Spring skiing: when we wear fewer layers, swap goggles for sunglasses and don’t put on enough sunscreen. Strong storms in February and early March this year buried central and southern Colorado in many feet of snow, leading some resorts to extend their seasons and setting spring up for epic conditions.
First it was Tahoe, where a record-breaking February prompted most resorts to extend their seasons deeper into the spring. Now it's March, and it's Colorado's turn.
Industry statistics say that one quarter of parents who head to the hills in the winter do so with snowboards – and they want their children to learn to ride so they can enjoy the slopes in similar fashion.
Upgrades abound for a quartet of Colorado ski and snowboard resorts that swing open their doors in mid-November, as the new season gets into full-bore boogie mode for the 2018-2019 season.
Fall and the first tastes of winter continue to duke it out across North America. With occasional bursts of cold and spurts of snow continuing in this week’s forecast, it’s a reminder that winter, truly, is not far away.
Call it Epic-Lite or Ikon 2.0, but the southern Colorado-based Power Pass has taken off around the country, into Canada and across the seas.
Another small ski and snowboard area in the southern Rockies is ready to expand: Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort has announced projects to add lifts, trails and more on-mountain dining.
A staple on the activity slate at many ski and snowboard resorts in the Rocky Mountains is the fast-chargin’, whip-turnin’ mountain coaster.
The world’s longest gondola and an expansion of terrain in the order of 2,000 percent highlight a multi-year proposal for what has been the smallest ski and snowboard mountain in Utah.
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.
Colorado ski and snowboard resorts took a short break after winter, but they quickly turned their attention to the burgeoning summer season – full of hikes and bikes and thrills of all kinds.
Power Pass begins at Purgatory. (Purgatory/Facebook)
Multi-resort season passes mostly cross state lines, even national borders. So the southern-tier Power Pass that just went on sale for next season stands out because of its distinct regional appeal.
Until Ski Hesperus turns on lights, Purg will stay lit. (Ski Hesperus/Facebook)
Being business partners has its benefits, especially in times of little snow, as with Purgatory Mountain Resort cranking up night skiing and riding until local-hill partner Ski Hesperus receives enough to turn on its lifts and lights.
It's a festive Christmas at Grand Targhee. (Grand Targhee)
If celebrating a white Christmas is on your wish list this year, planning to spend the day with loved ones on the slopes is just what Santa ordered. Finish the day with a festive meal where everyone can relax and enjoy each other’s company and you’ve got a family tradition in the making. Follow up an uncrowded day skiing and riding with a feast at one of these mountain resorts.
Learn-to-ski is a staple at town hill Elk Ridge. (Elk Ridge/Facebook)
An ownership group focusing on the Southwest that has five ski and snowboard mountains under its wing now has a sixth: Elk Ridge Ski Area in Williams, Ariz.
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.
Mountain biking is king at Purgatory. (Purgatory/Facebook)
As Durango businessman James Coleman bought five southwest Rockies resorts, he promised to put significant money into improvements at these mountains in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
Catchin' some rays at Crested Butte (Crested Butte/Facebook)
One of the perks that comes with sticking out the ski and snowboard season to the end is a great sun tan – and lots of party time in the sunshine.
Most mountain resorts make space for sun-worshippers to engage in their favorite apres-ski activities, and SnoCountry took a look around to find some of the best.
Purgatory. Look out, or you might ski right into Purgy's at the base of the southern Colorado resort. Hit up the outdoor bar for craft beers, order an appetizer, and lounge in the deck chairs for some of the best people-watching locales around.
Park City. Mid-Mountain Lodge once served more than 1,000 miners a day. Now, it's the 10th Mountain outdoor grill at the base of the Pioneer and McConkey's Express lifts. Lodge has two-tiered decks and hosts weddings during summer.
Squaw Valley. Take the tramway to High Camp halfway up the mountain. Even if the pools are empty, there's tons of deck chairs and plenty of choices for a nosh – and the views of the Sierra and Lake Tahoe will amaze.
Lutsen Mountains. Summit Chalet at the top of Moose Mountain lays out food, drink and spectacular views to the North Shore of Lake Superior. Menu offers wraps, soups, burgers and pizza -- including local fave walleye sandwich.
Loon. Camp III, a log cabin in the former logging area on New Hampshire mountain, sits at the base of North Peak Express Quad. It's famous for its venison stew, bison burgers and daily specials – but if the sun's out, hit the expansive deck with a beverage and sun screen.
Sunday River. Foggy Goggle, at the base of the Maine resort, is reputed to have the longest après ski party in the East. Also venue for Bud Light Music Series, with massive deck and tons apres-ski eats on the menu.
Crested Butte. The new Umbrella Bar atop the Prospect Lift gives novices and intermediates a place to catch some rays – if the weather's right. Retractable windows create open-air atmosphere for munchies and local craft beer – and eye-popping views of southern Colorado Rockies.
Spring jumpin' at Sierra-at-Tahoe (Sierra-at-Tahoe/Facebook)
With plenty of snow still on the ground, a growing number of resorts across the West are going to keep the lifts turning longer than scheduled.
In New Mexico, Taos Ski Valley announced it will extend its season an extra week to Sunday, April 9 – although it will closed April 3 for it annual employee day. Three lifts will be running that extra week, but the beginner lifts will be turned off.
In Los Alamos, Pajarito Mountain officials decided to keep things going a week longer to March 26 – and then on weekends if conditions permit.
To the north, Purgatory will cease daily operations as scheduled on April 2, but will reopen on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through the end of the month.
Also at the southwest Colorado resort, there’s a new surface, “transfer” lift open now to eliminate a long, flat traverse for skiers and snowboarders to the Legends Express on the mountain’s backside. Lift 11 can be picked up at the bottom of Dirty Secret, Siegele Street and Bottom’s Chute and shuttled back to the high-speed quad.
“The new lift provides easier access from advanced and expert trails to the newest high-speed quad,” said Purgatory’s Ed Youmans.
There’ll be another week of skiing and riding at Sierra-at-Tahoe, which announced it will stay open until April 24 – also Customer Appreciation Day. The Tahoe-area mountain has seen more than 500 inches fall from the sky this season, a “season for the books,” is how GM John Rice characterized the season.
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.