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Skiing & Snowboarding | Colorado | USA | Suntan fun in the Snow

 

Aspen Highlands & Snowmass, Aspen


Highlands

1 of 4 stellar, must ski mountains in the Aspen area, Highlands is where the locals have fun in Colorado’s winter sun. Nestled in the White River National Forest, Highland is open for the season, December 12, 2009 - April 4, 2010. This stunning resort boasts 118 runs with 84 miles of incredible trails, all for your enjoyment. Jump on one of the 5 Lifts; 3 high-speed quads and 2 triples. Most lifts open at 9 a.m. and close at 3:30 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Highlands can handle 6,500 riders an hour and usually are considered “not crowded” with on average only 2 people per acre. This is snow skiing at its absolute best, but you have to pay for it.


The Aspen Skiing Company runs all 4 mountain ski resorts and the way to go if you are vacationing and wanting to ski more than 2 days, is to buy an Escape Pass, which is for “direct-to-lift pay-as-you-go access to all four Aspen/Snowmass mountains for $49 per day”. You MUST buy these before the start of ski season, in mid-December! Adult passes are $299 (plus the $49, per day you ski), seniors, kids (13-17) and local college students (under age 24!) are $249 for a pass, $39 a day to ski all four mountains. This skier’s paradise is known for steep, big-mountain skiing in Highland Bowl, Olympic Bowl and Steeplechase; in fact the steepest runs are Go-Go Gully and Highland Bowl – slope angles of 48 degrees! The greatest way to get the lowdown on the local extreme happenings at Highland (especially Highland Bowl), is through Erik Skarvan’s blog, “The Bowl Blog”, posted on the Aspen/Snowmass website. Erik is a 27 year local Aspenite, who happens to run and own the “#5 Mountain Adventure Sports” School/Company, rated by “W” Magazine. Sun Dog Athletics is your premier source for Mountain and Road Biking, Nordic and Snowshoeing Hikes and even Canoe Adventures. When it’s time to take a breather and grab something to eat while you are enjoying the mountain sunshine on the slopes, Highland features 2 on-mountain restaurants: Merry-Go-Round and Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro.


Writer’s note: Best-kept secret: The newly extended Mushroom trail will test even the toughest legs of mogul aficionados. For mind-blowing skiing on a powder day, check out Bowling Alley and Log Jam Gully. From fine dining to takeout, this village/town rocks; there are over 100 restaurants in the area! Be smart on the mountain with sunscreen! For every 1,000 feet above sea level, your skin is exposed to approximately 5% more UV. This means if you are at 11,000 foot elevation, you receive 55% more UV exposure than someone at sea level. Reapply your sunscreen and stay protected! The sun’s rays are at their strongest here from 10am to 2pm, even on cloudy days. Don’t let a sunburn come in between your goal of conquering one of the finest snow skiing meccas in all of the U.S.!


Snowmass

Long time rated as one of the best family ski areas in North America; Snowmass is my favorite mountain of the four, a massive snow sports paradise and some of the best conditions and powder around. Open this year from November 26, 2009 - April 11, 2010, here is extreme snow skiing at its optimum with this mountain featuring the most vertical drop (4,406) in the USA. 147 miles of relatively uncrowded trails, with the absolute best glades, steeps, terrain parks and half pipes (via 21 lifts and 91 trails). With that many lifts, they can cater to a stunning 34,497 riders per hour. Snowmass is best known for wide-open, groomed cruising and family-friendly activities.


As far as seamless family fun, the crown jewel of the mountain is the new “Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center”.  The first of its kind in the snow sports industry, The Treehouse is easily accessible from anywhere in Snowmass with short-term and underground parking, free shuttle buses, ski-in/ski-out access (Fanny Hill) and transportation to the upper slopes, lodges and Snowmass Village Mall on the Sky Cab gondola. This all in one center possesses a family-friendly climbing gym, teen activities, kids' retail and a group of themed rooms for ages 8-weeks and older. It is also the starting point for the kids’ ski and snowboard school. The mountain facility offers 9 onsite eateries, when you stop and relax in between runs. Dine for lunch at the rustic Lynn Britt Cabin located mid-mountain. Reservations are required, and it’s extremely cozy, with room for only 60 diners.


I also adore trail skiing so here’s my vote: Take the Two Creeks lift up to Elk Camp to the top where the Wildlife Center is. Get on the Long Shot trail where intermediate skiers and snowboarders can get a backcountry experience while still in-bounds. Snowmass is a unique winter play land with over 300 inches of snow, per season, and you are guaranteed an epic skiing adventure here.

 

Writer’s note:  Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) is investing almost $8 million in on-mountain improvements in 2009 and has spent more than $130 million over the previous six winter seasons, giving snow-loving guests the most seamless skiing and riding experience in the industry. This expansion includes 11 new lifts with two new gondolas, the state of the art Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center, three new restaurants, additional terrain plus the new Snowmass base village. In addition, the first phase of the $18 million room restoration at The Little Nell hotel (Aspen’s only five-star, five-diamond hotel) was recently completed. Order an “Aspen Crud” (5 Scoops of French Vanilla Ice Cream churned fresh by the hotel, blended well with three 1 oz. Shots of Bourbon and served in a tin mug) at the J-Bar in the famous Hotel Jerome on Main Street. Every bartender who's served there since the 1800s has signed the “autographed drawer”. Ask the bartender to show you! PLUS, new this year, for those who HAVE to know where they are “at” at all times, put all four of the ASC trail maps onto your personal handheld Garmin GPS, for use on the mountains!


Silverton Mountain is how skiing used to be with a slower pace but more good runs. Be aware this ski resort is a place for advanced and expert skiers only. Fly into Durango-La Plata County Airport on Frontier, United or US Air then rent a 4 wheel vehicle from Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz or National. An hour and a half later you pull into Silverton. For a jog back in time (1882), stay at the Grand Imperial Hotel on the main street in Silverton with access to Grumpy’s Saloon & Restaurant. There are 40 guest rooms with not so standard décor and 14’ ceilings! Yes, every room has a modern bathroom. Silverton has many shops and restaurants for that after skiing time that will help you to unwind and de-stress. You won’t find condo crowding, high speed lifts or unrealistic ticket sales and prices. This is a place for those who like being challenged and this resort seems to be more into quality not quantity. You will have access to up to 1,819 acres via one chair lift and no laid out trails. Certain times of the year only guided skiing is allowed much like Heli-skiing. Avalanche gear is required for access to the ski area. Get your Dakine gear together and head for the slopes!


Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Springs


Located on Mount Werner, a mount in the Park Mountain Range in the Routt National Forest, Ski Town, U.S.A.(R) first opened on January 12, 1963. The ski paradise is actually its own mountain range with a total of 6 peaks, situated 6,900 feet above sea level and rising to more than 10,000 feet. Because of Steamboat’s elevation, a good pair of goggles or sunglasses that not only decrease sun glare but also filter UV rays is strongly encouraged! Steamboat’s weather can change day-to-day or even hour-to-hour so no matter your skin color or complexion, everyone needs to wear a protective high SPF sunscreen even on overcast days when UV rays still break through cloud cover. Remember to bring good-quality lip balm, such as Carmex® Original Stick with SPF 15, great for “outdoorsy types”. 23 lifts, plus a gondola are ready to take skiers and boarders all over the 2,965 acres, sporting a total of 165 trails. There are 2 Terrain Parks, including Mavericks Superpipe, a 450 feet long, 56-feet wide free rider’s dream!

 

The Steamboat Ski & Snowboard School is recognized as one of the strongest in the world, with six winter Olympians as well as more than 400 instructors trained in the latest learning methods and techniques. Adult (ages 18-64) Lift tickets will run you anywhere from $76.00 a day towards the beginning and ending of the season to almost $100 a day when you ski during the holidays. With Steamboat's Kids Ski Free™ program, children 12 years and under ski free the same number of days as their parents or grandparents, when a 5+ day lift ticket is purchased

 

Steamboat is rated the #1 Family Resort in the West by Ski Magazine with 5 kids-only lifts and 2 special beginner teaching areas. More advanced kids access the entire mountain, including kids-only territory at Rough Rider Basin, complete with a frontier-style fort and the “Beehive” - a kids’ terrain park. There are several on mountain dining choices with 6 restaurant venues. The Four Points Hut is the ideal place for a quick stop to warm up with snacks such as chili or soup. Grab a cappuccino or draft beer and sit back and soak up the sun. There is also a great outdoor BBQ, weather permitting. Steamboat's fun winter activities provide a genuinely unique vacation experience for everyone. Some of my favorites are: Horseback Riding, Snowmobile Rides, Sleigh Ride Dinners and the Hot Springs.

 

Writer’s note: The best destination after you’ve been on the slopes all day is Strawberry Hot Springs, just 20 minutes from the ski areas at Steamboat. Relaxing in 104 degree mineral water while the famous “Champagne Powder” falls quietly to the ground is one of the neatest scenes you could ever experience. Rates are: Adults - $10, Teens (13 - 17) - $5, Kids (3 - 12) - $3 and credit cards are not accepted. Restrooms, changing areas and picnic areas are available. Overnight rentals are popular year–round and they have some cool places to stay, including a train caboose (the most popular), rustic cabins and covered wagons. All accommodations are from $55 - $110 a night. Hint: Bring flashlights with if you are planning on staying the sun goes down & because the hot springs are restricted to ages 18 and up after dark, clothing is optional.


Telluride Ski Resort, Telluride


Averaging more than 300 inches of snow and 300 days of sunshine each year, odds are you’ll find extraordinary conditions on Telluride’s over 1700 skiable acres. Crowds? What crowds? The trails are never packed, and there is rarely a lift line. Stashed among the largest amount of monster (13,000 and 14,000 foot) peaks in North America, Telluride’s magnificent scenery is undeniably some of the most beautiful in the Rockies. Historic buildings, old-fashioned bakeries and local pubs and bars blend with luxury hotels, five-star restaurants, refined shops and chic spas.


Telluride’s FREE gondola creates the ski-in/ski-out town, and the super-friendly locals welcome everyone to this exceptional mountain destination. 22,386+ skiers per hour capacity with 115 runs and 18 total lifts. Long time run favorites include “The Plunge” for experts, the intermediate “See Forever”, and the 4.6 mile (the longest run) “Galloping Goose” for beginners. Freestylers of all levels have several terrain parks to choose from. Telluride will also be the new home for World Cup competition in snowboarding as the 2009-2010 Visa U.S. Snowboard Cross Cup hits the Rocky Mountains Dec. 17-20. The ski resort is seasonally open for business November through April but Telluride is a fun summer mecca, as well. A regular season (not early season or holiday) Adult lift ticket will cost you $92.00, buying multiple days saves you more. My favorite new place on the slopes to grab a bite and enjoy the sun is Hop Garden, (elevation 9,540 feet) located slope side at the base of the Village Express (Lift 4). An expanded sun deck & patio with seating for 100, a 18ft x 24ft shade umbrella, live music and beers from around the world. “Don't miss Apres Ski in the Hop Garden's European-inspired beer garden!”


Writer’s note: Spend the extra money and actually fly into Telluride Regional Airport. This airport is located just 3 miles from the entrance to town and is serviced by daily flights on America West/US Airways and Great Lakes Airline. If not, you fly into Montrose Regional Airport. This one is 1 hour and 15 minutes (65 miles) north of Telluride and is serviced by Delta, American, United and Continental.


The most heavenly place on earth (and here!) to stay is Capella Telluride. This palace is mind-blowing to say the least! First of all, it is one of the most perfect and beautiful hotels I've ever been to. Not ostentatious but very elegant and absolutely everything first class. Imagine as you arrive, a personal assistant presents you with a customized list of things to do, sights in town, and restaurants to discover, based on your own personal tastes and preferences. And the cool thing about it is, your Personal Assistant is yours to use as much or as little as you want - securing a tee time at the Telluride Golf Club, setting up a kayaking trip or arranging for skis and a private lesson on the slopes. Wow! Trust me and splurge on a “Capella Room” when you book your reservations.


Vail


Vail is where the 10th Mountain trained in WWII and by 1962, two of those veterans had decided they would open a resort where they had trained. Families, check out the Adventure Ridge snow park with tubing, kids snowmobile track, ski bikes, snowshoeing and bungee trampoline. Snowshoe at the Gore Range Nature Discover Center and learn about Vail’s ‘wildlife side’. How about trying a 2 hour dog sledding tour? There are three different areas of the mountain offering something for everyone. With an average of 38’ of powder last season we can only hope for more this season. Even as the largest ski resort in the U.S., on a busy day there is only an average of about 4 skiers per acre. There are 331 lifts taking almost 55,000 people an hour to the many trails available. Be advised 53% of the trails are for Advanced/Expert skiers, 29% Intermediate and 18% Beginner. Restaurants and snack bars are scattered all over making sure after all your exercise you can replace those calories quickly.

 

Vail has eight distinctive neighborhoods of lodging with Vail Village being the heart of shopping and dining. All areas are connected to Vail Village with complimentary bus service. Vail Cascade Resort and Spa is an AAA Four Diamond property with luxury and opulence being their keywords. Aria Spa & Club has 68,000sf of fitness area and 10,000sf of glorious pampering spa where you enter your private treatment room and the pampering begins. Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton must have been very proud of what they envisioned and created.

 

 

-Miss Suntan

 

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