The Edge: Our guide to the season's best skiing, boarding and more

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Durango local, former ski patroller, current ski coach and longtime Purgatory skier Ivan Unkovskoy has been hitting the slopes for 42 years and currently owns the Steaming Bean, a popular Durango coffee shop. "Purgatory is a great family area," he notes. "All the locals kind of rally and get up there; it's been like that for a long time. The lift tickets are affordable, and because the town's at a lower elevation, you can go mountain biking in town in the morning and skiing in the afternoon."

On powder days, Unkovskoy likes to hit up any black-diamond run, front or back side. On a cruiser day, he likes Dead Spike, Chet's and Sally's Run. "I really appreciate carving or high-speed turns," he notes. "On a powder day, I'll be all over the mountain, like a little kid again."

And the atmosphere is another factor in Unkovskoy's preference for Durango. "It's off the radar," he says. "We're not in the league with those big ski resorts. And the weather here is so nice; I barely wear a ski jacket unless it's a powder day."

General Information: www.durangomountainresort.com; 1-800-982-6103.

Location: 340 miles southwest of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy 550 south.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Snow Report: 970-247-9000, ext. 1.

Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $65 regular season, $70 holiday season.

Terrain: 1,200 skiable acres with 85 trails; 23 percent beginner, 51 percent intermediate, 26 percent advanced/expert. Base is 8,793' with a 2,029 vertical rise; summit: 10,822'.

Echo Mountain

Echo Mountain park designer and creative director Marc Moline has been busy this summer. The area completely rebranded all existing features and built three new beginner freestyle features. "We're trying to bridge the gap between people just trying to get into the park for the first time and the seasoned veterans," he says. And although freestyle skiers and riders definitely hit Echo up for its park, Moline says he thinks the vibe is another big draw to the resort. "We definitely have that not-so-corporate mentality that a lot of the other resorts do," he notes. "It's a little more grassroots."

Fifteen-year-old snowboarder Mike Fehrle has picked up on the vibe, but not in those exact words. "It's cheap and it's fun," he says. "Everybody there is nice. The lifties are awesome; they're not mean. And when it's snowing really hard, they always have a park crew every half-hour grooming everything so it's always perfect."

The location is another reason Fehrle likes Echo. "It's 35 minutes away, so when we get out of school, it's way easy to go up there for a couple of hours," he notes. "For the kids who can't get all the way up to the resorts, who live in Denver and who need to train, they can go up and have a couple of hours after school." And with the night riding available, Echo just might keep you up past your bedtime.

General Information: www.echomt.com; 303-325-7347.

Location: 19285 Hwy. 103; 35 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 103.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; closed Tuesday.

Snow Report: 303-325-7347.

Lift Rates: Adult day pass: early season $29, holiday season $50, regular season $45.

Terrain: 85 acres; four terrain parks, fifteen trails and tree skiing. Base is 10,500', with a 660' vertical rise; summit: 11,160'.

Eldora Mountain Resort

It's understandable that Boulderites would want to ski Eldora; it's only 21 miles west of Boulder, and the thought of dodging the I-70 parking lot has got to be too appealing to pass up. But Denverites should take note: An RTD bus runs to the ski area from the Boulder main station and costs only $4 to ride. And although the resort doesn't boast as much skiable acreage as some others, it's got the best snowmaking system by far. Eldora's snowmaking covers 100 percent of its groomed terrain, so you're nearly always guaranteed great conditions.

It's a great resort for intermediate and advanced skiers, offering breathtaking views of both the James Peak and Indian Peaks Wilderness Areas from the Lookout at the top of the Corona lift. The Corona Bowl's chutes and glades provide a challenge for the more expert snow demons. Eldora also offers an array of cross-country and snowshoeing trails, as well as a terrain park for freestylers.

General Information: www.eldora.com; 303-440-8700.

Location: 45 miles northwest of Denver via I-25, U.S. Hwy. 36 west and Colo. Hwy 119; 21 miles west of Boulder.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Snow Report: 303-440-8700.

Lift Rates: TBA.

Terrain: 680 skiable acres; 20 percent beginner; 50 percent intermediate; 30 percent advanced/expert. Base is 9,200', with a 1,600' vertical rise; summit: 10,800'.

Keystone Resort

Keystone offers one of the longest ski days in Colorado, staying open until 8 p.m. on night-skiing days. It also boasts one of the top-ranked parks in the country (by both Transworld Snowboarding and Freeskier magazines): the A51 Terrain Park, which has features for skiers and riders of all ability levels, its own chairlift and three jump lines. There are guided snowcat skiing and riding tours that include lunch in a warming hut (catered by the five-star Alpenglow Stube restaurant), plus unfettered access to the thrills on North, South and Independence bowls. If you're strapped for cash, you can pay $5 for a ride to the North or South bowls (meet at the Outback Bowls Gate). Keystone has two more bowls, Bergman and Erickson, that you can hike to — and it's got Ripperroo's Forest, a kids' area on Dercum Mountain where young snow bunnies can learn how to tackle natural obstacles like bumps and berms.

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Amber Taufen has been writing about people, places and things in Denver since 2005. She works as an editor, writer, and production and process guru out of her home office in the foothills.
Contact: Amber Taufen