The Rocky Mountains provide the perfect winter wonderland escape for anyone looking to ski, snowboard, or just play in the snow. With astonishing views and vast backcountry terrain, Colorado’s ski country makes for a great vacation with its cosmopolitan base villages and historic western towns. Regarded as the epicenter of the ski world by jet setters and ski bums, the allure of Colorado’s ski resorts are the near-perfect conditions with powder-filled slopes and sunny skies.
Vail, a paradise for ski and snowboard buffs, boasts the most skiable acreage in the United States. Expert and powder fanatics have plenty of challenging terrain on Vail’s Frontside as well as the seven legendary “Back Bowls.” Groomed cruising runs gratify intermediates, while beginners can practice turns on designated greens and in special family skiing areas.
Off the slope, Vail Valley is among the biggest resorts in the world. With over 120 restaurants to choose from and more than 225 shops, visitors may be forgiven for not making time to try out the bobsleigh run. Several art galleries and museums up the cultural ante, while opportunities to try ballooning, dog sledding, ice skating and hockey, snowmobiling, snowcat tours, snowshoeing, and telemark skiing make for a sporty trip.
Phone: 888 830-7669
Lift Prices: $97; to avoid this day rate, go to www.vail.com or call (800) 842-8062 and buy tickets at least two weeks ahead. Vail lift passes are also valid at the four other ski areas owned by Vail Resorts: Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone. The last three are about 45 minutes by bus ($10 round trip) from Vail; (970) 496-8245.
Despite the challenges of getting there, astronomical real estate, and $100 lift tickets, people adore Aspen. It’s truly one of the world’s most glamorous ski resorts. The allure of its stunning natural beauty, history, culture, and celebrity glitz attracts international jetsetters, high rollers, and Hollywood. This posh resort town constantly raises the bar for pampering with its world-class spas, chic chic restaurants, and endless shopping. But nature still outshines the glam. Devoted locals, cowboys, and ski bums represent the soul of this quaint Western town.
Aspen’s four mountains offer terrain to satisfy everyone from absolute beginners to dare-devil experts. Littered with steeps and bumps, Aspen Mountain also has fantastic groomed intermediate runs, but be warned that most runs are strictly for strong skiers. For those looking to take things slower, one can opt for a gondola ride to the top for epic views of the Rockies and hot chocolate. The locals head for the less crowded Aspen Highlands where skiers breathe in striking views of the famed Maroon Bells. Families love the more mellow Buttermilk or Snowmass. While Snowmass may feel less glitzy than Aspen Mountain, the upcoming opening of The Viceroy and Little Nell will definitely step up its glamour quotient.
Phone: 800 525-6200
Lift Prices: $101 Single Day; Purchase at least 7 days in advance and save on multi-day tickets of 4 or more days. Advance-sale tickets can be purchased through the Aspen Skiing Company at (877) 282-7736 or www.skiaspen.com.
About 10 miles west of Vail and under the same ownership, this secluded resort feels like an ultra-exclusive club, a modern version of an European ski village. The elegant stone-and-timber village hosts Market Square, a new multilevel shopping promenade cum outdoor skating rink/theatre at the mountain’s base.
There’s nothing cushy about the skiing since the vertical drops here can’t be beat. The terrain encompasses 1,625 acres (to Vail’s 4,100) with plenty of challenges. Big wide unrestricted runs at the summit (11,440 feet) afford a prime chance to admire the Rockies. It’s always fun to whiz down the Rose Bowl, through tough mogul fields and plenty of powder. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers have their own glorious space at McCoy Park with nearly 14 miles of trails in a beautiful high meadow.
Phone: 970 949-5750; Reservations, 800 622-3131
Lift Prices: $97
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