 24% beginner, 57% intermediate, 19% advanced. 2,775' vertical drop. Base: 9,100'; top: 11,875'; longest run: 2.6 miles. Additional 550 ungroomed acres for experts.

Lifts: 2 high-speed quads, 3 triple chairs, 4 double chairs, 4 surface lifts.

Lift rates: Adult full-day $44, half-day $32; senior (65-69) half off at-window price; children 12 and under pay their age per day.

Lessons: Group lessons: 2 hours $35.
Private lessons: 90 minutes $80. Snowboard lessons: $35.
Rentals: Adult recreational $13; child $9. Snowboard package $21. Call 1-970-349-2241 for more information.

Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboarding terrain park. Lessons and rentals available.

Cross-country: Crested Butte Nordic Center has 20 km of groomed trails. Call 1-970-349-1707 for information.

Special events: Snow skating, racing clinics, North Face guided tours and mountain tours; free lift tickets, Nov. 27-Dec. 21; Christmas Celebration, Dec. 24; New Year's Eve Celebration, Dec. 31; 3rd Annual U.S. Extreme Snowboarding Championships; 6th Annual U.S. Extreme Skiing Championships.

Cuchara Ski Valley
Laurie McIlvaine loves being one in a thousand. That's the estimated population of La Veta, the tiny town near Cuchara Ski Valley that captured McIlvaine's heart in 1989. "I went to college in Albuquerque," says McIlvaine, who started skiing in Taos twenty years ago at the age of eighteen. "And since my dad's a pilot, I've been everywhere. But I came here one summer to visit and just fell in love with the small-town atmosphere.

"It's a bonus to me that there's a mountain just down the road," she adds.
She fell in love with the mountain, too, though, and became an EMT and a patroller after years of working as a waitress and restaurateur didn't make it easy enough for her to ski as much as she wanted to. But those jobs were nothing compared to teaching. "I couldn't believe how little money I made doing that," she says. "It was so stressful, and you spend all your free time grading papers."

Now the only grading she does is on the steeps of Cuchara. "It's fairly steep from the top to the bottom," she says. "That's what keeps me excited about it." And the most thrilling ride on the mountain to her is Grandote. "It's the best cruiser, by far: very wide, goes all the way to the bottom, perfect for intermediates. They essentially have no obstacles except for each other," she says, adding that Cuchara is one of those mountains where all the runs funnel together at the base. Diablo, though, veers off to the east a bit, which makes it another of McIlvaine's top picks. "It's fairly straight and thin, and there's one area of trees across the middle," she says. "When it gets snow, it holds it well." And two other good bump runs are Christmas and New York, which McIlvaine says don't see as many people as they need to in order to get real bumped out, but which will "do just fine anyway."

"The most popular run is Grandote, and Rattlesnake is another one, because it's a solid intermediate," McIlvaine says. "Rattlesnake isn't easy to find, though; you have to look hard for the sign that cuts off of Grandote." And it's hard to see the Burnout run for the trees, which are so thick that "we've actually had trees cut to get in there," she says, adding that Burnout is a "kind of luge run that's never groomed--there's no way you could get a Sno-Cat in there." The other top trees are in The Burn, an area that was burned down about eighteen years ago but bounced back nicely. "Evergreens came right back up, and there's a funnel at the top with a few trees, but the whole bottom is all through the trees." The Burn also has an incredible view that McIlvaine tries to get everybody to check out. "I'm always taking my friends up there," she says. "You can see out to Pueblo, and we've gone up there and spent half the day watching herds of elk on the peaks across the way from the ski-patrol hut."

Pueblo is an hour from Cuchara Ski Valley, and so is Trinidad and Alamosa Springs. But McIlvaine thinks most of the skiers at Cuchara come from Colorado Springs. "There's no pass they have to navigate," she points out. La Veta is the next closest town besides Cuchara itself, and it's in La Veta that McIlvaine's current favorite restaurant is located. Called Legends Park (902 South Oak), this new restaurant is run by two women who teach culinary classes by day, then serve dinner each night. "The classes are great," says McIlvaine. "The women really know what they're doing, and I learned all these neat little hints from them. You can just pop in and take a class. And the dinners are by reservation only--each night they offer one chicken dish and one beef dish or something--and they only buy enough food to feed the people they have that night. And the food is incredible." The other La Veta establishment she frequents is the La Veta Inn (103 West Ryus Avenue), mostly for breakfast. "I had the yummy apple pancakes the other day," she says. "And the rooms there are nice and reasonably priced, too."

When she's in Cuchara, McIlvaine eats from the Silver Spoon (16984 Highway 12). "They do this excellent blue-cheese-sauced chicken," she says. Also in Cuchara is The Timbers (23 Cucharas Avenue), which "isn't as expensive as the Spoon but does really good prime rib on the weekends." The locals' hangout in town is the Boardwalk Saloon (34 Cuchara Road), which isn't known by that name. "It's the infamous 'Dog Bar,'" McIlvaine says. "It's hilarious. The owners have this fabulous Saint Bernard, and people are allowed to bring their dogs, which they do. And there are always all these brawls--but it's the dogs that are fighting, not the people."

Unfortunately, McIlvaine may have to do her skiing elsewhere this season. As of early November, Cuchara was still looking for a new owner. And until a buyer is found, the resort will remain closed.

General information: 1-719-742-3163 or 1-800-227-4436
Snow report: 1-719-742-3163
Location: 186 miles south of Denver via I-25, U.S. Hwy. 160 west and Colo. Hwy. 12.

Opening and closing dates: Still to be determined. Call for information.

Eldora Mountain Resort
Stevie Johns says he has the perfect life. "Man, I live in Boulder," he says, pausing for dramatic effect. "Well, I used to live in Jersey, see?" Specifically, Johns lived just outside of Newark, where his dad still works at the airport. "I haven't gotten the old man out here," Johns says. "I'm afraid he's gonna want to move in with me." There's really nowhere for his dad to sleep, however, since the second-year University of Colorado student shares a townhouse with "about fifty people, give or take a dozen." And while Johns hasn't chosen a major yet, he's not too worried about it, because he's thinking about taking a year off, anyway. "I want to ride at all the mountains that allow 'boards, man," he says. "Hey, has anyone done that yet?"

Until then, Johns intends to hone his skills at Eldora, where he's about to see his third season. "I came out here to check the area out, 'cause I have friends here," Johns explains. "They took me up there, and we rode, I tell you. I'd never been on a 'board or skis or nothing, but I found that I've got a natural talent." Now he thinks he's ready to tackle other mountains, especially because he believes Eldora is getting maxed out. "First of all, the wind up there will kill you," he says. "It's like, if you make it down on one of those brutal days, God loves you, man." He adds that there's not much that hasn't been found out, either. "You're lookin' for some secrets, and this mountain just isn't big enough to hide anything."

He does, however, grudgingly admit that there are stashes to be found. "Okay, go to Easyway and get way in there," he says. "Or Salto Glades, because a lot of people are wary of those trees. Some people just don't know how to handle them, so keep your eyes peeled for bodies. Hey, but they make good jumps, especially the bigger dudes." More air can be found at Moose Glades, with its big rocks. And Mule Shoe fits when Johns is looking for a quiet place to work on his tricks where no one's watching. "I love Corona bowl, too," Johns says. "It's way steep and way nasty."

Johns isn't quite as complimentary about the food to be found in Nederland, the closest town to the mountain at fourteen miles away. "I just make the trip back to Boulder," he says. "There you can find the greatest of everything, and it's only like a half-hour, forty minutes at the most, even in crappy weather." Once back in Boulder, Johns makes his way to the Daily Bread Bakery and Cafe (1738 Pearl Street). "You will not find more righteous breads in the world," says Johns. "And they make sandwiches you have to use a shoehorn to fit in your mouth." He also worships the Falafel King (1314 Pearl Street Mall) for--you guessed it--the falafel sandwiches, and he pops into Caffe Antica Roma (1308 Pearl Street Mall) for pizza and an espresso. "Their 'za is just too much," Johns says.

General information: 1-303-440-8700 or 1-888-2-ELDORA
Snow report: 1-303-440-8700
Location: 45 miles northwest of Denver via I-25, Colo. Hwy. 36 west and Colo. Hwy. 119.

2 miles west of Boulder.
Opening and closing dates: November 1 to mid-April.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Terrain: 20% beginner, 55% intermediate, 25% advanced. 1,400' vertical drop. Base: 9,200'; top: 10,600'; longest run: 2 miles.

Lifts: 1 triple chair, 5 double chairs, 3 surface lifts.
Lift rates: Adult full-day TBA, half-day $26; senior (65-69) $16; child (7-12) $16; 6 and under/70 and over ski free.

Lessons: Group lessons $30 for 3 hours. Private and snowboard lessons available. Beginner package: 3-hour lesson, full-day lift ticket, and rental $44. Shaped ski workshop: 3-hour lesson, lift ticket, and shaped ski rental $54.

Rentals: Adult full-day $17; child full-day $11. Snowboards: adult $28; child $22.

Snowboarding: Welcome. Lessons and rentals available. "Da Boneyard" snowboard park.

Cross-country: Eldora Nordic Center has 45 km of groomed and backcountry trails. Trail fee $10. For information call 1-303-440-8700.

Special events: ESRP Jim Carlock Memorial, Dec. 15; Special Olympics Northern Colorado, Jan. 27; Jimmie Huega MS Fund Raiser Race, Feb. 2; CU FIS Invitational Ski Races, Feb. 7-8; Sprite Snowboard Series, Feb. 9; Women's World Pro Tour, Mar. 1-2; Eldora Skiesta, Apr. 5.

Keystone Resort
For Altoona, Pennsylvania, native Jeannie Koury, skiing even the most extreme areas of Keystone as a part-time ski patroller is nothing compared to her former occupation. "I taught junior high," she says, the pain in her voice clear even over the phone. "Well, it had its good moments, but really, the best thing I can say good about it is that I met my husband because of it." Koury's husband is the son of a woman who ran the ski club at the school in Pennsylvania where Koury taught. "I was planning to move to Vermont," says Koury, who started skiing Blue Knob when she was twelve. "But her son said I should come out to Keystone, where he was teaching at the ski school, and check it out. Well, then we fell in love, and I fell in love with Keystone, too."

Two kids later, Koury and her husband, Randy, think Keystone is the best family mountain around. "There's just so much for the whole family, and it's so easy to get around," Koury says. "There are a lot of runs I can send my four-year-old, Alex, on with complete confidence." One such run is Spring Dipper, a long one on the original Keystone mountain that Koury says is long, "starts out flat, gets steep, and goes back and forth." She adds, "It's not extremely easy, I'd say a blue-green, but there's a lot of variety and challenge on it." And for an easygoing cruiser, Koury suggests Frenchman. "It's a challenging blue run, well-groomed for skiers who don't like to be thrown into bumps. Nice rolling pitches, and it's got some flats to catch your breath," she says.

Those looking for more of a fight should hit "The Hoot," as it's known locally. "It's really the Last Hoot," Koury says. "It's on Keystone, too, and it's a short run, but worth it. The face of the Hoot is really tough." Her favorite challenge, however, is Powder Cap, which she calls a well-kept secret. "It's a bump run on North Peak," she says. "You have to take two runs to get there, and most people ski right by it. So not many people drop in, and it gets these bumps that always seem to be perfect. They have a nice consistency, a good pitch. By the end of the run, your legs are burning, but it hurts so good."

Also on North Peak is Koury's selection for best trees: the Glades. "I'm not real big on tree skiing, but you can get in there and still get out if you want to," she says. "If you go in farther, you'll find plenty of powder stashed away." And she doesn't think too many people are aware of Mineshaft, a blue run skiers can drop into on Keystone. "It's a more difficult bump run," she explains. She adds that intermediates feeling brave can give Go Devil a try without too many other eyes catching any mistakes they make. "The upper half's a mogul field," she says. "Or you can just take the last half where the pitch isn't as steep. But the snow's always good, because most people seem to drop into the run that goes off Go Devil. If you're into bumps, you'll definitely want to torture your legs on the upper part."

When she feels like pampering her legs, or if she wants to treat a girlfriend to a special lunch, Koury says she eats lunch at The Stube, located on the Outback portion of Keystone. "You have to eat lunch there, because it's way too expensive for dinner on my budget," she says. "But at lunch they have slippers for you to put on after you take off your ski boots, and they just treat you wonderfully. It's such a treat. And if you want to meet someone there who doesn't ski, they can take the gondola." Off the mountain, Ristorante Al Lago (240 Lake Dillon Drive) in Dillon is one of her top choices for dinner. In Silverthorne, she likes the Sunshine Cafe (Summit Shopping Place) for "huge breakfasts that are a good value for a family" and first-rate burgers, especially the "Alfred Packer." And the owners of her pick for Chinese, China Cafe (U.S. Highway 6 South) in Keystone, just opened a second location in Silverthorne called China Gourmet (102 Annie Road). "It's the best Chinese anywhere," Koury says. And while families make up a large percentage of the clientele at Pug Ryan's (104 Village Place), Koury thinks the prime-rib purveyor has started to attract a younger crowd as well, notably during happy hour.

Another local watering hole is The Pub Down Under, a "comfy" spot below the Arapahoe Cafe (626 Dillon Lake Drive), which Koury says serves basic American food, "like the Sunshine." For Italian, she likes Antonia's (817 U.S. Highway 6) in Dillon, and it's to either Frisco or Silverthorne that she heads for pizza at Matteo's (106 Third Avenue in Frisco; 122 West Tenth in Silverthorne).

"For families, though, that don't want to hike around to one of the towns, I'd have to say Soup's On, at the top of the mountain, is exceptionally well-priced," Koury says. "I can tell you from firsthand experience that the kids love it, and everyone gets a good, filling meal."

General information: 1-800-468-5004 or 1-970-496-4242
Snow report: 1-970-468-4111
Location: 90 miles west of Denver via I-70 to exit 205 at Dillon, 6 miles east on Hwy. 6 to Keystone.

Opening and closing dates: October 21 to early May.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Night skiing beginning November 18 until 9 p.m.
Terrain: 13% beginner, 36% intermediate, 51% advanced. 1,749 skiable acres with a 2,900' vertical drop. Base: 9,300'; top: 12,200'; longest run: 3 miles.

Lifts: 2 high-speed gondolas, 3 high-speed quads, 1 quad chair, 3 triple chairs, 6 double chairs, 5 surface lifts.

Lift rates: Adult full-day TBA, 2 days $78; child (6-14) full-day TBA, 2 days $24; 5 and under/70 and over ski free.

Lessons: Group lesson $36 for 2.5 hours. Lesson with beginner lift ticket $45; lesson with all-mountain ticket $74. Private lessons $75/hour. Call 1-800-258-9553 for more information.

Rentals: Adult full-day $17; child full-day $11.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Keystone Nordic Center. Call 1-970-496-4275 or 1-800-238-9553 for more information.

Special events: Kid's Snowboard Camp, Nov. 28-30; Women's Skiing Seminar, Dec. 14-16; Cross Country Full-Moon Tour, Dec. 23; MCI Downhill Relays, Jan. 31-Feb. 1; Chevrolet Ski Carnival, Feb. 7-9; U.S. Women's Pro Ski Tour, Mar. 29-30.

Loveland Ski Areas
A lot of people make sacrifices for their mountain of choice, but Pip Baehler probably beats most of them. "I lost my car in an avalanche," Baehler says, without a trace of regret. "Hey, it's just a car."

And it's not as if he didn't know it could happen. Baehler is assistant director of the ski patrol in Loveland--he's been on patrol there for thirteen years--and he and some other patrollers were blasting an area last season that had started to look dangerous. "We were trying to get it to settle down in there," he recalls. "This was clear out-of-bounds, but it was above a spot where people like to cut the ropes. It was going to come down one way or another, so our intention was to control it. Yeah, right. All of a sudden there was this powder cloud, and it was obvious the thing was way bigger than we intended. My car was parked in the lot way below, but I looked at this other guy standing with me and I said, 'I'll bet you that just totaled my car.'" Sure enough, Baehler says that when the air cleared and they reached his Honda Civic, it was exactly two feet tall. "Talk about your lowrider," he says, laughing.

The good news is that the avalanche that killed Baehler's car opened a whole new area of skiing off Avalanche Bowl for Loveland. "There were 250-year-old trees in there," he says. "Thousands of trees got taken out by the avalanche, but what was left there had never been seen before. It's incredible." Loveland is opening the new terrain this year as Over the Rainbow, a nice birthday present as the resort celebrates its sixtieth year. Meanwhile, the 35-year-old Baehler, who grew up in Georgetown, plans to keep his eyes on it. "I think the stuff in there is going to become my new favorite," he says. "There are four different pitch changes, with a rolling sensation, and depending how the snow lays, there'll be a few faces. My perspective, from standing above this thing after the avalanche, is that there will be some great tree shots and some good glade skiing."

Until he can get in there, though, he'll keep hitting the ones he's been skiing for years. Busy Gully is one of those. "It's kind of like a giant half-pipe," Baehler says. "Good roller-coaster turns, and you can go high-speed and carve out big turns." For trees, he always checks out the East Ropes--"You don't have a designated route down," he says. "You just keep diving into the next opening"--along with the horseshoe area between Cat's Meow and Nix Nox. His bump choices are not as clear-cut, however. "My opinion of bumps is that they need to be flat," he says. "There's this huge rivalry up here between the locals and the other skiers, because there's people that like them flat and there's people that aren't carving turns, they're slapping holes." He adds that when the locals do get in there and flatten out the bumps, "you're looking at making eight or ten turns in a thousand vertical feet--you're going very fast. It's life on the edge." When he wants to live it that way, he heads to the aforementioned Busy Gully, or he grabs Tiger's Tail or Avalanche Bowl.

But when he's looking for something untracked, Baehler slips into The Tickler. "It's between No. 4 Lift and No. 5 Lift," he explains. "You hike about ten or fifteen minutes, and you get a big reward. It could have snowed three days ago, but it'll still have powder on it, because it's on a ridgeline where the wind blows constantly." A few of Baehler's other favorite runs are: Fire Cut, Drifter and Keno. And while he's not a snowboarder himself, being on ski patrol means he knows what the 'boarders want. "The natural stuff they seem to enjoy is Creek Trail, off No. 2 Lift in the South Chutes area," he says. "And a lot of them find good stuff off the No. 8 Lift."

Skiers and 'boarders alike are bringing the Red Ram (606 Sixth) back to life in Georgetown. "It was a lot more fun years ago," Baehler says. "I used to be a busboy there, and it was a wild and crazy place. Then some other people bought it and tried to go the family route, but some new folks bought it a year ago, and they're getting it going again. It's got music and good, cheap drinks." He adds that he relishes their burger, although his favorite is the half-pounder at The Plume Saloon & Restaurant (776 Main Street) in Silver Plume, where he lives. "Plume is great," he says. "There are 200 residents and 150 dogs. This place is full of crazy people." He's crazy about the Plume's wings, too, which they offer on special, and he's nuts about the food at the KP Cafe (429 Main Street). "You're gonna get full there, that's for sure," he says. "They've got great Mexican, burritos, black beans." Another ethnic cuisine available is, unbelievably, Czechoslovakian, at The Renaissance (1025 Rose). And for breakfast, Baehler is pleased with The Happy Cooker (412 Sixth). "Hey, great name," he says. "And they've got beautiful Belgian waffles."

General information: 1-303-569-3203, 1-800-736-3SKI or 1-303-571-5580
Snow report: 1-303-569-3203
Location: 56 miles west of Denver on I-70, exit 216, 12 miles east of Summit County.

Opening and closing dates: Mid-October to mid-May.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays; 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends.
Terrain: 22% beginner, 55% intermediate, 23% advanced. 836 skiable acres with a 1,680' vertical drop. Base: 10,600'; top: 12,280'; longest run: 1.5 miles. Additional 550 ungroomed acres for experts.

Lifts: 2 quad chairs, 2 triple chairs, 4 double chairs, 1 Poma lift, 1 Mighty Mite.

Lift rates: Adult full-day $33, half-day $25; senior (60-69) $23; child (6-12) $15. Early/late season prices available.

Lessons: Group lessons: 2.5 hours with a lift ticket and rental $46; children (3-12) 5-hour lesson with lunch, lift ticket and rental $52. Snowboard: 2.5-hour lesson with all-area lift ticket and rental $55. For more information call 1-800-736-3754.

Rentals: Adult $14; child $10. Snowboard and boots $23.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboard park. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Call 1-970-569-3202 for information.

Special events: Ski Expo, Nov. 7-10; Friday the 13th Fox Promo, Dec. 13; KTCL Sam Adams Race, Dec. 14; Ski KBCO Weekend, Jan. 11-12; KTCL 4th Annual

Basket Balls Finals, Jan. 25; Dannon WinterFest, Feb. 1; Subaru Weekend, Mar. 22-23; The Loveland Derby, Apr. 19-20; 2nd Annual Snowboard Derby, Apr. 20.

Monarch Ski and Snowboard Area
Tim Wyatt thinks Monarch is serious about snowboarders. "Well, first of all, they changed their name this year to 'Ski and Snowboard Area,'" he says. "I think that's the first resort to embrace 'boarding in such a positive way." And second of all, he points to himself. "I'm director of the ski patrol," he says. "And now and then I ride a 'board in uniform." Wyatt, 38, adds that snowboarders definitely like to see one of their own kind on patrol. "I started skiing when I was four," says Wyatt, who was born and raised in Canon City. "But once I got past those first few days of snowboarding, I was hooked."

Wyatt says most snowboarders at Monarch seem to head to the Garfield Lift. "There are a lot of wide trees there," he says. And he adds that 'boarders and skiers alike love Monarch's Great Divide Sno-Cat Tours. "I'm not just trying to plug them for the resort or anything," Wyatt says. "There's 900 acres of steeps and glades and great cornice-jumping that hopefully will all one day be served by a lift. But for now, they only take twelve people in there at a time, so you've got all that stuff to yourselves."

On the lift-served parts of the mountain, Wyatt offers up Kanonen as the run nearest and dearest to his heart. "It's got a consistent fall line all the way down, there's not as much traffic on it, and there are always nice little stashes," he says. For cruising, he loves "bombing down Little Mo," the run where Monarch holds it GS races, and thinks the best bumps are visible on Mirage. "Mirage is wide, and it seems to get the most consistent lines down through it," Wyatt says. He adds that Frazzle is similar.

Wyatt says the most famous run at Monarch is called Gunbarrel, which he says used to be served by a rope tow. "It's one of the oldest runs in Colorado," he says. "My dad used to ski it when you brought gas for the rope-tow motor, and that was your lift ticket." Things have changed quite a bit, as Monarch gets ready to put a half-pipe in for 'boarders. "We also have great trees here for the snowboarders," Wyatt says. "Places like Toddler and Tango, the trees off there are excellent. You can bomb through those trees without getting bottlenecked." He also declares Curecanti cornice as another popular shredder zone. "I don't know why they love to go at it, but they do," he says.

The tired, thirsty and hungry go at the Yukon Tavern at the Monarch General Store (22455 South Highway 50) in Garfield, which is three miles from the mountain. "The ex-patrol director bought this place and made it into a great hangout," says Wyatt. "There's a deli, where you can get cheap sandwiches, and good Mexican food off a steamer table." Farther down the road in Salida, which is 25 minutes from the mountain, Il Vicino's (136 East Second Street) brewpub serves "delicious wood-fired pizzas and great calzones, and the salads are even good." Wyatt also gets a kick out of the Laughing Ladies (128 West First), where he orders the "really good hummus and pasta with a twist." No good burgers, he says--"I wish there were"--but "Gourmet Chef [710 Milford] out on the highway stir-fries some mean Chinese." And while first thing in the morning he's inclined to stop at the First Street Cafe (137 East First) for apple cake and huevos, the last place he often sees is The Victoria Tavern (143 North F Street). "It's been there since the Twenties," Wyatt says. "They have a band every weekend, and during the winter there's no cover if you have a lift ticket from Monarch."

General information: 1-719-539-2581, 1-719-539-3573, or 1-888-996-SNOW
Snow report: 1-800-228-7943
Location: 175 miles southwest of Denver via U.S. Hwy. 285 to U.S. Hwy. 50 on Monarch Pass.

Opening and closing dates: November 23 to April 6.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 21% beginner, 37% intermediate, 42% advanced. 670 developed acres with a 1,160' vertical drop. Base: 10,790'; top: 11,950'; longest run: 2 miles.

Lifts: 4 double chairs.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $31; child (7-12) full-day $18; seniors (62-69) $18.

Lessons: Adult group lessons: 4 hours $37, 2 hours $25. Private lessons $42/hour. Beginner package: 2-hour lesson, full-day lift ticket and rental $43; child group lesson: lift ticket, lunch, 4-hour lesson and rental $65. For information call 1-719-539-3573 or 1-888-996-SNOW.

Rentals: Adult $11;child $8. Call 1-888-996-SNOW or 1-719-539-3573 for
Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboard park. Lessons and rentals available. Snowboard package: Lift ticket, lesson, and rental $53. Rental only $22.

Cross-country: Lessons $31 with own equipment. No rentals at area.
Special events: NASTAR races, church services every Sunday, avalanche safety course, snowboard series, business league races, Sno-Cat trips; Torchlight Parade, Dec. 31; Valentine's Day Race, Feb. 14.

Brian Langfitt is a victim of the legendary Ute Indian curse. "I was living in Iowa and going nowhere fast when my sister invited me to Grand Junction to check the place out," Langfitt says. "Around here they say that Grand Valley is haunted, and anyone who comes in never leaves. Well, here it's been twenty years now for me." Part of the attraction for him, though, came down to a matter of pride. "I was nineteen then, and I had been in Colorado less than 24 hours when all these people said, 'Let's go skiing.' So here I was, an athletic farm boy from Iowa, and I wound up walking down a run that day. That made me mad."

Two years later Langfitt was working as a ski instructor. Then, seven years ago, he and his wife, Cathy, opened their own business, which lets them make their own hours and get out on the slopes as much as possible. And like many couples, they agree on some of the best runs on the mountain and disagree about others.

Brian's favorite cruiser is Bill's Run. "It's almost two miles long," he says. "It's fun to let rip on." Cathy prefers Equalizer because it has a face on it and "some nice steepness to it." They both revere the West End, though. "That's an extreme area they just opened a couple of years ago," Cathy says. Brian adds, "There's a run on it referred to as the Red Eye, because if you cruise too fast and don't have your goggles on, you'll tear up pretty bad." Brian also likes bumps a lot, so he charges through Powderkeg. "I'm alone on it a lot because it goes right under the main lift," he says. "Most skiers don't want that many people watching them." Another of his faves is Wonderbump, but it's not just because of how it skis. "Take a trail off of the top of the lift," he explains. "There's a big knoll on top, and from there you get a bird's-eye view of the whole ski area. Sometimes we take a picnic lunch up there, and when I was on patrol, on sweep I always volunteered to take that one."

His work on patrol also helped him find stuff others didn't have time to look for. "Years ago I started following this guy who ran cattle on the mountain in the summer," he says. "He rode a horse, and he'd flag the trees, ones that you wouldn't see in the snow. So I'd follow those flags around when I skied." In addition, he knows where the stashes are. "On a good snow day, hit Hooker," he says. "Those who go in there need to be good bump skiers, because it's protected, so it gets bumped up and stays soft." And he says there are "little sneaky things all over," like in Yoo-Hoo. "It's a glade run that no one maintains. It's a fun place to dive in."

Cathy endorses the buffalo burgers and other types of meat at The Wagon Wheel (1090 Highway 65) in Mesa. But in Grand Junction, The Blue Moon Bar and Grill (120 North Seventh) is a howling success with its burgers, and Mama Longo's (2830 North Avenue), a "little place in a strip mall," offers good, cheap Italian and good pizza. "We get the calzones when we go," Cathy says. "They're monsters." Big breakfasts can be had at Starvin' Arvin's (752 Horizon Drive), where the Langfitts get biscuits and gravy, and they also like the Crystal Cafe (314 Main Street) for gourmet omelettes. "The Rock Slide Brewpub [401 Main Street] has a good Sunday brunch, too," says Cathy. "It's a microbrewery, too, so it's a good spot for beers. It's trying to become the local sports-bar hangout." And for families, the Langfitts' pick would be the River City Bar and Grill (748 North Avenue). "They have a kids' menu and happy hour, so everyone's happy," Cathy says.

General information: 1-970-268-5700 or 1-800-241-6997
Snow report: 1-970-268-5700
Location: 250 miles west of Denver via I-70, exit 49 to Colo. Hwy. 65.
Opening and closing dates: Thanksgiving to April 6.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Terrain: 20% beginner, 50% intermediate, 15% advanced, 15% expert. 1,650' vertical drop. Base: 8,200'; top: 9,850'; longest run: 2 miles.

Lifts: 1 quad, 2 double chairs, 1 surface lift.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $29; student (7-18) full-day $21; seniors $21; 6 and under/70 and over ski free.

Lessons: Full- and half-day group lessons. Private lessons available. Packages available that include lesson, lift ticket and rental. Call 1-970-268-5700 for more information.

Rentals: Adult $12; child $8. Snowboard $30. Half-day rental available. Call 1-970-268-5700 for information.

Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboard park. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Lessons and rentals available. Call 1-970-268-5700 for information.

Special events: Torchlight parades; Western Weekend, Jan. 18-19; Small World Cup, Mar. 15; USSA Race Day, Feb. 16; Spring Break, Feb. 17-28.

The thing that separates Purgatory from other ski areas, according to Sven Brunso, is the scenery. "It's just unreal here," Brunso says. "You've got the San Juan Mountains; they're rugged and beautiful. Thousands of years of erosion have worn down other mountains, so the young San Juans have lots of texture and character. Only Telluride comes close to being as beautiful." Brunso should know. The 26-year-old has skied Telluride--and, for that matter, just about everywhere else in Colorado. And as an extreme skier who up until last year competed on the Pro Mogul Tour, he's skied quite a bit outside of Colorado, as well.

And now that the tour is defunct for the time being--Anheuser-Busch sued Coors Brewing Company over the rights to the event, and the Supreme Court shut it down--Brunso is working as a ski model. Fortunately for him, that doesn't interfere with serious slope time, so Brunso intends to get another 270 or so days of skiing in again this year--and at least half of those will be spent in Purgatory.

"Purgatory as such doesn't have any terrain that's overly exciting, but it does have some real good bump runs," Brunso says. "You can dive into bumps on the very first run there, but only if your body's acclimated to that kind of abuse." Brunso claims that the best bumper on Purgatory is Lower Hades, on the front side of the mountain. "You can see it from the base area," Brunso says. "Upper Hades is intermediate, but the lower portion is definitely expert. Actually, that's what makes the thing as a whole so perfect, because at the top you have this kind of rolling intermediate pitch, which gets your legs warmed up. That part's groomed four days a week. Then when you get to the lower part, you come to a head wall, and there's a 'Cat walk you'll want to exit out if you're intimidated." He adds that the Lower Hades is "pretty much left unsanitized, so the bumps get big. There's three sections. The first is 1,200 feet long and drops 400 vertical feet--they held the Pro Mogul tour there--then it flattens out. Then there's another section half as long, and then another section that takes you right down to the village."

Brunso also likes the runs off Chair 8 (Legends)--"Tree skiing, no grooming, lots of moguls," he says--and for cruising, Dead Spike, on the back side off Chair 5 (Grizzly). "Dead Spike is kind of rolling up and down," Brunso says. "It's got incredible views on 360 degrees. Very wide, over a hundred yards, and it's like skiing two runs, depending on the side you're on. The east side is more natural, has less shaping, and the earth movers make the left side manicured and smooth. It depends what kind of mood you're in." And as far as he's concerned, anyone in the mood for some hellacious trees should head to either Paul's Park or Blackburn's Bash. "They're both nice and steep through the trees. There's some serious consequences there for getting out of control," Brunso says.

Brunso, who lives in Durango, gets a little worked up himself over the breakfasts at Oscar's (18 Town Plaza). "It's turn-back-the-clock diner-style," he says. "It only seats forty, and on any given day I'll bet you 80 percent of the people in there are locals. That's 'cause the owner still cooks, and he makes super food. I always get the Oscar special: two pancakes, two eggs and three sausages for $3.25." Brunso also savors the prices at the Main Street Grill (1017 Main). "It's a funky, small place that seats thirty," he says. "The tables are inlaid mosaic, and there are hardwood floors--it's cool. Good Southwestern food, too. What I always get is the smoked turkey sandwich topped with green chile." For more sandwiches, especially burgers, Brunso spends time at Olde Tymers (1000 Main Avenue). "A deal, I'm telling you," he says. "A mere $3.95 gets you a burger with as many toppings as you want and fries. Beat that." He adds that Olde Tymers also offers a forty-item salad bar for $8.95. The prices aren't quite as low at Ariano's (150 East Sixth), but Brunso says no one can beat their Northern Italian cuisine for any amount of money. "No lasagne or manicotti," he says. "Just lots of delicious cream sauces."

When only pizza will do, Brunso either becomes a Mama's Boy (3690 Main Avenue) or heads off the beaten path to Huck Finn Pizza (1301 Florida Road). And "great steaks and constant specials" on the mountain are at the Sow's Ear. But Brunso says the best catch in Durango right now is the Red Snapper (144 East Ninth Street), and he's not the only one who thinks so. "Every year it's been picked as the best restaurant in town by the locals," he says. "It's got fresh seafood, and I mean fresh. And the pesto-stuffed chicken with roasted poblanos is out of this world."

General information: 1-800-525-0892
Snow report: 1-970-247-9000
Location: 340 miles southwest of Denver via I-25 to U.S. Hwy. 550 north to Purgatory.

Opening and closing dates: November 27 to April 6.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 23% beginner, 51% intermediate, 26% advanced. 2,029' vertical drop. Base: 8,793'; top: 10,822'; longest run: 2 miles.

Lifts: 1 high-speed quad, 4 triple chairs, 4 double chairs, 1 surface lift.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $39; child full-day $17. For more information call 1-800-568-3275.

Lessons: Half-price, half-day lessons for first-time skiers or snowboarders over age 12 $17. Group and private lessons available. Child (8-12) snowboard package with lift ticket, all-day lesson and lunch $60.

Rentals: Adult beginner package $16; child $12. Snowboards $25.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboard park. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Purgatory Cross-Country Center has 16 km of groomed trails.

Special events: Guided snowmobile tours, horse-drawn sleigh rides. Hot springs nearby. Benefit Day, Nov. 27; Men's and Women's Performance Weekend, Dec. 7-8; New Year's Eve torchlight ski parade and fireworks, Dec. 31; Budweiser Armed Forces Winter Carnival, Jan. 21-26; American Snowboard Tour, Jan. 24-26; Snowdown, Jan. 29-Feb. 2; 13th Annual Professional Football Players Ski Race for the Disabled, Feb. 26-Mar. 2.

Silver Creek Resort
On a powder day, John Gould loves being his own boss. As a printer, any time he looks out the window and sees snow, he puts a closed sign on the door and heads for the mountains. Since he lives in Grand Lake, he can go to Winter Park, which is fifteen minutes away, or he can hit Silver Creek, just five minutes away. "The thing about Silver Creek is its convenience," Gould, 34, says. "To me, it's great for families--all the runs end up at the base lodge; no lift lines ever; easy parking two minutes away from the base. If you're a hotdogger, though, you'll be bored with Silver Creek halfway through the day."

But as the father of two, Chelsea, eleven, and Courtney, six, Gould thinks Silver Creek is just fine. "I feel very comfortable with them there," he says. "I could let Chelsea go off in third grade with her friends and know that everyone knows her and keeps an eye out for the kids. When I really need to let loose and ski myself, I just head over to Winter Park. There's even a free shuttle from Silver Creek if I don't feel like driving."

When he does stick around at Silver Creek, he's sure to be found on either Sleepwalker or Widowmaker. "Widowmaker is fairly steep and bumpy, and it's probably the toughest run," Gould says. "It's really the only one that gets bumped up at all. And it's a blue that makes you feel good." He also enjoys the high-speed cruising on Conquest and Dragon Lady, but he says there's really no tree skiing to be found at Silver Creek.

There is, however, some bargain dining to be had, especially in Granby, one mile from the mountain. "I like Mad Munchies (420 East Agate Avenue) for lunch," Gould says. "It's a real good sub shop, and they also have pizza. No doubt it's a local favorite." He also adores the bagel club sandwiches at The Sunrise Grill (729 West Agate Avenue), which serves "tasty yogurt parfaits and Belgian waffles." German food is on the menu at The Long Branch (185 East Agate Avenue), which is run by a German couple. "They have Warsteiner beer on tap," Gould says. "The food is authentic all the way." But the all-around best food in the county, according to Gould, is found at Caroline's Cuisine (9921 U.S. Highway 34 in Grand Lake). "It's more in the $15 to $20 entree range, but worth every penny," he says. And The Mountain Inn (612 Grand Avenue), also in Grand Lake, is another of his top picks for its family-style dining and chicken-fried steak. "If you order mashed potatoes, you get to ask for more," he says.

If he's heading home from Winter Park, Gould says a stop at Hernando's Pizza (78199 U.S. Highway 40) is a must. And if he's heading into Winter Park early in the morning, he leaves extra time for The Kitchen (78199 U.S. Highway 40). "It takes all morning to eat breakfast there," he says. "It gets so busy, they put numbers on your car for you to wait outside. But it's great food, and you can get a beer with your breakfast. There's nothing like huevos with a Corona to get the day started," Gould notes. In Grand Lake, he gets his beer at The Lariat Saloon (1121 Grand Avenue)--"It's real redneck fun," he says--and in Granby, he puts a few away at The Silver Spur (15 East Agate Avenue). "That's another redneck outfit," he says. "You'll pay a buck, a buck-fifty for draws of beer. And you're bound to make some interesting friends."

General information: 1-800-754-7458, 1-970-887-3384 or 1-970-629-1020.
Snow report: 1-800-754-7458
Location: 78 miles northwest of Denver via I-70 (exit 232) and U.S. Hwy. 40 west.

Opening and closing dates: November 27 to April 13.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 30% beginner, 50% intermediate, 20% advanced. 252 developed acres with a 1,000' vertical drop. Base: 8,202'; top: 9,202'; longest run: 1.5 miles.

Lifts: 2 triple chairs, 1 double chair, 1 Poma lift, 1 surface lift.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $32, half-day $26; child (6-12) full-day $18, half-day $16; senior (62-69) $18; 5 and under/70 and over ski free. Family Skiing Passport: mom, dad and two kids ski all day for $84.

Lessons: Group lessons $26 for 1 3/4 hours. Private lesson $50/hour. Package includes lesson, all-mountain lift ticket and rental for $50. For information call 1-800-754-7458.

Rentals: Adult $13; child $7.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Half-pipe. Rentals available.
Cross-country: Silver Creek Cross-Country Center has 40 km of groomed trails. Lessons and rentals available. Trail fee $8. Other trails nearby. For information call 1-970-887-2152, 1-970-726-8231 or 1-970-627-8008.

Special events: Snowbiking, snowmobiling and snowshoeing located at base of ski area. Ice skating, sleigh rides and tubing nearby. Ski with Santa, Dec. 21-23; Torchlight Ski Down, Dec. 31; Girl Scout Cookie Days, Feb. 22-23; 13th Annual Fireman's Feud Race, Mar. 8.

Ski Cooper
When Audie Mullings moved from Climax to West Park in Leadville in 1961, she got to bring her house with her. "They shut down the mines and moved all the houses," she says. "There was a ski area there, too, but they shut it down when everyone moved." So Mullings, 66, transferred her allegiance to Ski Cooper, where she's been skiing for more than forty years and where she now serves as the pro patrol director. "I didn't exactly retire," she says. "And at my age, I tend to be a little more careful. You kind of start to like your bones the way they are and want to keep them that way. But being on patrol gets me out of bed in the morning, and it's a constant challenge."

For a challenge on the mountain, Mullings looks to Homestake. "There's some trees," she says. "It's really nice in there, too, and it gets some good powder." All the kids go to Timberbash, she says, but she prefers Nightmare because "it's steeper and more wide-open." She adds, "I don't particularly like the real bumpy runs. The knees are a little bit gone, you know." To go easy on them but still get a rattle, she goes with Slot or Burnout, where "the upper part is steep but the rest is a good cruiser. But Kamikazee is the steepest," she says. To get to the really difficult runs at Cooper, Mullings suggests that skiers take the 'Cat tour up on Chicago Ridge. "That's where they'll find the trees, the steeps, just about a little bit of everything," she says. That's also where she recommends that snowboarders go. "We try to encourage them to use the terrain park," she says. "But they're allowed to go anywhere, and really, they're all over. They manage to find the jumps and such all over the place."

Most of the good eating near Cooper, however is concentrated in one place: Leadville. "Well, there's The Grill [715 Elm] for Mexican, and The Delaware [700 Harrison Avenue], where I sent the crew for a Thanksgiving meal once," she says. But the place she would go if someone offered to take her is The Prospector (2798 Highway 91). "They have good fish and pasta," she says. The locals go to Wild Bill's (200 Harrison Avenue) for a burger, she says, and the best and cheapest breakfast in town is at "the Mullings residence."

"Oh, there's the Silver King [2020 Poplar], in a motel," she adds. "I know someone who goes there every morning for breakfast."

General information: 1-719-486-3684
Snow report: 1-719-486-2277
Location: 100 miles west of Denver via I-70 (exit 195), 24 miles west on Colo. Hwy. 91 to U.S. Hwy. 24, 9 miles west.

Opening and closing dates: November 23 to March 30
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 30% beginner, 40% intermediate, 30% advanced. 385 developed acres with a 1,200' vertical drop. Base: 10,500'; top: 11,700'; longest run: 1.4 miles.

Lifts: 1 triple chair, 1 double chair, 2 surface lifts.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $25, half-day $20; child (6-12) full-day $15, half-day $12; senior (60-69) $16; 5 and under/70 and over ski free.

Lessons: Group lesson $25 for 2 hours. Private lesson $45 for 1.5 hours. First-time package: 2-hour lesson, beginner lift ticket and rental for $33. Snowboard package: 2-hour lesson, rental and full-mountain lift ticket $55.

Rentals: Adult beginner package $12; child (6-12) $8. Snowboards: Full-day $23, half-day $13. Call 1-719-486-2277 for information.

Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboard park. Rentals and lessons available.
Cross-country: Piney Creek Cross-County Center has 24 km of groomed trails. Lessons and rentals available. Trail fee, full-day $8. For information call 1-719-486-1750.

Special events: In vicinity: snowmobiling, ice skating. Call 1-719-486-3684 for more information.

Erik Berkstrom skied and snowboarded for two days each the first time he did either, back in the 1987-88 season. Then he never skied again. Since then, he and his buddy, Derek Johnson, have opened two D&E Snowboard Shops, one in Snowmass and one in Aspen, and he's 'boarded all the area mountains except Ajax, which doesn't allow it. But Snowmass is the one he prefers.

"This is the mountain that I love the most," Berkstrom, who grew up in Phoenix, says. "I think it has the most to offer--green to blue to black--and it's the largest, so people get more spread out on it. I've been on it for six years now, and I'm not the least bit bored."

He keeps his interest piqued by taking on such extremes as Hanging Valley Wall. "On a powder day, you can't miss the Wall," he says. "It's a 'no runs' kind of area. You go through a chute, for the most part a steep grade, and then into open powder. It's not overdone, you know." And if he's really feeling masochistic, he chews on Baby Ruth off High Alpine or takes on Reidar's Run. "Brutal," he says about the first one. "And Reidar's is the best bumps you're going to find here." He sends those looking to get an introduction to bumps over to the top section of Showcase, also off High Alpine, for a "mellow ride" and tells 'boarders seeking air to look at Naked Lady. "No doubt the locals' favorite," he says. "A blue run with lots of rolls and banks." In fact, Berkstrom has a whole philosophy about progressing as a snowboarder at Snowmass. "Start at the Assay Hill," he says. "That's the 'boarder breeding ground. From there, move up to the Funnel Lift and Elk Camp. There you'll find some nice rolling stuff, good cruising, great scenery."

Berkstrom also likes the look of Sneaky's trees in the Big Burn. "Kind of moderate, mellow, with a lot of powder," he says. "It's kind of easygoing." When he wants to go really, really fast, he checks into Green Cabin from the top of High Alpine. "You can take it all the way down," he says. And when he wants to be alone and the snow is good, he goes to Powderhorn. "You have to look at a map to try to find it," Berkstrom says. "It's below the Big Burn and around Sam's Knob, which also happens to be good for bumps. Anyway, when you get to Powderhorn, you don't even feel like you're at the same mountain. You won't see anyone there. It's got kind of some double fall lines in it, little sections of bumps, and then drops a little bit before it takes you around to Campground chair. Very underused."

The word "underused," however, could never apply to the dining scene, Berkstrom says. "No one here offers you a deal, because they don't have to," he explains. "Every place is packed and charges top dollar." Even the locals' hangouts are well-known: for example, the Woody Creek Tavern (2 Woody Creek Road), famous for counting Hunter S. Thompson among its clientele; and The Timber Mill, on the right slope side of the mountain, with its karaoke and mixed drinks. "The Stew Pot [62 Snowmass Village Mall] has good soups and sandwiches and is at least pretty reasonable," Berkstrom says. "Local waitstaffers hang out at Zooms Saloon [10 Snowmass Village Mall], and Goodfellas [100 Elbert Lane] has good Italian subs."

Otherwise, Berkstrom says, he has to put in a good word for Cafe Ink (520 East Durant Avenue). "Hey, it's got a good atmosphere, good coffee and sandwiches, even good hot chocolate." Where is it? "At D&E Snowboard Shop, of course."

General information: 1-970-925-1220 or 1-800-525-6200
Snow report: 1-970-925-1221 or 1-970-923-1221
Location: 209 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.
Opening and closing dates: November 28 to April 13.
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Terrain: 10% beginner, 52% intermediate, 18% advanced, 20% expert. 2,655 developed acres with a 4,260 vertical drop. Base: 8,104'; top: 12,310'; longest run: 4.16 miles.

Lifts: 7 high-speed quads, 1 triple chair, 7 double chairs, 2 platter pulls.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $56; child (7-17) full-day $33; senior (65-69) full-day $45. Early-season prices available.

Lessons: Group lessons: half-day $49, full-day $57. Private lessons: half-day $270, full-day $395. First-time ski or snowboard package: 3-day program, lift tickets and rental.

Rentals: Available at base of mountain and in town.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Call 1-970-923-3148 or 1-970-925-2145 for information.

Special events: Sleigh ride with Santa, Dec. 22; Santa on the Mall, Dec. 23-24; Torchlight Parade With Santa on the Snowmass Village Mall, Dec. 24; 46th Annual Winterskol Carnival, Jan. 14-19; Snowmass Mardi Gras celebration, Feb. 11; Snowmass Banana Season, Mar. 30-Apr. 5; Easter sunrise service, Aspen Mountain, Mar. 30.

Steamboat/Howelsen Ski Areas
"My two-week visit has turned into a four-year visit," says Shaughn Vihlein. "And when I first visited here, I didn't even know there was a ski mountain." Vihlein, who is originally from Milwaukee but has lived in Georgia, Indiana and California, stopped by Steamboat Springs to see her dad, who's lived there for 23 years. "I met a bunch of people, and they were like, 'You have to snowboard,'" says Vihlein. "It only took me five days to get it down, and I was way hooked."

To maintain her habit, Vihlein waitresses at Mocha Molly's (635 Lincoln Avenue), one of the most popular local coffeehouses. "I work nights in the winter," she says, "so I can get out there during the day." She prefers riding during the week because the tourist contingent is still made up primarily of skiers who aren't always kind to shredders. "I think the locals understand it better these days," she says. "They're easier on us than they were at first."

Vihlein tries to go easy on herself when it comes to bump runs, mainly because "I'm not that good," she confesses. So she avoids the popular bumper, White Out, in favor of good cruisers such as Buddy's Run, Vagabond and Heavenly Daze. "Buddy's is my favorite overall," she adds. "But on a powder day, I like Closets and Shadows for the trees, and you can access a lot of other tree runs from it, too." When she's feeling more confident, Vihlein shreds The Hike in Creek Canyon, an out-of-bounds area that she says is where "really good 'boarders go." And according to her, everyone goes on Broadway. "It's a fun little cruiser run where you can do hits on the side," she says, adding that Norther is the direction to head for some air. "There are little 'Cat tracks you can jump off of," she says. "Everyone takes it to get down to the main lift." Those needing more air should go to The Gates, such as Gate D. "It's kind of out there, past the main area," she says. "Lots of big rocks, lots of cliffs. If you want to get yourself hurt, that's the place."

If you want to get yourself alone, Vihlein suggests going low, as in the lower areas of the mountain. "Everyone stays up at the top," she says. "Try Octopus Trees or Lucky Charm. But if you're looking to hang totally solo, she says, don't come to Mocha Molly's. "This is really the happening place," she adds. "And I'm not just saying that because I work here. It's casual but crowded and fun. And the sandwiches and pastries are all good."

Another packed spot is The Slopeside, right off the mountain, a "really cool bar decked out Western-style with brick-oven pizzas," Vihlein says. "You can eat and drink there for under $15." More bargains can be found at Dos Amigos (1910 Mt. Warner Road), where appetizers are half-price from 2:30 to 6 p.m. "I'd have to say the place for killer Italian is Cugino's [825 Oak Street]," she says. "And at the Old Town Pub [600 Lincoln Avenue], Thursday night is burger night, and those are great burgers." And her choice for breakfast--after Mocha Molly's, of course--is The Shack (740 Lincoln Avenue). "I get 'the hobo,'" she says. "It's all this stuff in a big omelette. The waitresses there have been there for twenty years, and it's always packed. You can really get stuffed for the day.

"And if you're not hitting the slopes that day, I say drop five bucks and soak in the hot springs."

General information: 1-970-879-6111 or 1-800-922-2722
Snow report: 1-970-879-7300

Location: 157 miles northwest of Denver via I-70 west to Colo. Hwy. 9 (exit 205) to U.S. Hwy. 40.

Opening and closing dates: November 23 to April 14.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 14% beginner, 56% intermediate, 30% advanced. 2,679 skiable acres with a 3,668' vertical drop. Base: 6,900'; top: 10,568'; longest run: 3 miles.

Lifts: 1 Silver Bullet gondola, 1 quad chair, 2 high-speed detachable quads, 7 triple chairs, 7 double chairs, 4 surface lifts.

Lift rates: Adult full-day $46, half-day $39; seniors (65-69) full-day $25; 70 and over ski free. Early/late-season prices available.

Lessons: Adult group lesson: Full-day $52, 2 hours $35; private lesson: $75/hour, 2 hours $140, full-day $340. Child group lesson: Full-day $57, half-day $39. Snowboard: Full-day lesson $57. Call 1-970-879-6111, ext. 543, for information.

Rentals: Steamboat Ski rentals. Call 1-800-359-9959 or 1-800-922-2722 for
information. Other ski shops in area.
Snowboarding: Welcome.

Cross-country: Steamboat Touring Company. Lessons available. Call 1-970-879-8180 for information. For other businesses and lodges call 1-970-879-0740.

Special events: MTV Winter Lodge, Nov. 23-Dec. 10; Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Ski Ball, Dec. 2; Ski Town USA Nordic Combined World Cup, Dec. 13-16; New Year's Eve Torchlight Parade, Dec. 31; College Ski Week, Jan. 1-14; 22nd Annual Norwest Bank Cowboy Downhill, Jan. 16; 84th Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival, Feb. 5-11; Valentine's Day Torchlight Parade, Feb. 14; Jimmie Huega Ski Express, Mar. 2; St. Patrick's Day Torchlight Parade, Mar. 17; Cardboard Classic, Apr. 14; Easter Sunrise Service, Apr. 17.

General information: 1-970-879-8499
Snow report: 1-970-879-7300

Location: 157 miles northwest of Denver via I-70 west to Colo. Hwy. 9 (exit 205) to U.S. Hwy. 40.

Opening and closing dates: Mid-November to mid-April.
Hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Terrain: 15 trails. 440' vertical drop. Base: 6,696'; top: 7,136'; longest run: 1 mile.

Lifts: 1 double chair, 1 Poma lift, 1 Pony tow.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $10; child 12 and under full-day $5.
Lessons: Call 1-970-879-0696 for information
Rentals: Call 1-970-879-8499 for information.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Half-pipe.
Cross-country: Call 1-970-879-8499 for information.
Special events: Call 1-970-879-8499 for information.

Sunlight Mountain Resort
Jim Lagasse gets to snowboard six or seven days a week. But don't hate him too much. "Yeah, it sounds great, except I'm poor," he says.

Lagasse is a freelance artist who does artwork for Sunlight to get a pass. He lives in Glenwood, twenty minutes from the mountain, and he can rearrange his work schedule to accommodate powder days at will. "I'll grow up someday and get a real job," says Lagasse, 32. "But not too soon." Until that happens, the Colorado Springs native plans to continue sharpening the snowboard skills he acquired four years ago, after having skied for more than a decade. "The great thing about Sunlight is that it's geared toward intermediates," Lagasse says. "And those runs always get good jumps on them."

The superior vaults are found in the Upper Glades, according to Lagasse. "You can just cut into the trees and find a lot of big, huge boulders and fallen timber that's covered," he says. "You pretty much make your own, and I've always found new powder over there." He adds that Sunlight has established glades but that the uppers are his favorite. "On a hard-packed day, though, you'll find me on Little Max/Sun King," he says. "It's one of the funnest: huge, rolling hills, really fun, especially when you're going fast." He says most people like Joslin because it's "wide-open and a lot steeper than a lot of Sunlight," but he contends that not everyone realizes that this intermediate can creep up to a black depending on the weather. "On one side, it might have bumps one day," Lagasse says. "On another, it might be slick and fast." Zephyr is Lagasse's preference on powder days--"super-steep and extreme," he says--along with Primo, which gets bumped up when the snow falls. "That's an ego run, though, 'cause the lift runs right over it," he says.

Those who blow the show under the lift can drown their sorrows at the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company (402 Seventh) in Glenwood Springs. "Hey, we got our own brewpub," Lagasse says, adding that The 19th Street Diner (1908 Grand Avenue) is just as good, smaller and more friendly; on weekends Lagasse wallows in the local rock and blues bands that play at Buffalo Valley (3637 Highway 82). He says Charcoal Burger (51659 U.S. Highway 6 & 24) grills the finest burgers, along with "impressive onion rings and superb shakes," and the Cajun fare at The Bayou (52103 U.S. Highway 6) is awesome. "I get the crab, or the mako shark with mustard sauce," he says. And when he's not extremely hungry but wants to munch and drink, a lot of times he'll just hang at the Bavarian Inn across from the mountain. "They have good appetizers and good music," he says. "And it's a relaxing place to drink the night away."

To get some hair of the dog the next day, Lagasse stumbles into the Diner once again, for "the Bloody Marys, of course, to start off with," he says. "Then the omelettes, the French toast and the pancakes." He also appreciates the deals at the Italian Underground (715 Grand Avenue). "I can never finish my entree, and I always wind up taking another meal's worth home with me," he says. "Plus, it's very inexpensive. And we like cheap, 'cause we're all broke here."

General information: 1-970-945-7491 or 1-800-445-7951
Snow report: 1-970-945-7491
Location: 167 miles west of Denver via I-70 to Colo. Hwy. 82 south and County Rd. 117 to Glenwood Springs.

Opening and closing dates: November 27 to April 6.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Terrain: 20% beginner, 55% intermediate, 25% advanced. 440 developed acres with a 2,010' vertical drop. Base: 7,885'; top: 9,895'; longest run: 2.5 miles.

Lifts: 1 triple chair, 2 double chairs, 1 surface lift.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $28; child (6-12) full-day $18; 5 and under/70 and over ski free.

Lessons: Group and private lessons available. Call 1-970-945-7491 for information.

Rentals: Skiing and snowboarding equipment available. Call 1-970-945-7491 for information.

Snowboarding: Welcome. New and improved snowboard park including rails, slides, jumps, half-pipe, and fun box. Lessons and rentals available.

Cross-country: The Sunlight Mountain Resort's Cross-Country and Nordic Center has 10 km of groomed trails. Lessons and rentals available.

Special events: Snowmobiling, snowboarding, and ice skating.

Telluride Ski Resort
For fourteen years Rube Felicelli's best friend tried to get him to move to Telluride from Aspen, where he'd lived since 1976. Six years ago his friend won. "I really appreciated his persistence," says Felicelli, who now works for his friend buying ski equipment and bikes at Telluride Sports. "What makes Telluride so special is that it's so hard to get to. Once you do get here, you appreciate it and see why it's so special."

Felicelli thinks the mountain, too, is special, mainly because it has so much expert terrain available. "The intermediate stuff gets way overshadowed by the beginner and expert stuff," Felicelli says. "They have plans to add more intermediate runs, but it'll still be an expert's dream."

What Felicelli dreams of on powder days is Apex glade. "The trees on Lift 6 are really nice," he says. "Very good stashes. I can usually get in there and find places that aren't tracked up." He adds that the beauty of Telluride is that none of the slopes are crowded, but "among the better skiers, there's a bit of competition on the good runs." One such popular place is Bushwacker. "There's nothing like it, particularly when it's freshly groomed. Get some big GS skis under your feet, and you're out there," Felicelli says. "There is no other slope that's that steep, wide, long and has such a sustained pitch for its length." Also steep is Mammoth or the Spiral Stairs, both of which "are good bump runs that have a good rhythm," Felicelli says. "They're steep enough that you can use gravity to your advantage." And between Mammoth and Kant-Mak-M are the Mak-M trees. "Just come right down Mammoth and cut over into the tree area," he explains. "That's some tough stuff."

That's not to say there isn't anything for the intermediate to be found at Telluride. "Somebody solidly intermediate looking for a challenge that won't kill them should go to the Lift 5 area," Felicelli says. "Palmyra is a good one, and then I recommend going over to the Plunge off Lift 9. That's more advanced, but the beauty of it is that they only groom half of it, so if you want bumps, you got bumps. If you want a nice fall line and a nice steep pitch, you've got that, too." Also off Lift 9 is an area popular with snowboarders, Felicelli says, most notably on Mammoth and Kant-Mak-M. "The 'boarders also like to go off Lift 6," he says. "Most of the snowboarders I've experienced here come from having skied before, so they know what they're getting into over there."

Everyone gets into the apres-ski at Leimgruber's Bierstub and Restaurant (573 West Pacific Avenue), which Felicelli calls "the place that's been there for a while and has stayed friendly to all." The Cosmopolitan Restaurant (300 West San Juan Avenue), which Felicelli calls "Cosmo's," opened up just last year, but it's already garnered a following among "nouvelle-cuisine types," he says. "It's the chef from Beano's Cabin in Vail, so you know the food's good." The well-known local spots for a burger are Garfinkle's (101 East Colorado Avenue) and The Floradora (103 West Colorado Avenue), and for breakfast, Telluride goes Mexican at Sofia's (110 East Colorado Avenue) or to the Excelsior (200 West Colorado Avenue). The Excelsior also does some "pretty reasonable Italian, with a nice menu," Felicelli says. "But the best Italian in town is at The Powder House [226 West Colorado Avenue]. My parents are Italian, and I took them there when they came to visit. They said, 'This is better than New York.'"

General information: 1-800-525-3455
Snow report: 1-970-728-7425
Location: 335 miles southwest of Denver via

I-70 to Grand Junction, Colo. Hwy. 50 south, Colo. Hwy. 550 to Ridgeway, Colo. Hwy. 62 and Colo. Hwy. 145 into Telluride.

Opening and closing dates: November 27 to April 13.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 21% beginner, 47% intermediate, 32% advanced. 1,050 skiable acres with a 3,165' vertical drop. Base: 8,725'; top: 11,890'; longest run: 2.85 miles.

Lifts: 2 high-speed quads, 5 double chairs, 2 triple chairs, 1 Poma lift, 1 Magic Carpet, 1 gondola transportation system.

Lift rates: Adult full-day $45, half-day $36; child (6-12) and senior (65-69) full-day $26, half-day $20; 5 and under/70 and over ski free. Early/late season prices available.

Lessons: Group lessons $40. Beginner ski clinic: 5-hour lesson, lift ticket and rental $70. Private lesson: full-day $380, half-day $200, one-hour $75.

Rentals: Adult $20; child $13. Snowboard rental $27.
Snowboarding: Welcome. First-time snowboarding special: lift ticket, lesson and rental $75. Snowboard park with half-pipes and tabletops.

Cross-country: Telluride's Nordic Center has over 30 km of trails. Lift to access fee $12. Tours, lessons and rentals available. For information call 1-970-728-4424.

Special events: Gondola opening Nov. 19; Arizona Days, Dec. 13-15; December Fest, Dec. 16-23; Gondola Grand Opening, Dec. 20; Surf the Rockies, Mar. 31-Apr. 13.

Annie Egan moved to Colorado in 1968 right out of high school "to major in skiing," she says. She had been skiing since she was about twelve, and her mom got so tired of driving her and her siblings to the ski areas--they lived outside of Washington, D.C.--that at age fifty, she decided to join them. "Hey, she's 83 and living in Colorado Springs," Egan says. "And she's still skiing."

Like many Eagle residents, Egan works part-time for Vail Associates to get a ski pass every year. "It's eat or ski sometimes, you know," Egan says. And at 46, she adds that she looks at skiing as a very necessary form of exercise. "Sometimes I have to force myself to go on a cruiser, because the bumps are the only way to stay in shape," she says.

When she does want to take a cruise, she grabs Lodgepole and takes it to Bear Tree. But she prefers the bumps, so the runs she hits most frequently tend to be bubbly. "Showboat, in Game Creek Bowl, is a nice, easy bump run," she says. "And I like the Berries over by Lodge Pole; it's got some bumps and some flats." She adds that Showboat is "real nice for just practicing moguls and building confidence--if you're having a bad day, it's a good one for getting your timing back." If you're young, Egan says to do Highline, the "mogul-mania slope" where "they don't get any bigger than that." And Ricky's Ridge is what Egan describes as being "like an armful of goosebumps." Her favorite run, though, is Northstar. "It used to be called 'Minnie's Mile,'" she says. "It's a long single-black, terraced, with varied terrain. It has some moguls, and it has a chute and some flats. Sometimes they'll groom one side and leave the other moguled up." She takes on the terraces on Gandy Dancer, too, but admits that it's often crowded.

"If there's a best-kept secret as far as Vail is concerned, it would have to be Lionshead," Egan says. "For some reason, everyone has to be on Vail Mountain, so the locals go to Lionshead." Once there, Egan says she never misses Simba or Born Free, a cruiser.

Egan lives in Eagle, so she tends to eat at places such as Shirkie's (701 Chambers), a "wonderful cowboy place" that serves Mexican, barbecue and "fantastic steaks." For pizza, she thinks Fortunes Pizza and Subs (221 Broadway) is a winner. "As far as I'm concerned, it's the best pizza in Colorado," she says. In Vail, Vendetta's, right at the base of the mountain by Vistabahn, sells pizza by the slice, and next to the Vistabahn ticket counter is The Meal Ticket, a "cute cafe with great sandwiches." Terra Bistro (352 East Meadow Drive in Vail) does "great organic veggies," and she also likes the "innovative American cuisine right on the creek" at Up the Creek (223 Gore Creek in Vail). Burgers are best at Vail's Hubcap Brewery and Kitchen (143 East Meadow Drive), "especially with a beer," Egan says, but to her, the number-one night-time spot is Club Chelsea (304 Bridge) in Vail. "They have a smoking room, a piano room and a dancing room," she says.

For some unintentional entertainment, Egan does lunch at Los Amigos in Vail Village, the eatery at the bottom of International, the last leg of which is called Pepi's Face and is notorious for its icy coating. "I'd say about a quarter of the people who come down it stay on their feet the whole way," Egan says. "And the ones who don't can be pretty creative about how they spill."

General information: 1-970-476-5601
Snow report: 1-970-476-4888
Location: 100 miles west of Denver via I-70.
Opening and closing dates: November 8 to April 20.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Terrain: 28% beginner, 32% intermediate, 40% advanced. 4,644 developed acres with a 3,330' vertical drop. Base: 8,120'; top: 11,450'; longest run: 4.5 miles.

Lifts: 1 gondola, 10 high-speed quads, 1 fixed grip quad, 3 triple chairs, 5 double chairs, 9 surface lifts.

Lift rates: Adult full-day $52; child (12 and under) full-day $35. Early-season prices available.

Lessons: Group and private lessons available. Call 1-970-476-3239 for information.

Rentals: Call 1-800-525-2257 for information and reservations.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Adventure Ridge at Eagle's Nest TAG Hauer Snowboard Park. Lessons available.

Cross-country: Cross-Country Ski Center at Golden Peak. Tours, lessons and rentals available. Call 1-970-845-5313 for more information.

Special events: Women's World Cup, Dec. 6-7; Hot Winter Nights, Dec. 15-21, Feb. 19, Mar. 5, 19; New Year's Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks at Vail, Dec. 31; Technique Weeks for Women, Jan. 15-21; Jimmie Huega's Ski Express, Feb. 9; World Cup Finals, Mar. 12-17; UnVailed Snowboard Event, Mar. 27-29; Warren Miller Mad Mountain Marathon, Mar. 29.

Winter Park Resort/Mary Jane
Lindsay Cathcart started coming from Down Under to a mile high ten years ago. "Each time I visited, I stayed longer and longer," the Australian says. The forty-year-old had been skiing most of his life, and although he'd skied nearly every mountain in Colorado, he chose Winter Park as his home when he moved here for good five years ago. "It's not like a city," he says. "It's not like a vacation place, either. It's more natural than the other ski areas, I think." Actually, he wound up at Winter Park during a visit one year because of a billboard. "I had just got off the plane," he says. "And I was wondering where to go. Then I saw this big sign, and I hopped on a train and went right there."

Once he arrived, he got a job at the Inn at Silver Creek ("It's much less expensive than anything in Winter Park, and you can get a free shuttle," he says) and joined the Alpine Masters Program. "That's where you pay more than double in lift fees," he says, "and you have to be over 24. Then, four days a week, you get to ski a run they've closed off to do drills and train for the races. It really keeps you in shape."

When he goes out on his own, though, Cathcart tends to do the more challenging runs first. "I'll usually start with Hughes," he says, "while I've still got the energy. If I'm feeling real good, sometimes I'll just stay on one run all day, and that's a toughie, steep and fast." He adds that it's the only cruiser run "where ski patrol won't pull you over for speeding." A gentler cruise is on Cranmer, he says, and "Bradley's Bash is good if you're "with someone who wants to do bumps and you want to cruise, because it's half-groomed all the time." But if you really want to be alone, he suggests Vasquez Ridge. "When it gets crowded, there's not as many people there," he says. Stashes can be found in the trees at Retta's Run, Cathcart claims, and he hits Over 'n' Underwood "a couple times every day to keep in bump shape."

Over on Mary Jane, Cathcart makes tracks for Deailer to hit the bumps, and for cruising, he's always up for the Sunnyside area, such as Blue Bell. "I go to the Jane more for the scenery," he says. "If there's an untracked or uncrowded run there ever, I haven't found it yet."

Cathcart usually goes skiing before work, so he's likely to need lunch on the way. That's why Hernando's Pizza [78199 U.S. Highway 40] gets his vote: quick pizza, cheap and tasty. If he skis all day, he says the Eastern European fare at The Gasthaus Eichler (U.S. Highway 40) is "good refueling food," and he also spends a lot of time at the New Hong Kong (Copper Creek Square), because "Chinese is something I don't cook at home," he says. Mexican is the main thing on the menu at The Last Waltz (78336 U.S. Highway 40 South), which Cathcart says is "a bit upscale," and "Deno's Mountain Bistro [78911 U.S. Highway 40] seems to be the place for burgers." Other types of sandwiches, "huge, stuffed ones," can be found at Rudi's Deli (78699 U.S. Highway 40), but as Cathcart adds, "Safeway isn't a bad idea, either."

General information: 1-970-726-5514 or 1-303-892-0961
Snow report: 1-303-572-SNOW
Location: 67 miles northwest of Denver via I-70 west (exit 232) to U.S. Hwy. 40.

Opening and closing dates: November 13 to April 20.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays; 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
Terrain: 19% beginner, 38% intermediate, 23% advanced, 20% expert. 1,414 skiable acres with a 3,060' vertical drop. Base: 9,000'; top: 12,060'; longest run: 5.1 miles.

Lifts: 7 high-speed quads, 8 double chairs, 5 triple chairs.
Lift rates: Adult full-day TBA, half-day $28; child (6-13) full-day $18; senior (62-69) full-day $22; 5 and under/70 and over ski free. Early/late-season discounted tickets available.

Lessons: Group lessons: Beginners $15 half-day; intermediate-advanced $35 half-day. Private lessons (ski and snowboard): 1.5 hours $85, 3 hours $165. For more information call 1-970-726-1551.

Rentals: Available at resort. Adult $16; child $10.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Rentals $15. Lessons available.
Cross-country: Devil's Thumb Ranch: 10 miles from Winter Park, 105 km of groomed trails. Call 1-970-726-5632 for information.

Special events: Ice skating, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, tubing; Thanksgiving Dinner, Nov. 28; Kids Winter Ski Karnival, Dec. 15; Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade and Services, Dec. 24; New Year's Eve Gala-The Lodge at Sunspot, Dec. 31; National Women's Ski and Snowboard Week, Jan. 20-26; 22nd Annual Wells Fargo Bank Cup, Jan. 31-Feb. 2; Mary Jane Bump JAMboree, Feb. 2 and Mar. 1; Freestyle Snowboard Camp, Feb. 22; Golden Bunny Race and Egg Hunt/Easter Sunrise Service, Mar. 30; Pepsi Snowboard Challenge, Apr. 19; Spring Splash, Apr. 20.

Wolf Creek
"Put two boards on my feet and go down a mountain? I thought, 'My God, you people are crazy,'" says Martha Schreck. "Well, a shot of Peachtree Schnapps later, I didn't think it was such a bad idea after all."

Of course, Schreck hastens to add, she's not advocating drinking and skiing. "I'm just telling you what it took to get me out there," the 35-year-old from Illinois says. "My husband had been skiing since he was little, and we met at CSU in Fort Collins fifteen years ago. It took him five years to talk me into it."

Now that the couple resides in Center, 45 minutes from Wolf Creek, Martha tries to ski every chance she gets, averaging about fifty days a season. "Last year we didn't have any snow, though," she says. "So I only got in thirty. When she did go, she went straight for moon hollow, her selection for best run on the mountain. "It's incredible," she says. "Steep and deep, and it's hidden." She also gets deep into Boundary Bowl, where "you have to earn your turns," she says. "You have to hike to it about ten minutes, but there are some beautiful fall lines. It's steep and long and graceful." And while Wolf Creek isn't known for its bump runs, Schreck votes upper windjammer as most likely to get bumped up. She thinks the trees in holy moses are heavenly, "very steep, with some stashes here and there," but when she wants an open cruiser, she takes what the locals call "Tranquilizer," adding that it's really tranquility. "You can just arc the big old turns there," she explains. "It's steep where it needs to be."

For just the opposite of a peaceful effect, Schreck says to take Pete's Plunge. "You hike to Alberta Peak, a twenty-minute hike, and then ski the Peak," she says. "Then, at the base, there's little trees. Ski to the right and look for the big rock to the left of the numbered chutes. And then look out. Your heart will go into your throat, 'cause as it drops, you are free-falling through the fluff."

That kind of abuse requires the sort of recovery that can only come from a good steak, and Schreck says she knows the perfect place: The Rockaway Inn (30333 U.S. Highway 160 South) in Southfork, which, at twenty miles from the mountain, is the closest town. "The Rockaway is so cozy," Schreck says. "It's got a fireplace, and a massive piece of prime rib is only $14, with salad and soup and breadsticks. It's an awesome deal." She also favors the value at The Hungry Logger (47 Highway 149 in Southfork). "Cholesterol city," she says. "Huge pancakes." And for good Mexican, she offers La Casita (76 West Highway 149 in Southfork), but for great Mexican, only Dos Rios (1635 North U.S. Highway 285) will do. "That's twenty miles east of Southfork in Monte Vista," she says. "But I'm telling you, this place is so good, people drive from all over the valley to eat there."

General information: 1-970-264-5629
Snow report: 1-970-264-5629 or 1-800-SKI-WOLF
Location: 257 miles southwest of Denver via I-25, or U.S. Hwy. 285 and U.S. Hwy. 160.

Opening and closing dates: November 1 to mid-April.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 20% beginner, 35% intermediate, 45% advanced. 800 skiable acres with a 1,425' vertical drop. Base: 10,350'; top: 11,775'; longest run: 2 miles.

Lifts: 2 triple chairs, 2 double chairs, 1 Poma lift, 1 rolling conveyer.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $33, half-day $24; child (12 and under) full-day $21, half-day $15; senior (65 and older) full-day $21, half-day $15.

Lessons: Group lessons: 4 hours $31, 2 hours $24. Beginner package: 4-hour lesson and beginner lift ticket $34. Private lesson $42/hour. Snowboard: 2-hour group lesson $24. Private snowboard lesson $42/hour.

Rentals: Adult $13; child $10. Snowboard $20.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Rentals and lessons available.


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