#Winter2014: Colorado skier visits surge to 12.6 million, a new record

During the past winter, Vail and other Colorado resorts welcomed more skiers and snowboarders than ever, thanks, in part, to disappointing snowfall at resorts in California. (Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

During the past winter, Vail and other Colorado resorts welcomed more skiers and snowboarders than ever, at least in part due to disappointing snowfall at resorts in California. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

Colorado ski resorts broke a visitation record in 2013-14, thanks to an early start, a late finish, a drought in California and, of course, steady snowfall all season.

The state’s 25 ski areas logged 12.6 million visits, up 10 percent from last year — the strongest year-over-year surge in recent history and an 8 percent increase over the five-year average. The 2013-14 season is now the benchmark, unseating the 12.56 million high set in 2006-07.

“It’s been eight years and a Great Recession since the last new visitation record, and that feels great,” said Melanie Mills, president of resort trade group Colorado Ski County USA, which announced the season’s visitation at its 51st annual meeting at Copper Mountain.

Visitation was up across all categories, with the number of out-of-state skiers growing alongside international visitors and pass-wielding locals.

While California skiers have long ranked as a top market for Colorado resorts, the snow-gobbling drought there fueled a double-digit percentage increase in Californians on Colorado ski slopes this season.

Colorado resort leaders never wish a decimating season on their peers from other states, but there’s hope the 2013-14 season might turn some California skiers on to Colorado.

“We think that all those visitors that came to Colorado had a great experience,” Mills said, “and we think that gives us an opportunity to get them back.”

Colorado Ski Country’s 21 member resorts saw 7.1 million visits in 2013-14. Vail Resorts’ Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone ski areas drew 5.5 million visits.

Vail, the nation’s largest resort operator, last month reported solid growth in the 2013-14 season, despite poor performance at its California resorts, with visitor spending reaching near-records on increases in lessons, lift tickets, dining and retail.

Colorado’s ski communities reported strong spending during the season as well, with many resorts — like Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride — posting record sales-tax revenues for the ski season.

Mills said member ski resorts enjoyed similar boosts in spending.

“A number of member resorts had a record year (for revenues), and everybody had a strong year,” she said. “It was the perfect snowstorm this year, with a snow message that started early and it was authentic … we just had snow every month.”

Monarch ski area saw a record 190,000 visits, up from 168,000 the previous year, spokesman Greg Ralph said. The Chaffee County hill harvested record revenues too, Ralph said.

Aspen Skiing Co.’s four Roaring Fork Valley ski areas posted the highest visitation since 1997-98, company spokesman Jeff Hanle said. Lodges in both Aspen and Snowmass saw highest-ever occupancy in March, with the season falling just shy of the all-time occupancy record set in 2006-07, said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, the reservation hub that books lodging across the valley.

“We had a really good start and an incredible finish,” Tomcich said.

Colorado’s skier visitation growth bested the 6.4 percent annual increase for the Rocky Mountain region, which includes resorts in Utah, Montana and New Mexico.

The snow was a blessing, and the international media’s sensationalized focus on Colorado when the state legalized recreational marijuana in January certainly helped.

Mills called legalized marijuana “the PR event of the year and the operational nonevent of the year,” meaning resorts barely noticed the new laws but welcomed the attention.

“From a PR perspective,” Mills said, “we did not view it as a negative that everyone was talking about Colorado as of January first.”

Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, jblevins@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jasonblevins

Ski Colorado guide: Updates from resorts in the Rocky Mountain state

A skier takes on big powder at Crested Butte. (Crested Butte Mountain Resort photo)

A skier takes on big powder at Crested Butte. (Crested Butte Mountain Resort photo)

Compiled by Vickie Heath
The Denver Post

Where resorts have announced their single-day lift-ticket pricing, it is included. When not yet released, last year’s prices are offered for comparison purposes.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
Season:
Open now through early June.
Information: 888-272-7246; arapahoe basin.com
Terrain: 960 acres. 23 percent expert; 37 percent advanced; 30 percent intermediate; 10 percent beginner. 110 trails, 2 terrain parks.
Summit: 13,050 feet. Base: 10,780 feet. Vertical: 2,270 feet. Longest run: 1.5 miles.
Lifts: 1 high-speed quad; 1 quad; 1 triple; 3 doubles; 2 conveyors.
Lift tickets: Adult full-day, $67 (through Dec. 20), $87 (Dec. 21-Jan. 5), $82 (Jan. 6-April 27); youth (ages 15-18) $55 (through Dec. 20), $72 (Dec. 21-Jan. 5), $67 (Jan. 6-April 27); child (ages 6-14) $32 (through Dec. 20), $45 (Dec. 21-Jan. 5), $40 (Jan. 6-April 27); $25 allseason for seniors 70+; children 14 and under ski free Dec. 1-20; children 5 and under ski free all season. Season packages available, see website.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. (Black Mountain Express and Pallavicini lifts open 8:30 a.m. weekends and holidays).
Located: 68 miles from Denver, either via Interstate 70 west to Silverthorne (Exit 205), then 12 miles east on U.S. 6, or I-70 west to Loveland Pass (Exit 216), then 8 miles west on U.S. 6.

Aspen Highlands
Season:
Dec. 14-April 13
Information: 800-525-6200; aspensnowmass.com/aspen-highlands
Terrain: 1,040 acres. 36 percent expert; 16 percent advanced; 30 percent intermediate; 18 beginner. 122 trails, no terrain park. Summit: 11,675 feet. Base: 8,040 feet. Vertical: 3,635 feet. Longest run: 3.5 miles.
Lifts: 3 high-speed quads, 2 triples.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $117 (last year’s price) 
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located:
200 miles from Denver via I-70 and Colorado 82.

Aspen Mountain
Season:
Nov. 28-April 20
Information: 800-525-6200; aspensnowmass.com/aspen-mountain
Terrain: 675 acres. 26 percent expert; 26 percent advanced; 48 percent intermediate; no beginner. 76 trails, no terrain park. Summit: 11,212 feet. Base: 7,945 feet. Vertical: 3,267 feet. Longest run: 3 miles.
Lifts: 1 gondola; 1 high-speed quad; 1 high-speed double; 2 quads; 3 doubles.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $117 (last year’s price)
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily
Located: 200 miles from Denver via I-70 and Colorado 82.

Beaver Creek
Season: Nov. 27-April 20
Information: 877-204-7883; beavercreek .com
Terrain: 1,832 acres. 39 percent expert; 42 percent intermediate; 19 percent beginner. 150 trails, 3 terrain parks. Summit: 11,440 feet. Base: 8,100 feet. Vertical: 3,340 feet. Longest run: 2.75 miles.
Lifts: 2 gondolas, 11 high-speed quads; 1 triple; 2 doubles; 9 surface/conveyors.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $129 (last year’s price). Multiday tickets prices vary and are available on the website. Best deal: Epic Pass (epicpass.com)
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. daily (Hours extend over the season.)
Located: 120 miles west of Denver via I-70, to Avon (Exit 167). Enter roundabout, continue left going back under I-70. Go through four more roundabouts until the entrance to Beaver Creek.

Breckenridge Ski Resort
Season: Nov. 8-April 20
Information: 970-453-5000, 800-789-7669, breckenridge.com
Terrain: 2,908 acres. 36 percent expert; 19 percent advanced; 31 percent intermediate; 14 percent beginner. 187 trails, 4 terrain parks (25 acres), 1 superpipe. Summit: 12,998 feet. Base: 9,600 feet. Vertical: 3,398 feet. Longest run: 3.5 miles.
Lifts: 1 eight-person gondola; 3 high-speed six-persons; 8 high-speed quads; 1 triple; 6 doubles; 4 surface; 8 carpets.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $99 (last year’s price). Discounts and multiday tickets prices vary and are available on the website. Lowest price guarantee with 7-day advance purchase.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily early season, 8 a.m-4 p.m. regular season.
Located: 90 miles from Denver via I-70 west to Exit 203. Continue south on Colorado 9 to Breckenridge.

Buttermilk Mountain
Season:
Dec. 14-April 6
Information: 800-525-6200; aspensnowmass.com/buttermilk
Terrain: 470 acres. 26 percent advanced; 39 percent intermediate; 35 percent beginner. 44 trails, 2 terrain parks. Summit: 9,900 feet. Base: 7,870 feet. Vertical: 2,030 feet. Longest run: 3 miles.
Lifts: 3 high-speed quads, 1 double, 2 handle tows, 2 ski/snowboard school lifts.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $117 (last year’s price)
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located: 200 miles from Denver via I-70 and Colorado 82.

Copper Mountain
Season:
Nov. 1-April 20
Information: 866-841-2481; coppercolorado.com
Terrain: 2,465 acres. 18 percent expert; 36 percent advanced; 25 percent intermediate; 21 percent beginner. 140+ trails. Summit: 12,313 feet. Base: 9,712 feet. Vertical: 2,601 feet. Longest run: 2.8 miles.
Lifts: 1 high-speed six-person; 5 high-speed quads; 5 triples; 4 doubles; 8 surface and conveyor lifts.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $109 (last year’s price). Visit CopperColorado.com for discounts and multiday prices.
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday (base lifts until 4 p.m.); 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, holidays (base lifts until 4 p.m.)
Located: 75 miles from Denver via I-70 west at Exit 195.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort
Season:
Nov. 27-April 6
Information: 800-600-2803; skicb.com
Terrain: 1,547 acres. 16 percent advanced; 58 percent intermediate; 26 percent beginner. 121 trails, 3 terrain parks plus a snowboard/skier cross course. Summit: 12,162 feet. Base: 9,375 feet. Vertical: overall 3,062 feet (includes hike to The Peak); lift served 2,775 feet. Longest run: 2.6 miles.
Lifts: 4 high-speed quads; 2 fixed-grip quads; 2 triples; 3 doubles; 2 surface; 2 carpets.
Lift tickets: Nov. 27-Dec. 13: Adult $59; youth 13-17, $53; child 7-12, $32; 65+, $47. Dec. 13-20, Jan. 6-March 6 and March 14-April 6: Adult $98; youth 13-17, $88; child 7-12, $54; 65+, $78; Dec. 21-Jan. 5: adult $101, youth 13-17, $91, child 7-12, $56, 65+, $81; March 8-15: Adult $98; youth 13-17, $88; child 7-12, $54; 65+, $78. Children 6 and under ski free all season. Discounted lift ticket packages available by calling 800-544-8448.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily (High Lift and East River Lift close at 3:30 p.m.; North Face Lift closes at 3 p.m.)
Located: 230 miles from Denver via U.S. 285, U.S. 50 and Colorado 135.

Eldora Mountain Resort
Season:
Nov. 22-mid-April
Information: 303-440-8700; eldora.com
Terrain: 680 acres. 30 percent advanced; 50 percent intermediate; 20 percent beginner. 53 trails, 3 terrain parks. Summit: 10,800 feet. Base: 9,200 feet. Vertical: 1,600 feet. Longest run: 3 miles.
Lifts: 2 quads; 2 triples; 4 doubles; 1 Poma; 2 conveyors.
Lift tickets: (last year’s pricing) Adult full-day $79; child 6-15, $45; senior 65-74, $42; Senior Silver 75+ and children 5 and under, $10; adult half-day (starts at 12:30 p.m.) $64.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located: 45 miles from Denver via I-25 north to U.S. 36 west. Head into Boulder, then take Canyon Boulevard (Colorado 119) west. Follow 119 to Nederland. Turn left at the roundabout. Continue south on 119 for 1 mile. Turn right on County Road 130 and follow signs to Eldora.

Howelsen Hill Ski Area
Season: Nov. 30-March 16 (conditions permitting)
Information: 970-879-8499; steamboatsprings.net/ski
Terrain: 50 acres. 10 percent expert; 40 percent advanced; 30 percent intermediate; 20 percent beginner. 15 trails, 1 terrain park. Summit: 7,136 feet. Base: 6,969 feet. Vertical: 440 feet. Longest run: 3,678 feet.
Lifts: 1 double; 1 Poma; 2 carpets.
Lift tickets: Adult full-day $20; youth 7-18 and senior 60+, $15; child 6 and under, $8. First Tracks Ticket (1-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday) $10; night ticket (5:30-8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 3:30-6 p.m. Tuesday and Friday) $10. Terrain park (no lift access) $10. One-way ticket $5. Nordic ticket (no lift) $13. All Access season pass: Adult $305, youth 7-18, $140; child 6 and under $50; 60+ $140. Alpine Only season pass: Adult $175, youth 7-18, $80; child 6 and under $35, 60+ $80. Nordic Only season pass: adult $150, youth 7-18, $80, child 6 and under $35, 60+ $80. Prices increase $30 each Dec. 1.
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 1-6 p.m. Tuesday; 1-8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 1-6 p.m. Friday. Closed Monday.
Located: 157 miles from Denver via I-70 west to Silverthorne (Exit 205). Then take Colorado 9 north 37 miles to Kremmling, then go west on U.S. 40 to Steamboat Springs (53 miles).

Keystone Resort
Season:
Nov. 1-April 20
Information: 970-496-4386; keystoneresort.com
Terrain: 3,148 acres. 57 percent expert/advanced; 29 percent intermediate; 14 percent beginner. 131 trails, 5 terrain parks. Summit: 12,408 feet. Base: 6,900 feet. Vertical: 3,128 feet. Longest run: 3.5 miles.
Lifts: 2 gondolas; 5 high-speed quads; 1 high-speed six-person; 1 quad; 1 triple; 3 doubles; 7 surface; 6 carpets.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $67-$114. One-day advance purchase. Multiday advanced purchase lift ticket rates available.
Hours: 8:30 a.m. (9 a.m. early season) and close at 4 p.m., 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. on night skiing evenings.
Located: 70 miles from Denver via I-70 west to Silverthorne (Exit 205). At the end of the exit ramp, turn left (east) at the stoplight onto U.S. 6. Go 6.2 miles into Keystone Resort.

Loveland Ski Area
Season:
Open now, through early May
Information: 303-571-5580, 800-736-3754, skiloveland.com
Terrain: 1,800 acres. 46 percent expert/advanced; 41 percent intermediate; 13 percent beginner. 93 trails, 1 terrain park. Summit: 13,010 feet. Base: 10,800 feet. Vertical: 2,210 feet. Longest run: 2 miles.
Lifts: 3 quads; 3 triples; 2 doubles; 1 Poma surface lift; 1 magic carpet surface lift (for ski school only).
Lift tickets: Early season pricing, through Dec. 13: adults $49, child 6-14, $25. Regular-season pricing, Dec. 14-April 13: adults $61, child 6-14, $27; child 5 and under free; 70+ season pass $89.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday and holidays.
Located: 53 miles from Denver via I-70 west at Exit 216.

Monarch Mountain
Season:
Weather permitting-April 13
Information: 888-996-7669; skimonarch.com
Terrain: 800 acres. 130 acres (16 percent) is hike-to terrain. The remaining 670 acres is 27 percent beginner, 30 percent more difficult, 43 percent most difficult. Hike-to terrain is 88 percent expert. 53 trails, 2 terrain parks. Summit: 11,952 feet. Base: 10,790 feet. Vertical: 1,162 feet. Longest run: 1 mile.
Lifts: 1 quad; 4 doubles; 1 surface lift; two conveyors for ski school.
Lift tickets: Adult $65; teens 13-15, $40; junior 7-12, $25; senior 62-68, $40; ages 6 and under and seniors 69+, free.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located: 157 miles from Denver via U.S. 285 and U.S. 50.

Powderhorn-Grand Mesa
Season:
Dec. 12-March 30 (could open earlier or stay open later, weather permitting)
Information: 970-268-5700; powderhorn.com
Terrain: 1,600 acres, 600 skiable. 30 percent advanced/ expert; 50 percent intermediate; 20 percent beginner. 63 trails, 2 terrain parks, 1 tubing hill. Summit: 9,850 feet. Base: 8,200 feet. Vertical: 1,650 feet. Longest run: 2.2 miles.
Lifts: 1 quad; 2 doubles; 2 surface.
Lift tickets: Adult full day $59; youth and senior $51.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located: 250 miles from Denver via I-70 west to Exit 49 south on Colorado 65. Go 20 miles on 65 and look for Powderhorn on your right.

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort
Season:
Nov. 29-March 30 (extended season based on conditions)
Information: 970-247-9000; 800-525-0892; coloradoski.com/resorts/purgatory
Terrain: 1,360 acres. 35 percent expert/advanced; 45 percent intermediate; 20 percent beginner. 88 trails, 5 terrain parks. Summit: 10,822 feet. Base: 8,793 feet. Vertical: 2,029 feet.
Lifts: 1 high-speed six-person; 1 high-speed quad; 4 triples; 3 doubles; 1 magic carpet.
Lift tickets: Adult full-day $77; youth 13-17, $60; seniors 65-79, $66, super senior 80+, $30; child 6-12, $46.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located: 337 miles from Denver via US-285 South to US-160 West, to US-550 North.

Silverton Mountain
Season:
Dec. 21-April 13
Information: 970-387-5706; silvertonmountain.com
Terrain: 1,819 acres. 100 percent expert/advanced. 69 trails, 1 terrain park. Summit: 12,300 feet. Base: 10,400 feet. Vertical: 1,900 feet. Longest run: 1 mile. Plus heli skiing on more than 22,000 acres.
Lifts: 1 double.
Lift tickets: (regular season): Adult full-day $99-$139 guided; $49 unguided; all day guide (per person) includes lift ticket; $159 Heli Drops.
Hours: Vary; seasons go back and forth between guided and unguided. Call or visit website for schedule.
Located: 359 miles from Denver via I-70 to U.S. 50, to U.S. 550. Drive through the town of Silverton and turn left onto Colorado 110A for 7 miles.

Ski Granby Ranch
Season:
Dec. 11-April 6
Information: 888-850-4615; granby ranch.com
Terrain: 406 acres. 25 percent expert/advanced; 45 percent intermediate; 30 percent beginner. 41 trails, 6 terrain parks. Summit: 9,202 feet. Base: 8,202 feet. Vertical: 1,000 feet. Longest run: 1.5 miles. Night skiing 5-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Jan. 3-April 5.
Lifts: 2 quads; 1 triple; 1 double; 1 surface.
Lift tickets: (regular season): Adult full-day $64; child 6-12 $44; senior 61-69 $49; kids 5 and under free, seniors 70+ $15.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located: 78 miles from Denver via I-70 to U.S. 40, Exit 232. Continue on U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass, 15 miles north of Winter Park.

Ski Cooper
Season:
Dec. 14-April 6
Information: 719-486-3684, 800-707-6114; skicooper.com
Terrain: 400 acres. 30 percent expert/advanced; 40 percent intermediate; 30 percent beginner. 35 trails, 1 terrain park. Summit: 11,700 feet. Base: 10,500 feet. Vertical: 1,200 feet. 2,400 acres snow cat tour skiing on Chicago Ridge. Longest run: 1.4 miles.
Lifts: 1 triple; 1 double; 3 surface (including magic carpet surface lift).
Lift tickets: Adult full-day $47; child 6-14 $27; senior 60-69 $36; 70+ $24.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located: 110 miles from Denver via I-70 and U.S. 24.

Snowmass
Season: Nov. 28-April 20
Information: 800-525-6200; aspensnowmass.com/snowmass
Terrain: 3,332 acres. 30 percent expert; 17 percent advanced; 47 percent intermediate; 6 percent beginner. 94 trails, 3 terrain parks. Summit: 12,510 feet. Base: 8,104 feet. Vertical: 4,406 feet. Longest run: 5.3 miles.
Lifts: 1 eight-person gondola; 1 high-speed six-person; 1 six-person gondola; 7 high-speed quads; 2 quads; 3 doubles; 4 ski/snowboard school lifts (including carpets); 2 platter pulls.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $117 (last year’s price)
Hours: The Sky Cab opens at 8 a.m.; the Cirque lift opens at 10 a.m.; the Village Express opens at 8:30 a.m.; all other lifts open at 9 a.m. Last lift closes at 4 p.m. daily.
Located: 200 miles from Denver via I-70 and Colorado 82.

Steamboat Springs
Season: Nov. 27-April 13
Information: 800-922-2722, 970-879-6111; steamboat.com
Terrain: 2,965 acres. 44 percent expert/advanced; 42 percentintermediate; 14 percent beginner. 165 trails, 4 terrain parks. Summit: 10,568 feet. Base: 6,900 feet. Vertical: 3,668 feet. Longest run: 3.1 miles.
Lifts: 1 gondola; 1 six-person express; 5 high-speed quads; 1 quad; 6 triples; 2 doubles; 2 surface.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $80-$109 (last year’s pricing). Multiday ticket prices vary and are available on steamboat.com/tickets.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. daily.
Located: 157 miles from Denver via I-70 west to Silverthorne (Exit 205). Then Colorado 9 north 37 miles to Kremmling, then go west 53 miles on U.S. 40 to Steamboat Springs.

Sunlight Mountain Resort
Season:
Dec. 6-March 30
Information: 800-445-7930, 970-945-7491; sunlightmtn.com
Terrain: 680 acres. 5 percent expert; 20 percent advanced; 55 percent intermediate; 20 percent beginner. 67 trails, 1 terrain park. Summit: 9,895 feet. Base: 7,885 feet. Vertical: 2,010 feet. Longest run: 2.5 miles.
Lifts: 1 triple; 2 doubles.
Lift tickets: Adult full-day $57; child 6-12 and young senior 65-79, $45; child 5 and under and senior 80+, free.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located: 10901 County Road 117, Glenwood Springs, 160 miles from Denver via I-70 to Colorado 82 south and County Road 117 to Glenwood Springs.

Telluride Ski Resort
Season:
Nov. 28-April 6
Information: 800-778-8581; tellurideskiresort.com
Terrain: 2,000-plus acres. 41 percent expert/advanced; 36 percent intermediate; 23 percent beginner. 127 trails, 3 terrain parks. Summit: 13,150 feet. Base: 8,725 feet. Vertical: 4,425 feet. Longest run: 4.6 miles (Galloping Goose).
Lifts: 2 high-speed gondolas; 7 high-speed quads; 1 fixed quad; 2 triples; 2 doubles; 2 surface; 2 carpets.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $69-$106; visit tellurideskiresort.com/pass
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located: 330 miles from Denver via I-70 to Grand Junction and go south on U.S. 50 to Montrose. Continue south on U.S. 550 to Ridgway, then turn right onto Colorado 62. Follow this to Colorado 145 and turn left. Follow the signs into Telluride.

Vail
Season:
Nov. 22-April 20
Information: 970-SKI-VAIL (754-8245); vail.com
Terrain: 5,289 acres. 53 percent expert/advanced; 29 percent intermediate; 18 percent beginner. 193 trails, 3 terrain parks. Summit: 11,570 feet. Base: 8,120 feet. Vertical: 3,450 feet. Longest run: 4 miles.
Lifts: 2 gondolas; 1 high-speed six-passenger; 15 high-speed quads; 1 fixed-grip quad; 3 fixed-grip triples; 3 surface, 6 conveyors.
Lift tickets: Single-day window $90-$129 adults, $63-$89 children (last year’s pricing). Discounts and multi-day tickets available on the website.
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. daily (early season), hours extend over the course of the season.
Located: 100 miles west of Denver via I-70.

Winter Park Resort
Season:
Nov. 13-April 20
Information: 970-726-1564; winterparkresort.com
Terrain: 3,081 acres. 55 percent expert; 19 percent advanced; 18 percent intermediate; 8 percent beginner. 143 trails, 6 terrain parks. Summit: 12,060 feet. Base: 9,000 feet. Vertical: 3,060 feet. Longest run: 4.9 miles (Village Way).
Lifts: 2 high-speed six-persons; 7 high-speed express quads; 4 triples; 6 doubles; 3 surface; 1 rope tow and 1 Village Cabriolet.
Lift tickets: Single-day window price $65-$109 (last year’s pricing). Discounts and multiday tickets prices available on website.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends and holidays. Eagle Wind closes at 2:15 p.m. Panoramic Express and Pioneer Express close at 3 p.m.
Located: 67 miles from Denver via I-70 to Exit 232, then U.S. 40.

Wolf Creek Ski Area
Season: 
Nov. 8-April 6 (could open earlier, weather permitting)
Information: 970-264-5639; ski report: 800-754-9653; wolfcreekski.com
Terrain: 1,600 acres. 20 percent expert; 25 percent advanced; 35 percent intermediate; 20 percent beginner. 77 trails, no terrain park. Summit: 11,904 feet. Base: 10,300 feet. Vertical: 1,604 feet. Longest run: 2 miles.
Lifts: 2 high-speed quads; 1 quad; 1 triple; 1 double; 1 high-speed Poma; 1 carpet.
Lift tickets: Adult full-day $58; child ages 6-12 and senior 65+, $31; adult half-day $45; child and senior half-day $24; child 5 and under, $6; 80+ free.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Located: 246 miles from Denver via U.S. 285 and U.S. 160.

Keystone Resort: Families come first at popular Colorado ski area

A family pauses takes in the view of North Peak on a run in Keystone. (Vail Resorts photo)

A family takes in the view of North Peak at Keystone. (Vail Resorts photo)

By Kyle Wagner
The Denver Post

It was 80 degrees on a sunny, breezy July day at Keystone Resort as Jessica, Lisabeth and Brendon Samuelson — ages 10, 8 and 5, respectively — used chalk to draw dogs and cats on the sidewalk in the gondola plaza play area at Keystone Resort. The Denver-based Samuelsons were in Keystone for the Kidtopia Kidfest event, but they have every intention of returning for their fifth winter as a family that skis Keystone.

“We just drive up for the day usually,” says mom Carol Lee, who grew up in Nebraska and spent winter weekends skiing most of the Interstate 70-corridor ski areas with her family. Dad Rob Samuelson doesn’t downhill ski; he prefers to strap on a pair of cross-country skis to head into the surrounding White River National Forest for some quiet time. “If we can swing it,” Lee adds, “we’ll stay the weekend for the kids’ school holidays, but sometimes those sell out really fast. But it can be worth it, because they get the free passes.”

Keystone’s Kids Ski Free program is slightly different from other ski areas in that it’s tied to lodging rather than adult lift tickets — kids get a free lift ticket for all of their stay starting the night of arrival, as long as the family stays a minimum of two nights, no other strings attached. Last season, the resort says it gave away more than 25,000 free tickets for kids (www.keystoneresort.com/kidsskifree).

It’s just one of many family-friendly amenities at this resort — the largest in Summit County, with 3,148 skiable acres — that sits 90 minutes from the Denver area.

“This idea of being what we call family-centric rather than family-friendly, it started with the founders,” says Keystone communications manager Laura Parquette. “I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We’re really proud of our commitment to families.”

As with so many Colorado resorts, Keystone, which turns 43 next month, was originally a logging and mining concern; it took its name from Keystone Mountain itself. Founder Max Dercum, who died in 2011, has a mountain named after him; he and his partner, Bill Bergman, who has Bergman Bowl as a namesake, were adamant that trails and lifts be named after the area’s rich history — famous runs such as Flying Dutchman, Wild Irishman and Paymaster take after mines; Saw Whiskers, Ball Hooter and Go Devil are logging terms.

Current owner/operator Vail Resorts took over in 1997, when Keystone and Breckenridge merged with Vail and Beaver Creek. Vail was vocal from the start about its intentions to make Keystone the most family-friendly resort in the country. Over the years, while other ski areas put their capital improvement funds into higher-speed gondolas and glading terrain, Keystone focused on the family, adding a weekly parade led by a professional float, building an enormous snow fort and snow maze at the top of Dercum Mountain, increasing the wagon fleet and, this year, adding golf carts to transport guests from the free parking lot, which also offers three rows of designated high-occupancy vehicle-only parking to get families to the mountain faster and more easily.

“What we’ve always liked here is that it just has this great setup and safe vibe,” says mom Lee. “And there are all of these long, easy runs where we might zig-zag around other people … but not worry that anyone is going to get lost or that we won’t all wind up together again.”

This year’s improvements include a new ski trail called the SchoolYard, designed to entice families to progress together as skiers and snowboarders in a fun atmosphere. The SchoolYard — which debuts when the resort opens Nov. 1 — has a signed entrance halfway down longtime green cruiser favorite Schoolmarm and will feature rollers, small moguls and other varied terrain.

Other changes this season are more subtle but intended to tweak concepts that were already in place, such as the renaming of the terrain park Freda’s Incubator, a small area near the SchoolYard for beginner or practicing riders and skiers looking to improve their skills. This year, the park will be called Easy Street, and like SchoolYard, the goal for the area is to encourage progression and practice.

“Everyone is certainly welcome, and we’re not going to exclude anyone, but obviously in areas like those, we’re aiming at a particular audience,” says Parquette. “Easy Street will be for those looking to play around on small stuff, or for those of us getting older and looking for less consequences as we try new moves. It’s a great way to hit a couple of boxes, try rails, do a small jump, in an area where you feel more comfortable and safe.”
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