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North American Ski Resorts Reviews: Colorado

 

Colorado snow is amongst the best, anywhere. The locals call it champagne powder: deep, luxuriant and effervescent stuff that has been dried as it travelled across North America, high in the jet stream, before being dropped by the ton on this mountainous arena.

Interstate 70 is the main highway running west from Denver, soon after leaving Denver International Airport the road starts to rise; prairie becomes hills that then build quickly into the rugged north-south spine of North America, the Rocky Mountains. The Colorado Rockies contain the largest acreage of ski resorts in the US. Some are small, where most people sliding down the slopes are locals enjoying their own backyard playground, others are large, attracting visitors from around the world. Large or small they all possess a uniquely Colorado ambience and each is worth at the very least a day’s exploration.

 

The Colorado mountain terrain is very different from the Alps or British Colombia with rounded, weathered summits rather than jagged, towering peaks. Trees forest many slopes, providing a picturesque periphery to the pistes and a wonderfully different riding experience for snowboarders and skiers who venture into the deep powder between the trunks. In general it isn’t as steep as the Alps but it is arguably more varied, with open bowls, tight trees, wide spaced trees, meadows, stream beds, natural kickers and pillow drops, wide open easy cruiser runs, moguls and a fair smattering of steep double blacks.

North American ski resorts have a boundary around their entire area and anywhere within that perimeter is avalanche controlled. Go out of bounds and you could loose your lift pass. If you find yourself in difficulties rescue could prove very expensive as the snow patrols charge to give assistance. However, because the whole resort is avalanche controlled, there's loads of safe off-piste powder stashes, untouched tree runs and first lines to go round.

By far the most accessible, and arguably many of the best resorts, are easily reached from I-70. An hour and a half drive from Denver airport are Winter Park, Keystone and Copper Mountain. Breckenridge is another twenty minutes drive as is Arapahoe Basin. Vail, Beaver Creek, Steamboat Springs and Aspen are all dotted along or off I-70 as it snakes west across the mountains and on into Utah. Even though the drive to the furthest of these is five or six hours depending on conditions, the scenery is often spectacular, as I-70 pairs up with the Colorado River and they wind their way through red rock canyons dusted with snow. For more adventures, drive west for 5 - 6 hours and you will reach Utah and the resorts of Park City and Snowbird, located close to Salt Lake City.

 

©Huw J. Williams 2012

 

Resorts: 
Aspen
Resorts: 
Beaver Creek
Resorts: 
Breckenridge
Resorts: 
Copper Mountain
Resorts: 
Crested Butte
Resorts: 
Keystone
Resorts: 
Steamboat Springs
Resorts: 
Telluride
Resorts: 
Vail
Resorts: 
Winter Park
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