Summer has arrived in Colorado's high country, and a quartet of high-altitude resorts in Summit County are cranking up for a bustling summer at four of the Rocky Mountain's busiest mountains.
Typically opening mid-June, standard warm-weather attractions include scenic chairlift or gondola rides, coasters and slides, hiking and mountain biking, disc golf, climbing walls, and music, food and drink. Expect that some labor-intensive activities like ziplining may have hours curtailed or, in the case of Breckenridge and Vail, be shut down.
At Arapahoe Basin, Summit County's only via ferreta has half- and full-day guided tours on the "iron way" -- a series of iron rungs fixed in the rock face -- that begin at 12,000 feet of elevation, and top out at the 13,000-foot summit on West Ridge. Near the base, the Aerial Adventure Park runs ziplines, swings, and balancing acts through old-growth forest.
Down the road at Keystone, tubing lives on into the summer, as crews pile up leftover snow atop Dercum Mountain (11,640). Lanes typically stay open into July, 10 a.m to 2 p.m. You must buy a ride up the gondola to the summit, and pre-pay by the run for tubing. Plenty of other activities at mountain-top Adventure Point.
On the other side of Dillon Reservoir, the force of gravity prevails at Breckenridge in the summertime. The Gold Runner Alpine Coaster pitches down 2,500 feet on elevated tracks, with two 360-degree loops and a top speed of 27 mph. The resort also has three alpine slides that run 2,600 feet down concave tracks -- with manual braking.
And to the west, Copper Mountain's summer starts in the base area. Check out bumper boats on West Lake, and a challenging go-kart track. The Woodward Wrecktangle presents a dozen obstacles to overcome in the Woodward Copper extreme sport complex. All-day summer pass includes Wrecktangle, unlimited rides up the chairlift, and limited shots at other activities.
The cheapest activities at any of the resorts are hiking and mountain biking. Check Forest Service regulations for e-bikes. Most have designated trails.
As the weather heats up, Front Range residents and visitors turn their eyes toward the mountains, where they will find cool temps, fresh air, and tons of summer activities awaiting them.
For years, there's been a friendly competition among a trio of high-elevation Colorado resorts to see which Northern American resort opens first. But Covid-19 has cancelled that "race" for this season -- pushing opening dates back.
A pair of Colorado mountains are open for the season – and another two will likely open by the end of the month – as the 2019-2020 ski and snowboard season begins in earnest.
Sometimes rapid growth isn't all it's cracked up to be. Arapahoe Basin has found that to be true and, because of it, announced it will no longer be part of Vail Resort's season pass portfolio next season.
In a world of ride-share, buses, shuttles and Uber, plenty of skiers and riders still pack up the car and head the the hills the old-fashioned way.
Taking a flight to a major airport in the West is just the first step to getting onto the ski and snowboard mountain.
Summer vacationers often seek out lakefront property to cool off, and a number of ski and snowboard resorts across the West are blessed with a lake within spittin’ distance.
A51 Terrain Park is one of the best. (Keystone/Facebook)
At Keystone, the motto is “It’s all here.” From renowned terrain park to wide groomers to high-alpine bowls, the Colorado resort does have the full package. Aimed clearly on the family vacation business, Keystone focuses on how to keep the kids engaged, the teens entertained and the parents challenged.
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)
All three base areas at Copper are never far from the lifts (Copper/Facebook)
If there ever was a mountain created for downhill skiing and riding, it’s Copper Mountain. Nestled among 13,000-plus foot peaks just off the Continental Divide, Copper sits in a snow alley right along I-70 about 1-1/2 hour drive from Denver.
Colorado Skiers and snowboarders well know that traffic jams on Interstate 70 can be mind-numbing – especially on weekends – so they may not mind paying to travel a new express lane aimed at reducing congestion this winter.