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With world famous champagne powder and an abundance of resorts, the Colorado Rocky Mountains are one of the most popular winter destinations for snowboard and ski holidays. Snow conditions are consistently good for the majority of Colorado resorts, as well as long ski seasons.
Some North America ski resorts offer combined lift tickets for more than one mountain or for two resorts, but Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass is a hard deal to beat for the sheer monetary value and for the great selection of resorts. One ticket or season pass gives visitors access to five Colorado resorts - Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin (located within an hour of each other) - and three California resorts – Northstar, Heavenly, and Kirkwood.
Epic Pass holders can enjoy unlimited skiing at any of these eight resorts for just $659 for adults, $389 for teens, and $339 for children (as of May 2012 - prices subject to change). Vail Resorts also offers cheaper season passes with some restricted days over holiday periods. With single-day adult lift tickets costing up to $115 per day, the Epic Pass is an amazing deal for visitors who plan to ski or snowboard more than six days in a season. The pass also includes use of summer lifts for mountain biking and hiking!
“Like no place on Earth”, Vail is the largest ski resort in the United States. Although its front side offers a variety of runs that can keep skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels entertained for more than a week, the resort’s world-famous back bowls are its main attraction. The bowls are so vast that it would be possible to ski or snowboard on their terrain for an entire year and never experience the same run twice. Intermediate skiers and snowboarders should head to China Bowl and Blue Ski Basin for long, thrilling runs. Expert skiers will also find an abundance of challenging terrain in any of the bowls, but especially in Blue Ski Basin. Beginners should stay on the front side where runs in the Sourdough area, Mid-Vail, and Wildwood provide just the right amount of challenge when learning to ski.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Beaver Creek’s motto is “Not Exactly Roughing It,” and the family-friendly resort lives up to it ten-fold. The hospitable international staff makes sure that visitors feel as comfortable as possible. It is not uncommon to see someone walking around at the top of a lift with a tray of hot chocolate for cold and thirsty skiers and snowboarders. The resort has replaced its stairs, which are difficult to navigate in ski boots, with long escalators that take visitors steps away from the lifts. Over 50% of the mountain is suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders who will enjoy the extensive grooming for which the resort is known.
Breckenridge is a great resort for skiers of every skill level. Even non-skiers would enjoy strolling around the cute town filled with a variety of specialty shops, cafes, bars, and fine dining restaurants. The resort, which grooms nearly one third of its terrain, is a great place to learn how to ski. Although only 14% of the terrain is marked as beginner runs, many of the intermediate runs here are easier than those found in the other nearby resorts. Advanced skiers and snowboarders will love the challenge of Breckenridge’s double-black diamond runs, which make up 36% of the resort’s terrain.
Keystone is the closest of the Vail Resorts to Denver, which makes it easy to access in even the worst winter storms. Although it is not as big or well-known as some of its sister resorts, Keystone is unique because half of its mountain is expert terrain and half of it is suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. This makes it a great option for families with a variety of skill levels. Another fun part of visiting Keystone is that it offers night skiing, which means that visitors can watch the sunset from the mountain and continue skiing as late as 8pm.
Arapahoe Basin, Colorado
Arapahoe Basin, commonly referred to as A-Basin, is a local favorite. It is a smaller resort with fewer frills, but there are also fewer crowds and some pretty intense expert runs. 60% of the mountain is advanced or expert terrain, so this is the best place for visitors who are looking for a challenge. A-Basin’s high altitude and adventurous spirit means that it is also the first resort to open and the last to close every year.
Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Northstar, California
Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Northstar are located in Lake Tahoe, California. Northstar is on the north shore of the lake and approximately 40 minutes drive from Heavenly, which is located in South Lake Tahoe. Reno Airport is the nearest major airport for accessing the Tahoe area, so all three resorts can be reached by taxi or shuttle transfer in less than one hour.
Northstar is an excellent resort for learning to ski or snowboard, and is well-suited for families with young children. Most of the lodging options are ski-in, ski-out, or a short walk to the slopes.
Heavenly caters to all types of skiers and boarders. Its summit also offers spectacular views over Lake Tahoe, Reno, and the Nevada desert. The border between California and Nevada passes through the center of South Lake Tahoe and Stateline. On the Nevada side there are fewer accommodation options and they mainly consist of larger, full-service casino hotels. There is a larger selection of smaller hotels and inns on the California side, as well as more bars and restaurants, which make for livelier evenings. Several hotels are located within walking distance to the Heavenly Gondola.
Kirkwood is approximately 33 miles south of South Lake Tahoe, located in the Eldorado National Forest. The resort is well-known for its huge average yearly snowfall and a lot of advanced terrain. Since there is a limited amount of lodging at the resort, most people choose to stay in South Lake Tahoe and use the daily shuttle bus to Kirkwood.
The Epic Pass and the more restricted Summit Pass and Local’s Passes are all available to book online here. Early booking will result in lower ticket prices. Vail Resorts may increase the prices at any time, or stop the sale of passes when the maximum amount is reached. Ski travel packages are available, including accommodation, transfers and lift tickets as well as ski guiding, if required.