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.
Ready to go after landing in Aspen. (Aspen-Pitkin County Airport/Facebook)
This season, it will be easier than ever to hop on a plane and head for where the powder is freshest in Colorado.
Sun Valley set to go with early discounts. (Sun Valley/Facebook)
Once the snow begins to fly, skiers and riders make plans to get up into the hills as soon as possible – and stay there as long as possible. As a result, many Rocky Mountain resorts lay out early season ticket and lodging deals.
Wolf Creek base will remain as is for the foreseeable future. (Wolf Creek)
A federal judge recently ruled against the development of a village around the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area, further dimming the prospects of the Colorado mountain becoming a destination resort.
Fourteeners loom over Keystone golfers (Keystone/Facebook)
The golf season at Colorado winter resorts may be truncated but, while they are open, the courses reflect the mountains amidst they sit.
Snowmass Base Village gets new life. (Snowmass Village/Facebook)
There’s lots going on at Snowmass this summer as ownership works to finally build out the resort base area and to establish the Colorado mountain as a major summer destination.
Smoke rises from Peak 2 fire. (9News/Twitter)
An intense but compact wildfire between the Colorado towns of Breckenridge and Frisco has forced fire officials to clear people out of the Peak 7 resort area.
Payette River goes big near Tamarack. (Tamarack Resort/Facebook)
The winter may be over, but a solid reminder of what a good year it was in the West continues to play out in the rivers that are flowing bank-full out of the mountains this spring.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame class of 2016. (Mary Jo Tarallo/Facebook)
Among the inductees were President of the National Ski Areas Association Michael Berry; skiing film legends Dan and John Egan; ski jumping Olympian and coach Jeff Hastings; and Copper Mountain conceiver Chuck Lewis. Also joining the class are athlete and author Ellen Post Foster; freestyle icon Marion Post Caldwell; National Ski Patrol visionary Gretchen Rous Besser; and ski marketing and trade-show impresario Bernie Weichsel.
The new inductees bring the total to 428 Honored Members in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
“Each member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 was a remarkable leader, as either an athlete or sport builder,” said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame Chairman Tom Kelly. “So much of what all of us enjoy in our sport today has emanated from these outstanding honored members of the Hall of Fame.”
HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2016
Michael Berry, Colorado: Michael has been President of the National Ski Areas Association since 1993. Under his leadership, the NSAA significantly increased annual visits to resorts throughout North America. Michael’s vision helped create continuity and a sustainable growth model for resorts.
Dan and John Egan, Vermont | New Hampshire: The Egan brothers have starred in more Warren Miller films than anyone worldwide. As pioneering explorers and ambassadors they traveled the globe to put “extreme” in skiing. This dynamic duo set the standard for what is possible in big-mountain skiing.
Jeff Hastings, New Hampshire: Jeff impacted Olympic ski jumping as a competitor and coach. His fourth-place Olympic performance in 1984 in Sarajevo holds as a record in modern U.S. ski jumping. He has continued his work teaching, judging and commentating competitions and advocating for jumping and Nordic combined.
Chuck Lewis, Colorado: A competitor at heart, Chuck is known within the industry for his vision and passion. His dedication and meticulous planning helped to conceive Copper Mountain and a trail design and layout philosophy widely accepted and used to this day.
Ellen Post Foster, D.C.: Ellen touched both the freestyle skiing world as an athlete and the Professional Ski Instructors of America as a model instructor and visionary. Her efforts and passion for snowsport motivated countless youth skiers to hit the slopes. Her contributions continue as an author and advocate of skiing education.
Marion Post Caldwell, D.C.: As a freestyle skiing icon, Marion dominated the sport in the 1970s. Women’s overall champ in ’76 and ’77 and being named Freestyle Skier of the Year are among her accomplishments. She brought skiing to the world stage as an ambassador and pioneer of the sport.
Gretchen Rous Besser, Vermont: While her unprecedented career as a ski patroller and first aid instructor are impressive, her impact as an historian, international liaison and visionary in the world of skiing sets her apart. She generously shares her passion and vast knowledge to better industry organizations worldwide.
Bernie Weichsel, Massachusetts: Known globally throughout the industry, Bernie has done it all. As an advocate, he created an organized freestyle competition circuit. His innovative SKI USA worldwide promotions continue to bring thousands of international skiers to U.S. slopes and his consumer ski and snowboard expos attract tens of thousands of visitors each year.
The mission of the U. S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame is to honor athletes and sport builders for their lifelong national and international achievements in the sport. The National Ski Association of America, now known as USSA, was established in 1905 in Ishpeming, MI, the birthplace of organized skiing. The Hall of Fame Museum, established in 1954, resides in Ishpeming as well.
A national voting panel selects the incoming class in the fall of each year. The class of 2016 will be enshrined next September at the Museum in Ishpeming.
Hit Mary Jane up for more spring. (Winter Park/Facebook)
Just when Colorado resorts prepare to shut down winter operations, snow storms roll into the Rockies -- and forcing a trio of mountains to keep their lifts running longer than scheduled.
Resorts still open in the Centennial State report more than a foot of snow since the beginning of April – with some adding two feet or more. While temps warmed unseasonably in March, they cooled significantly once April arrived to not only produce new snow but also slow the annual slushing-up during the spring skiing period.
Vail has announced it will a week longer to April 17, due to two feet that have fallen in recent days. The majority of the front side of the mountain – plus Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls – will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ski school will run private lessons only.
Over the hill at Aspen Mountain, diminishing snowfall in March – 30 inches total – made the scheduled closing date of April 16 realistic; however, another 17 inches in the first week of the month pushed the shutdown to April 23.
Operating hours will shift to 10 a.m.-5 p.m. to take allow slopes to warm up in the morning and to take advantage of longer days – unless a powder day shows up and lifts crank up at 9 a.m.
Top-to-bottom skiing will be served by Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Express, FIS and Ruthie's lifts.
While the bulk of Winter Park closes on April 23, the bumps of Mary Jane will be ready for spring skiing and riding until April 30.
Sometimes you luck out with an Easter snowstorm. (Bretton Woods)
April snow will still be in abundance at many resorts across the country, so hop out for some spring runs with the Easter Bunny this Easter.
Kayak racing at Monarch (Monarch/Facebook)
As the end of another season is in sight, Colorado skiers and snowboarders go a little crazy knowing that they will soon have to find another way to fulfill their mountain jones. Such anxiety translates into a number of wacky spring traditions.
Beyond pond skimming and beer guzzlin', SnoCountry took a look around the high country of the Centennial State and came up with a sampling of the off-beat, unconventional ways to celebrate both the end of the season and the beginning of spring.
Eldora. Denver's neighborhood mountain has made a habit of returning to its roots every spring. The annual Eldora Retro Days kick off April 1-2 with folks digging through their closets for throwback skiing outfits – “onesie” powder suits, neon headbands, ski bibs, outrageous sunglasses. The resort is set to close the next weekend, and retro gear dominates the final week.
Monarch. The southern Colorado mountain combines its vernal celebration with the upcoming river boating season on the Arkansas River with its annual Kayaks on Snow race April 15. Adventurous paddlers navigate berms, banks and bumps before splashing into the traditional icy pond. The next day, April 16, is the last day of the season with a sendoff cookoff and tailgate party in the parking lot.
Loveland. At a mountain that doesn't plan to close until May, the party begins a month early with the "world's highest cornhole competition" April 1. Skiers and riders will form two-person teams and ride up Chair 1 to the Continental Divide. From there, they will toss bean bags into a hole at 12,700 feet – on hopes of setting a Guinness World Record for the activity.
Aspen Highlands. April 9 is closing day and, to finish off the season, the ninth annual Schneetag race goes full bore. Four-man teams build a "craft" that will slide down the main slope and across a small pond at the bottom. At the top, they perform a skit to exemplify the theme of their craft. Winners choose from a list of prizes.
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)
Free uphilling at Buttermilk. (Aspen-Snowmass)
Scheduled to shut down its lifts on April 2, operators of Buttermilk Mountain have decided to open back up on April 8-9 for all manner of human-powered uphill traffic.
Hesperus Ski Area – the town hill for Durango-area skiers and riders – has closed down to address long-overdue repairs to the only chairlift and other infrastructure.
Mountain officials say they expect to reopen the second week in March, but are unsure how long repairs will take. The mountain closed on March 7 last season.
That mean’s southwest Colorado skiers and snowboarders won’t be able to sneak out of work for few turns at noon or carve under the lights after work - or tube. Ski Hesperus operates half-days on Mondays through Fridays, and full days on Saturdays and Sundays, with popular night skiing until 9 p.m. except on Sundays.
A major portion of the maintenance is the main double chairlift, installed in the 1960s, including the condition of a number of the assemblies that connect the chair to the cable. A report following an unannounced inspection by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board on Feb. 20-21 revealed issues with signage, record-keeping, lift maintenance and employee training.
Hesperus’ Greg Ralph said that new “clips’ have been ordered and should be installed in the next weeks. Repairs have been made to the emergency braking system, and updating of signs and training of workers is underway, Ralph said.
Durango businessman James Coleman bought Hesperus in 2016, adding it to his regional portfolio that includes Purgatory, Arizona Snowbowl, Sipapu and Pajarito. Hesperus opened in the 1960s and was run by Jim Pitcher as a “one-man show” for three decades – with hand-painted signs and a Quonset hut base lodge.
Long a local’s favorite, Hesperus sits 11 miles west of downtown Durango with 60 skiable acres, 700 vertical feet and 26 trails.
Pats Peak cookies are an obligatory part of a trip to the mountain. (Pats Peak)
With all the powder and corduroy you’ll be hitting on your next ski trip, refueling with some fine confections are in order. SnoCountry.com has tirelessly researched across the country to find these not-to-miss mountain treats.
A family heads down Village Way (Winter Park Resort/Chris Wellhausen)
Sometimes, you just want to get onto a trail and just go … and go … and go. Fortunately, U.S. ski and snowboard resorts have just the ticket for those who need a leisurely slide down the hill.
Obviously, Europe has us beat hands down, but the U.S. has got length, too. So SnoCountry.com went looking for the longest ski runs in the country -- those under a single name -- and came up with this sampling.
Vail boasts the longest run in Colorado, its famous Riva Ridge trail. Nothing gets you from top to bottom at the Colorado resort more readily than Riva Ridge. It’s mostly blue and black, starting near the summit and winding 4-1/2 miles to the Vail Village base area.
At Snowmass, if you’re at the top of Elk Camp and want a long cruiser at the end of the day, skiers and riders can link several blue runs off Elk Camp summit into a 5.3-mile cruiser to the bottom of Two Creeks chairlift. The run covers East Branch run, which is one of the longest single-named trails on the Colorado mountain.
If you’re at the top of Winter Park and don’t have the legs for anymore blacks or blues, as someone how to get on long and languid Village Way run that starts at the top of Parsenn Bowl. Mostly blue at the top, Village Way winds down more than five miles down onto the main front side of the Colorado resort.
Vermont’s largest resort Killington also claims the East’s longest single run, a 10-mile cruise called Juggernaut. The trail starts at the top of Killington Peak and courses right along the ropes at ski area boundary. Rating begins as a blue but transitions to a green slide to the base of the Sunrise Village triple chair. A recent trip by SnoCountry resulted in a 45-minute trip from top to bottom.
Eyeing a powder line (Monarch/Facebook)
Monarch Mountain wears two faces. One is for families, kids and once-a-season visitors who seek a dedicated beginner area, plenty of greens and blues, and friendly down-home attitude. The other smiles on powder hounds with serious steep-and-deep terrain fed by persistent Continental Divide storms.
Whichever the desire – or a mixture of the two – this southern Colorado resort fills the bill. As does nearby Salida, a Victorian mining town fully yuppie-fied with Patagonia and Subarus.
Terrain/Lifts. Vertical is just over 1,110 feet. Novices get Tumbelina lift to themselves. Groomers roll off Breezeway and Panorama lifts, with a pair of terrain parks. The gentle runs along the ridgetop Divide off Panorama chair are cause to pause to soak in 100-mile vistas to east and west. When a dump arrives, Monarch’s original steeps and trees await cycling on the Garfield chair, as do the pitches off mid-mountain Panorama chair. A short hike gets you into the silence of Curecanti Bowl, and longer hump reaches the classic powder lines of Milkwood Bowl. Beyond, Monarch’s ‘cat skiing is affordable and surprisingly huge.
Deals. Bring a season pass from any Colorado resort and get a $45 day ticket. Online purchases cut deep, as does $25 Gems Card via Colorado Ski Country. Some Shell gas stations give out two-for-one vouchers, and area supermarkets often sell discounted tickets.
Eat/Drink. Base lodge just got an upgrade (fewer stairs, more seating) but retained hearty cafeteria fare and a long-standing welcome for brown-baggers. Sidewinder Saloon rocks lunchtime and apres-ski with local brews.
Stay. Accommodations at up-valley Monarch Lodge are basic and comfortable, and short-term cabins and homes nestled nearby. The town of Salida hosts all manner of lodging. Most include passes to the Salida Hot Springs pool, and some sell discounted lift tickets.
Play. Winter backcountry hikers get a 12,000-foot-high leg up from Monarch Pass. In spring, Monarch hosts pond-skimming in kayaks – a nod to the popularity of summer rafting on the Arkansas River. The town of Salida continues to up its game with coffee houses, upscale dining, shopping and raucous bars – with kayaks and tubes passing through downtown. More hot springs sit a short drive up the road at Mount Princeton and Cottonwood Canyon.
Travel. Nearest commercial airports are Colorado Springs (two hours) and Gunnison (one hour), and Denver is three hours away. Major routes (U.S. 285 and U.S. 50) intersect near Salida.
Insider Tip: Busloads from Kansas and Oklahoma hit Monarch for holidays, so either go elsewhere those weeks, or get on the hill early and stick to the high ground to avoid long lines.
Young skiers at Ridge Cat pickup. (Loveland/Facebook)
At Loveland Ski Area – like all mountains -- a day ticket or season pass gets you onto all the lifts on the mountain. Unlike most others, your ticket at Loveland also puts you in line for a few snowcat rides into powder country.