Colorado’s mountain resorts have fine-tuned their slopes and improved guest services for the 2011-2012 ski/snowboard season. This year, it’s about technology, terrain parks and a few surprise new twists and turns. Here’s a rundown of the resorts and their opening dates:
Arapahoe Basin – Open. arapahoebasin.com.
Black Mountain Express — a new high-speed quad — replaces the old Exhibition triple chair at the base area. The new lift cuts ride time in half.
Aspen Highlands/Buttermilk – Opening Dec. 10. aspensnowmass.com.
Aspen/Snowmass – Opening Nov. 24. aspensnowmass.com.
A new 12-foot halfpipe at Snowmass allows beginner riders to learn the ropes. Aspen areas’ hands-free radio frequency (RF) plastic lift ticket card can be linked to a credit card for easy payment at all Aspen Ski Co-owned businesses. The Aspen/Snowmass mobile app can be downloaded for updates on everything from weather to dinner reservations.
Beaver Creek – Opening Nov. 23. beavercreek.com.
EpicMix (see Vail Resorts).
Breckenridge – Opening Nov. 11. breckenridge.com.
One Ski Hill Place opened June 1 at the base of Peak 8. This RockResort luxury property includes an aquatics center, two movie lounges, a bowling alley and three dining choices plus meeting space.
On the mountain, thrill-seekers will love riding the new alpine coaster — The Gold Runner — that twists and turns on a raised track between two ski runs on Peak 8. The award-winning Freeway Terrain Park gets a 22-foot superpipe that debuts live on NBC during the Winter Dew Tour Dec. 15-18. EpicMix (see Breckenridge Ski Resorts).
Copper Mountain – Opening Nov. 4. coppercolorado.com.
More parking spots open up in the free lots. Woodward at Copper — the indoor/outdoor ski/snowboard camp — offers a variety of winter camps and sessions this season, many of which will be held on the new 22-foot Superpipe.
Crested Butte – Opening Nov. 23. skicb.com.
The addition of a new trail, Columbine, adds 15.3 intermediate acres; and glades in Horseshoe Springs have been opened up for upper intermediates. You’ll also find a new NASTAR race arena on Canaan trail and an ice rink in Adventure Park at the base area.
Echo Mountain – Opening Nov. 30. echomt.com.
This new area begins its fifth season with the addition of a top-to-bottom beginner run, bringing the total number of trails to 16.
Eldora – Opening Nov. 11. eldora.com.
A magic carpet conveyor lift replaces the Tenderfoot lifts. Tree thinning improves glade skiing and riding.
Howelsen – Opening Dec. 3. steamboatsprings.net.
Keystone – Opening Nov. 4. keystoneresort.com.
EpicMix (see Vail Resorts).
Loveland – Open. skiloveland.com.
Monarch Mountain – Opening Nov. 23. skimonarch.com.
A new base terminal improves efficiency at Garfield Chair, and a new ramp at the top of Pioneer Quad makes unloading easier. Starbucks moves up a level in the day lodge to the highest location “in the free world,” making room for a new deli at the mid-level, and two more Hydration Stations are added. A new yurt welcomes junior kids, while a remodeled Children’s Center serves the younger ones. New features have been added to the terrain parks, Tilt and K2.
Powderhorn – Opening Dec. 15. powderhorn.com.
A new natural terrain park opens, and more features built from aspen deadfall are added to existing parks.
Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort – Opening in Dec. 16, date to be determined. durangomountainresort.com.
The front side of the mountain opens a new gladed section, “Ambassadors Glade,” named after resort owners who served as U.S. ambassadors to Iceland and Jamaica. This year, terrain park features are made from dirt instead of snow, allowing the park to open earlier and be maintained more consistently.
Silverton – Opening unguided season in November; guided season in January. silvertonmountain.com.
Though lift lines don’t exist at this extreme ski area, it is adding 30 chairs to its one lift, bringing the total to 89.
Ski Cooper – Opening Nov. 24 weekends only; daily after Dec. 16. skicooper.com.
Solvista Basin – Opening Dec. 14. solvista.com.
Steamboat – Opening in Nov. 23. steamboat.com.
The new slope-side Burgess Creek Terrace and Umbrella Bar at the base area adjacent to the gondola entrance is the perfect spot to watch skiers. View from the heated outdoor patio on the terrace or through floor-to-ceiling windows inside the bar. Either way, it’s the place to be. Pine Beetle mitigation has claimed 50 acres of trees below Rough Rider Basin and another 30 acres on Thunderhead Express and Burgess Creek lift lines. The four terrain parks sprout 30 new features designed by pro riders.
Sunlight – Opening Dec. 3. sunlightmtn.com.
Telluride – Opening Nov. 24. tellurideskiresort.com.
Guided backcountry skiing into Bear Creek and Alta Lakes terrain can now be booked through Telluride Eco Adventures. A steel staircase and bridge were installed last spring on the left shoulder of Palmyra Peak for accessing Gold Hill, the European way.
Vail – Opening Nov. 18. vail.com.
A new high-speed quad chair replaces High Noon Lift (Chair 5) in Sun Up and Sun Down bowls, cutting ride time from 12 minutes to 6. Ritz-Carlton Residences, Four Seasons and Solaris all open this season in Vail Village.
Vail Resorts – EpicMix — the new mobile and online technology built into Vail Resorts’ season pass and lift cards — allows skiers and riders to track their mountain experience and share online. See how it works at epicmix.com.
Winter Park – Opening Nov. 16. skiwinterpark.com.
More parking spaces at the Vintage Hotel’s lot allow more free parking for the Village Cabriolet. The Lodge at Sunspot will show off its new facelift this season.
Wolf Creek – Opening Nov. 5. wolfcreekski.com.
A remodeled kitchen in the main day-lodge will continue to serve up that famous Santa Fe Green Chile. Bonanza trail is widened.
Claudia Carbone is an award-winning freelance journalist who lives in Denver, Colorado.