By Dan Mackey, MS
Well, the season’s upon us yet again. The leaves, once rich, vibrant with fiery colors, have all fallen from their branches. The icy frost draped across our lawns has returned every morning to greet us one again. Yes, winter is coming… and it’s going to be a cold one. But don’t let that get you down, or better yet, don’t let that keep you from getting outside! The return of this frozen season is the beginning of a new opportunity that lends itself to playing in the snow. You’re never too old to play in the snow. Whether you’re young, old, or anywhere inbetween, there is an activity for you this winter. From sledding, snowshoeing, and ice skating, to hot chocolate sipping around a blazing campfire, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and my favorite — the family ski/snowboard outing. There’s nothing better than the final scramble of loading up all your gear before bundling up in all your warmest clothes, and heading to the slopes.
Here in Northeast Ohio we’re fortunate enough to have access to several local ski resorts that are well maintained, managed and a lot of fun to ride. Along with the local Boston Mills, Brandywine and Alpine Valley, Peak n Peek and Holiday Valley (both in New York) are also popular destinations for families in this area. However, if you’re anything like me you need to ski mountains, real mountains, with real snow — and lots of it. Naturally, Colorado is where you need to go. If you’re planning a ski or snowboarding trip this year, do yourself a favor and head west. Regardless if you’re a seasoned skiing veteran or someone who’s only just learning, the trails, thrills, and traditions, and any of the 27 ski resorts of Colorado’s skiing will not disappoint you.
Colorado is known for having America’s best skiing, and rightfully so. Aside from the 300 days of sunshine, there is a hefty list of other factors that make the skiing in this state the best. First and foremost, hands down, is the length of the ski season. Realistically, you could be shedding the slopes as early as mid-October all the way through May, and even into early July. That’s nearly eight months. It’s pretty cool when you head up to Beaver Creek for St. Patrick’s Day, you’re snowboarding in 65 degree weather, and you get sunburned. It’s hard to beat that, let me tell you. Now, not every resort is going to have rideable snow that entire period of time, but resorts like Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Ski Area compete to become the first North American resorts open, and they typically are still jamming through May.
Not only are Colorado ski resorts known for their lengthy seasons, but they’re also known as some of the largest resorts in the country. This is important if you care at all about getting away from crowds, carving up some fresh powder, uninterrupted. Vail, the state’s largest ski resort, spans an impressive seven miles in width, covers over 5,000 acres, and is home to 193 different trails. Keystone and Snowmass, two additional enormous resorts, both span more than 3,000 acres and record well over 200 inches of annual snowfall. Other notable large resorts include Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Steamboat, and Winter Park. In addition to the several huge ski areas in Colorado, the state is also home to numerous small resorts that still maintain the local love. Resorts like Ski Granby Ranch, Wolf Creek Ski Area, and Howelson Hill Ski Area are all great for skiers of all skill levels, offering a variety of runs, easy parking, spacious slopes, and great snow.
The final factor that gives Colorado ski resorts a leg up on resorts everywhere else is all thanks to the elevation of the incredible Rockies. As many of the state’s resorts reach an elevation of 14,000 feet, Colorado has the highest “lift-served terrain” in the county. Well, with that elevation comes some serious perks — amazing snow, obviously, mind-blowing views, longer and longer runs, and awesome/challenging terrain. Colorado flat out dominates this category.
Even if skiing or snowboarding isn’t really your thing but your family dragged you along anyways, there are still several opportunities to have fun during you trip. Many of the resorts in Colorado have places to sled, ice skate, snowshoe, and shop. Ski towns, such as Vail, Aspen, Telluride (home to Toad & Co. outdoor brand), Breckenridge, and Beaver Creek, have excellent shopping and fun little slope side villages to grab a bite to eat.
While I do understand that packing up and traveling to Colorado isn’t always an easy trip to fit into our schedules, I urge you to make the effort. However, if you’re not so inclined to do so, I can recommend a second option: The best skiing on the on the eastern side of the country — Vermont. With resorts like Stowe, Sugarbush, Killington, and Smuggler’s Notch, you’ll certainly get your fair share of great slopes, long runs, challenges, and fun. Traveling to Vermont is a considerably more manageable drive and probably a little less expensive, but if you want the best skiing this county has to offer, visit Colorado.
Photos courtesy of Breckenridge Ski Resort.