After a slow start to the season, the snow in the Rocky Mountains has started piling up. From fresh powder runs to serene mountain landscapes, a little snow can go a long way when it comes to wintertime experiences in the mountains. And as more lifts start running and the terrain parks open their gates, there are a lot of reasons to be grateful for the white stuff falling.
There is something to be said for waking up at the crack of dawn, braving the cold, and being on the first chair lift up the mountain. At the top, you’re greeted with untouched runs of either freshly laid powder or perfectly groomed courderoy, awaiting the first edges to cut into it. There is simply no feeling like having the mountain all to yourself, even if it’s only for one run.
The Winter X Games
The high flying action of North America’s most popular extreme sports showcase returns to the town of Aspen for a record 12th consecutive season. Big names like Sean White huck themselves into the cool night air, twisting, flipping, and rotating before the crowds of thousands gathered to witness the spectacle.
Is there anything better than an epic powder day coinciding with your vacation? Man-made snow is alright, and groomers are fun, but nothing beats a fresh, white, billowy layer of snow greeting you as you point your tips down the mountain.
photo credit Aspen/Snowmass
Vail’s Turning 50
Consistently ranked as one of the very best ski resorts in the world, Vail Resort in Eagle County marks a major milestone this year – a half century of operation. The resort is still a young one, even compared to some of its neighbors like Loveland or Aspen. But in its short time, the incredible skiing and snowboarding at Vail have established it as a premier destination. Special events are planned all season in honor of the anniversary, including a 50th Anniversary film and the Burton US Open of Snowboarding, the longest running snowboarding competition in the world.
For a quiet walk through peaceful winter mountain settings, strap on a pair of snowshoes and head into the wilderness. Many ski towns such as Steamboat Springs and Telluride offer snowshoe trails that allow visitors to access dramatic mountain landscapes that would otherwise be impassible due to heavy snow fall.
Skiing ‘The Legend’
Sure the big resorts offer acres of skiable terrain that rival Rhode Island in size and amenities that can’t be found anywhere else, but there is just something about the smaller, classic hills like Arapahoe Basin, nicknamed the legend. Maybe it’s the wicked steeps off the Pallavicini lift or the chutes and glades of Montezuma Bowl, but there is a certain charm to this old school mountain.
Heated High Speed Gondolas With Wifi
Okay, this one isn’t so much related to snow as it is about bringing you to the snow. This year, Vail opened ‘One’, their new high speed gondola ferrying visitors from Vail Village to the mountain. The lift is the fastest of its kind with a speed of over 1200 feet per minute. It also offers many creature comforts not typically found on the mountain including heat, cushioned seats, and in-cabin wifi. Not a bad way to warm up in between runs.
Spending 5 or 7 days on a mountain can be exhausting. Thankfully, there are plenty of diversions to be found once the snow starts falling. Winter Park offers a variety of tubing hills for when you just want to sit back and let gravity do all the work. Meanwhile over at Keystone, they turn their village lake into a giant ice skating rink. The lake is the largest Zamboni maintained outdoor rink in North America, providing a smooth surface for pick up hockey players and figure skaters alike.
Certain vehicles are better than others for getting around in the snow, and many mountain towns offer the chance to experience these unique forms of transportation. Horse drawn sleigh rides are the classic method for getting around and pair well with a blanket and a cup of cocoa. For a more thrilling experience, climb aboard a snowmobile, squeeze the throttle, and take off on a adrenaline-laced ride through the wilderness.
photo credit phyxiusone
Of course the number one reason to take a skiing or snowboarding vacation is to well, ski or snowboard. But coming in at a close second is drinking in the Apres Ski environment (literally). When the weather gets too cold or the body is too achy to continue, Colorado ski resorts offer a number of places to thaw out and nurse yourself back to health, all in the company of some live music and a tasty adult beverage. Gather round the fire with other revelers who’ve called it a day and sip on a local craft beer or hot chocolate spiked with a little Baileys to ease into the evening.