When visiting a ski resort for the first time, most people check out the trail map to plan their day. But whereas 30 years ago it was a paper map, today it is likely to be on a smartphone or computer.
As summer fades to fall, skiers and snowboarders across North America are chomping at the bit to strap on the boards when Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Ski Area, Vermont’s Killington Resort and Maine’s Sunday River prepare for the annual #racetoopen for the 2018-19 season.
Summiting a 14,000-foot peak is a popular pastime in Colorado, since 56 of the 68 14ers in the continental U.S. lie within its borders. And a handful are close enough to cop in a single day.
Willy Booker, head of Burke Mountain Academy which hones some of America’s finest ski racers, bemoans that kids are less active and athletic today and don’t get outdoors enough.
One way to remedy that is to have fun at a mountain resort this summer.
Bragging rights to long ski and ride seasons belong to a handful of resorts across the country and the fun-loving die-hards who enjoy some of the best turns of the year with goggle tans and fun parties to end the year.
Meteorologist Steve Glazier enjoyed April riding at Colorado's Arapahoe Basin this week. (Steve Glazier)
Record cold temperatures are on tap for the weekend of April 7-8, allowing snow pack to last a little longer while creating opportunities for spring snowfall in some areas!
Lunch at Summit Chalet includes view of Minnesota's Lake Superior. (Lutsen Mountains)
Refueling at lunchtime is a long-standing tradition among skiers and riders. And doing so on the mountain – rather than in a crowded base lodge – suits those who don’t want to lose their edge while they pause to eat.
The White Bear at Deer Valley. (Deer Valley)
Whether you love powder or corduroy, groomers or trees, one of the best treats after a day on the snow is an après-ski cocktail. SnoCountry.com did some tough research and discovered some of our favorite signature resort cocktails.
Not long before it's like this at Loveland. (Loveland/Facebook)
Ever since 1936, Loveland Ski Area has been among the first mountains to open for the winter season. And 2017-18 is no different for the Continental Divide ski and snowboard area.
Cheers for the new ski and snowboard season. (Arapahoe Basin/Facebook)
The annual friendly competition to see which Colorado mountain starts up first is over for 2017-2018.
Loveland chairlift ready to be first open. (Loveland/Facebook)
It’s the time of year when the first snow hits the high ridges, the ski shows debut – and resorts begin to announce the day that the new ski and snowboard season will arrive.
Seasons show their change at Aspen-Snowmass. (AspenSnowmass.com)
Summer gondola rides are coming to an end, the mountain bike heads into the garage, and thoughts turn to the upcoming ski and snowboard season throughout the West.
Squaw-Alpine wants to stay open all summer. (Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows/Facebook)
A bonanza year in much of the Sierra Nevada and plenty of late-season snow in the Rockies will keep a dozen ski and snowboard resorts operating into May and beyond.
Finish the season in style. (Arapahoe Basin/Facebook)
Arapahoe Basin and spring skiing in the Rockies are synonymous. Almost always the last Colorado resort to close, A-Basin’s 10,780-foot base elevation and a mountain that is half above treeline and straddles the Continental Divide typically holds off summer longer than others.
But it’s the soft snow, the bright sun and its wacky nature that truly sets Arapahoe Basin above the rest when the days get longer and warmer. Dress in layers … and flaunt your wild side.
Terrain/Lifts. Four cirques carve out 960-acres of skiable terrain below the 12,400-foot Continental Divide. In spring, befriend a local because moving around the mountain with the sun yields the best conditions. Lower front side is all groomers, and several wind down from alpine summit. But it’s the expert runs – wide-open bowls, steep gullies and chutes and tree glades all await. Iconic moguls on Pallavicini pitch with dedicated chair challenges all hot-shots. Traverse across the East Wall on upper front to find a precipitous line (it’s here that the world speed skiing record has been set). Or, cross over to the backside and check out the double-diamond delights in Montezuma Bowl. (Beware: It’s south-facing and will mush up quickly.) Next season, heretofore hiking-only Beavers will open its major gnarl with a chairlift.
Deals. Elevation 3 Pass costs $169 for three days. Colorado Gems Card runs $20 for 2-for-one or 30 percent off. Sports stores and supermarkets in Denver area often sell discounted tickets, and the ubiquitous Internet always yields savings.
Eat/Drink. In spring, tailgate parties start early and often. Breakfast till10:30 at base lodge, then hearty fare thereafter. At mid-mountain Black Mountain Lodge, they start grilling onions early to get salivary glands primed for burgers, stews and BBQ. Mountaintop Snow Plume great spot for brown baggers, and apres-ski libations at 6th Alley Bar and Grill at the bottom. Head down Rt. 6 for resort-town variety below.
Stay. No lodging at base area. Nearest is at nearby Keystone but, for less pricey, all manner of motels, vacation rentals and condos in Dillon, Silverthorne and Frisco.
Play. It’s all skiing and riding at A-Basin. But, below, there’s bowling in Dillon, ice skating in Keystone, dog-sled rides, hot-air balloon ascents, snowmobiling, tubing – all and more in surrounding towns.
Travel. The drive takes about 1-1/2 hours from Denver. Be prepared for heavy traffic up and down I-70 on weekends; sometimes taking Loveland Pass is faster than going to Silverthorne and around. Or, shuttle up from Denver or ride free Summit County buses.
Finish the season in style (Arapahoe Basin/Facebook)
Family fun at A-Basin (Arapahoe Basin/Facebook)
Sunrise in the Rockies (Arapahoe Basin/Facebook)
Tele turns at the top of "Goat" at Stowe. (Stowe)
The true “steeps,” they make us pause. Across ski-snowboard country, we peer tentatively over the edge and into precipitous pitches, long and short, that cause the heart rate to rise and adrenaline to course through our veins.
There will be more powder to hit after expansion into The Beavers at Arapahoe Basin (Arapahoe Basin/Facebook)
Anyone who has gazed longingly through the ropes at The Beavers area but couldn’t handle the hike out can celebrate, as the Forest Service has given Arapahoe Basin the go-ahead for a major expansion.
Grooming 'cats work hard to get Keystone open. (Keystone/Facebook)
Hundreds of A-Basin regulars line up for chance to make first runs of the season. (Arapahoe Basin/Webcam)
The sun snuck over the ridge at just past 7 a.m. Friday, illuminating the base area at Arapahoe Basin and signaling that the 2016-2017 ski and snowboard season would soon be underway.
A couple of hours later, shouts of joy resounded off the walls of the Continental Divide as several hundred folks queued up into their first lift line of the season, let the first chair of the season bump into their calves, felt that familiar swing of lift-off and, officially, opened up the new season in the United States and Canada.
“Let’s get this party started!” was the mantra tweeted out on Friday morning.
And indeed it did, amid the whoosh of chairs accelerating out of the base terminal, the roar of snowmaking guns on the hill, and the shouts and cheers of the adoring crowd.
Arapahoe Basin “won” the annual race to be the first to start this season, after “tying” with Loveland Ski Area in the West last year with an Oct. 29 opening. Resort operations head Alan Henceroth said consistently sub-freezing temps – especially at night – kept snowmaking guns roaring, and Mother Nature blessed the slopes with another 4-5 inches in the last couple of days.
"The stoke level is definitely high here, it’s absolutely electric, you can really feel the passion people have for this mountain," Arapahoe Basin's Adrienne Saia Isaac told SnoCountry.com."
The high-speed Black Mountain Express and intermediate High Noon trail welcomed eager skiers and riders another season at the iconic Summit County resort – seemingly plenty for the first-day crowd.
Snowmaking at Killington begins at the top. (Killington/Facebook)
Opening day is on the minds of skiers and snowboarders already, and brace of resorts have turned on snow guns – and turned eyes to the skies -- in hopes of being the first to open in 2016-2017.
Squaw Valley is one of eight resorts offering skiing and snowboarding Memorial Day Weekend, plus a Hot Tub Party at High Camp. (Squaw Valley photo)
Memorial Day Weekend traditionally marks the official beginning of summer, but eight ski resorts across North American are holding out for at least one last weekend of skiing and riding.
If you’re heading out this weekend to make some turns, don’t forget to bring the bikes, hiking shoes and kayaks too! So which resorts are open this weekend? Here is a rundown: