Major Ski Resorts in Colorado

Major Ski Resorts in Colorado
Colorado is blessed with a long ski season, which is characterized by frequent snowfall. During World War II, Colorado was home to Camp Hale, which was the training ground for the 10th Mountain Division. After the war, members of the skiing troops returned to Colorado to open ski areas. Today, some of the major resorts are owned by one of three corporations: Vail Resorts, Intrawest or the Aspen Ski Company.

Vail Resorts, Colorado

Vail Resorts owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge. Since it has a managing interest in Arapahoe Basin, Vail season pass holders have access to the area. Vail and Beaver Creek are upscale, amenity-rich resorts located in Eagle County, and Keystone, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin are in the less expensive Summit County.

Vail is at a base elevation of 8,174 feet, and Beaver Creek is at 8,100 feet. This is lower than other Colorado resorts, whose average base elevation is about 9,100 feet. Keystone was once known for its limited challenging terrain, but the addition of a terrain park and specialized backcountry tours have increased its popularity among experts. This also applies to Breckenridge, whose Imperial Express to the backcountry is the highest lift in North America. Beaver Creek, Vail and Keystone are all located in a self-contained village, while Breckenridge is situated in a historic mining town. The ambiance at Arapahoe Basin contrasts sharply with that of the other Vail resorts, which are known for their consistent and often overzealous snow grooming and abundance of shops and restaurants. Arapahoe Basin is an "old school resort," with free, close-in parking and natural terrain. It opens as early as October and closes as late as June.

Intrawest Resorts, Colorado

Intrawest owns the Canadian resorts Whistler and Mont Tremblant. In Colorado, it owns Winter Park, Copper Mountain and Steamboat. Intrawest and Vail Resorts are competitors. If one company offers a superb, multiresort deal, wait a few days before you jump on it because the other will invariably up the ante.

Winter Park is the closest ski area to Denver and therefore attracts many Denver residents. However, in an attempt to become a destination resort, it has begun to develop a mountain village and has added more lodging venues, shops and restaurants. Advanced skiers and riders favor Winter Park for Mary Jane, which is an entire area dedicated to bump runs.

Copper Mountain is located in Summit County and has a fully developed mountain village. Copper has a distinct separation of terrain for beginners, intermediates and experts. The addition of Camp Woodward--an indoor, freestyle training center--has increased Copper's popularity among park and pipe enthusiasts.

Steamboat, located in northwestern Colorado, boasts a gondola, which is much appreciated in cold weather. Steamboat's trails wind around the mountain, giving you more time on the trail and less time on the lift line. Its terrain is suitable for all levels. On-mountain and in-town lodging is plentiful.

The Aspen Ski Company

Aspen is actually composed of four resorts: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. One ticket gives you access to all four resorts, which are connected by a bus system. Of the four, Snowmass is the most family oriented. Aspen has the most challenging terrain, and Buttermilk has the easiest. Aspen Highlands is noted for its moguls. Most lodging is expensive, but cheap, hostel-style accommodations are available at the St. Moritz Lodge in Aspen.

Article Written By Lisa Mercer

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.

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