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Variety Is Spice Of Colorado Day-Trip Mountains

Hesperus-Jump Plenty of thrills and spills can be had at Colorado's smaller day-mountains. (Ski Hesperus/Facebook)

Tucked in among the mega-resorts of the Colorado Rockies you can find a 10-pack of lesser-known mountains that bring skiing and riding to their local communities -- and a taste of the sport's history in the Centennial State.

Colorado skiers and riders know about these hideaways and head to them for an unpretentious, inexpensive day on the slopes. Out-of-staters can take a page from the locals' book and carve out some vacation time to explore some of these mountains, too.

Sitting astride the Continental Divide, Cooper/Chicago Ridge (née Ski Cooper) -- the WWI training ground for the 10th Mountain Division -- makes history again with 70 new acres of expert and advanced terrain off the east (looker's left) side of the mountain. A new T-bar is in to serve the steeps in Tennessee Creek Basin that resort officials liken to narrow, tree-lined New England trails.

The closest skiing and riding to Denver, Echo Mountain has a chair, a conveyor, a couple of blues, a couple of greens and a new food truck at the base. An upside-down hill, skiers and riders park at the top and head down. Night skiing on beginner slope can be had for sub-$100 season pass.

Eldora Mountain attracts Front Range day skiers and riders with the short drive up from Boulder. To better handle crowds, Eldora has more parking lot buses and a rideshare app. Terrain park will get reshaped throughout the season with new equipment.

Head over Berthoud Pass and past Winter Park to find Granby Ranch. The two-peak ski area upgraded snowmaking for its predominately blue and green trails. And, you can rent East Mountain for night skiing and partying.

Farther to the north, Howelson Hill -- the town hill for Steamboat Springs -- is operated by the city, but negotiations are underway to bring it under the Steamboat Resort umbrella. Night skiing is big, or stop by to watch top ski jumpers train on jumps next door.

A pair of day mountains off I-70 -- Sunlight near Glenwood Springs and Powderhorn out of Grand Junction -- give skiers and riders a break from the "overwhelm" of Aspen-Snowmass. Sunlight has begun an extensive expansion with longer gladed runs, five new hike-to-ski runs and 500 vertical in the East Ridge area. Powderhorn has a new bar for food and drink, and a tiny-home village at the base.

In the Southwest corner of the state, the greater Durango area hosts two small day-mountains. A member of the Power Pass network, Ski Hesperus got infrastructure improvements in the last couple of years and works hard to give newbies and youngsters a deal on lift tickets. Right in town, old-school Chapman Hill now has snowmaking. A ride up on the rope tow recalls days of yesteryear, as does the single wide slope down.

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