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The following blog post 2017 Resort Guide was originally published to Elevation Outdoors Magazineon October 12, 2017 at 04:00AM

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CRESTED BUTTE MOUNTAIN RESORT

Home to some of the most adventurous skiing in the state, Crested Butte captivates countless skiers and snowboarders looking for a challenge. Expect to hike, sidestep and billygoat your way to the mountain’s best turns. But know this: The extra work is worth it—both on the hill and when you retell the story at one of the fine eating and drinking establishments of this eclectic gem of a town.

Join the Community // CBMR has partnered with local nonprofits and the greater Crested Butte community to extend a popular summer-specific low environmental impact educational initiative into the winter season. Mountain Manners are 10 simple rules to remind people how to minimize their trace on the beauty that surrounds Crested Butte.

Family Friendly // Crested Butte’s compact layout and natural terrain mean it’s easy for families to navigate. Add in several slopeside and close proximity lodging options, and you get a world-class ski destination with all the approachability of a local hill.

Lessons // Dedicated to improving the on-slope experience for all levels of skier, the CBMR Ski & Ride School offers all-ages programming for very-first-timers all the way up to expert riders looking for a challenge. Adult Beginner Adventure lessons include equipment, tickets, lunch and teaching designed to ignite a new passion, while a day with the CB Steep Guides will give you the locals’ look at some of the most thrilling terrain in the Lower 48.

Restaurants // Create an extra-special Crested Butte memory high on the mountain. Curl up under warm blankets as a snow-cat-driven sleigh whisks you up to Uley’s Cabin for a five-course prix fixe meal ($110) that blends delicious Colorado-inspired eats with French flare.

LOVELAND SKI AREA

Mega-resort conglomerates bedamned. Located conveniently before the Eisenhower tunnel on I-70, Loveland continues to experience incredible success as an independent in spite of the constant portfolio shuffling of other Colorado hills. At Loveland, it’s about quality snow and a strong community. Free cat skiing and approachable-yet-challenging terrain covered in consistent snowfall (422 inches annually) attracts the diehards, while one of the Front Range’s fastest growing ski schools ushers in the next generation. Loveland’s nostalgic, home-grown vibe and incredible convenience (just 53 miles from Denver) keeps everyone coming back. Loveland skiers know, there’s no better place to enjoy I-70 traffic than from the unload station of Chair 1, 1,000 vertical feet above the freeway.

Tickets // Committed to value, Loveland’s ticket window price for a day-pass ($75) is one of the lowest in the Front Range. But if you want the real deal, purchase an early-season 4-Pak, which give you four transferable passes for $159. That’s just $40 a day.

Family Friendly // Situated just east of the main base area, Loveland Valley is a beginner and family paradise. Progressive lifts and terrain offer a perfect learning environment that’s set away from the hustle and bustle of the main resort. When it’s time to step up to bigger terrain, the big slopes are only a quick shuttle bus ride away.

Lessons // Loveland’s 3-Class Pass is the most affordable way to learn to ski in Colorado. With it you get three days of rental gear, three lessons and a full season pass upon completion of the instruction. Prices start at $366.

Pass Programs // In the era of the multi-resort season pass, Loveland has kept pace by partnering with other independent resorts to offer 30 bonus days of riding at resorts including Monarch, Purgatory, Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort and other prime spots on several of its season pass offerings.

Après // Loveland’s on-site Rathskeller slings cold beer and stiff drinks in a funky, yet cozy atmosphere, often with live music. Be sure to try the tasty Pine Bough Pale Ale, a special collaboration with Idaho Springs-based Tommyknocker Brewery. It’s almost always on special, too.

Retailers // Loveland Sport Shop offers the prices and service you would expect from a dedicated retailer down on the Front Range as opposed to an on-mountain store. Here you will find custom boot fitting and top-end demo equipment (the Hat Trick package, which gives you three demos for the price of one). The Daytripper Package includes lift ticket, equipment rental and clothing rental (pants, jacket, gloves, hat and goggles) for less than the cost of a lift ticket alone at the mega resorts.

Big Adventure // You’ll hear a lot of chatter around the lift mazes about the Ridge Cat during good days at the Luv, because when open, it access some of the area’s most exciting terrain for the low, low price of … Free! Simply sign a waiver in the ticket office for a Cat Pass and enjoy free catskiing that tops out at nearly 13,000 feet.

BOULDER ADVENTURE LODGE

Boulder Adventure Lodge co-founder Asa Firestone calls his creation a cross between an urban hipster hotel and and Montana ranch. What else would you expect from the brainchild of a National Geographic Young Explorer and a restaurant management aficionado? Voted one of the top ten hotels under $150 by USA Today, the A-Lodge offers everything from luxury campsites with a slackline park to kitchenette-equipped rooms for budget-conscious guest. Situated just up Boulder Canuyon, the lodge is minutes from hiking, biking, rock climbing, fly fishing and downtown Boulder. During the winter, guests can purchase discounted lift tickets to nearby Eldora and hop a shuttle to the ski resort on weekends. Drawing outdoor-minded visitors from near and far, the property has become a community hub, hosting action sports film nights on a giant 25-foot outdoor screen, yoga classes and more. It’s an ideal basecamp for the Front Range’s world-class outdoor experiences.

SNOW MOUNTAIN RANCH OF YMCA OF THE ROCKIES

Far from the YMCA gym and swim of your youth, Snow Mountain Ranch is a family and fitness mecca of outdoor winter activities (and, yes, there is also an indoor pool). In the winter, however, over 100 kilometers of groomed trails for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking serve as the main attraction on this 5,100-acre Grand County property, but only scratch the surface of the possibilities. With ice skating, roller skating, rock climbing, sleigh rides, and so much more on site, there’s a memorable experience for adventurers of all shapes and sizes waiting here this winter.

Family Friendly // A diversity of facilities and an impressive fleet of winter rental gear suited for any age (including tow-behind chariots for toddlers) make Snow Mountain Ranch the perfect place for sharing the beauty of the Colorado winter with the entire family.

Lessons // The ranch offers group and private nordic ski lessons daily. For first timers, a learn-to-ski package includes trail access, rental gear and a group lesson for $50 (adults) or $40 (kids). Periodically throughout the winter, Snow Mountain Ranch offers free guided skiing and snowshoeing excursions to explore more of the property.

Lodging // Choose between hotel-style rooms in one of three on-site lodges or rent a cozy private cabin for the entire family. For a truly rustic experience, adventurous guests can opt for yurt accommodations. Be sure to bring an extra warm sleeping bag.

Backcountry // The gentle rolling terrain of Snow Mountain Ranch provides the ideal training ground for those interested in backcountry skiing. Intro to Alpine Touring courses, positioned as unintimidating experiences for first timers, will be offered throughout the season.

POWDERHORN MOUNTAIN RESORT

Sometimes the best ski and snowboard escapes take you by surprise. Tucked along the northern edge of Grand Mesa, Powderhorn delivers breathtaking Western Slope views and 1,600 acres of fun terrain that recieves 250 inches of soft, dry snow each year. Seek out the goods even a few days after a storm in the resort’s magical aspen glades—it’s some of the best downlow skiing and riding in the state. Lift lines are unheard of here and the resort’s just a 45-minute drive from he streets and mountain bike trails of Grand Junction. But don’t miss grass-fed local beef from Homestead Meats at The Sunset Bar & Grill or grub and craft brew at Powderhorn Pub in the SlopeSide Inn on mountain. Plus there’s a full-service Ski & Ride school, rental equipment and lodging on site. Looking for an escape away from the buzz of big resorts? Powderhorn is the perfect destination for families, couples, groups and friends seeking a unique and authentic adventure.

GRAND TARHGEE

When winter storms sweep through the idaho Plains and smash into the Tetons, Grand Targhee is the first ski area in the line of fire. As a result, this 2,602-acre gem situated in the shadow of the Grand Teton racks up snow totals north of 500 inches a year. While a certain neighboring high-profile resort gets loony on deep days, Targhee’s pace remains unrushed during big storms with empty lift lines, plenty of playful in-bounds and hike-to terrain and a heaping plate of Wydaho Nachos at the Trap Bar at the end of the day. Throw in dedicated powder-skiing skills camps and Wyoming’s only cat skiing operation, and Targhee is truly a place to get pitted. It’s much more than just a powder paradise, however. A dedicated, on-mountain adventure zone with terrain-based learning features and an all-ages kids club make Targhee perfect for families. A network of nordic, snowshoe and fatbike trails offer down-day distractions, and frequent ski and stay deals keep things easy on the pocket book.

VALDEZ, ALASKA

Valdez Entered the consciouseness of the wintersports community back in the 1990s when the likes of Doug Coombs and Kim Reichelm pioneered the Chugach heli-ski scene in the mountains around nearby Thompson Pass. Thirty years later, Valdez continues to add to that core history with ever-expanding outdoor recreation opportunities. Vast, wild, and surrounded by some of the world’s most impressive peaks, Valdez is the ultimate winter adventure spot.

Big Adventure // Bring all the toys when headed to Valdez. When not enjoying the legendary skiing on the pass or some of the world’s finest multi-pitch ice in Keystone Canyon, there’s a continuously expanding network of fatbike trails and, of course, the Valdez Arm of Prince William Sound. This deep water body doesn’t freeze making kayaking and paddleboarding (in a wet suit) a year-round option.

Après // Valdez has a core mountain-town, DIY, tailgate après scene. From there, it’s The Fat Mermaid for pizza and beer or the Wheelhouse for burgers, steaks, and, yep, beer. The small-town vibe is real here with each establishment just a stone’s throw from the next watering hole.

Backcountry // Ski touring the Chugach actually predates the town’s heli-ski explosion. Countless descents await the avalanche-educated backcountry skier, most rising right off the Richardson Highway. While you can find plenty of Alaskan gut-check lines exist, the expansive Chugach also offers terrain and touring options for every skill level.

Lodging // From B & Bs to a Best Western, Valdez offers a diverse mix of options, all on the relatively affordable side. Check the usual spots like AirBnb, VRBO, and hotel sites. For future plans, the Totem Inn should finish a complete rebuild in early 2018 (and it is taking bookings now).

TAOS SKI VALLEY

Talk to skiers and riders in the know, and you’ll immediately understand that there’s a magic surrounding Taos Ski Valley and Northern New Mexico. They’ll speak of the rich light bouncing off the adobe, the stark, contrasting mountainscapes of the Sangre de Cristo Range, the Christmas chili, and of course, Kachina Peak, a true jewel of North American steep skiing. Baked in deeper, however, is a family of skiers, the Blakes, who spent the better part of six decades cultivating this iconic, but just-off-the-beaten-path resort. While the Blakes have moved on in ownership, their spirit still steers the new regime and the changes it’s bringing to the area. For skiers and boarders who have visited, Taos will aways be something truly special. For those who haven’t, it’s one blank spot on the map that should get filled in this season.

New This Year // A thrilling yet technical mountain, Taos is best enjoyed by skiers and riders with a firm grasp on their turns. But an $8-million investment in beginner lift and terrain improvements and a total rebuild of resort’s Children’s Center will help get new and younger snowsports enthusiasts to the next level even faster. This development continues a multi-year revitalization, that has included the Kachina lift, hotel development, and more, under the dedicated new ownership

Family Friendly // With the completion of the new Children’s Center comes the expansion of Taos Bound, a youth program that extends comprehensive kid programing into the après hours. From headlamp hikes, to arts and culture activities, to video-editing instruction with GoPro footage, Taos Unbound offer activities for children up into their teens.

Lessons //  Taos Snowsports Weeks include six consecutive days of lessons, ample freeski time, and a chance to commune with other passionate skiers and riders. Hooked on both the experience and the noticeable improvements in their form, many Snowsports Week participants return year after year.

Pass Programs //  The newly established Taos Zia Pass draws millennials with season-long unrestricted lift access for just $450 for young adults aged 18-29. In addition to its participation in the Mountain Collective pass program, Taos offers reciprocity to 16 different destinations with it’s unrestricted season pass.

Lodging // The Blake at Ski Taos Valley, an 80-room boutique ski-in, ski-out hotel, and the first resort-owned lodging property, enters its first full winter season. On top of high-end amenities like a fitness center and spa, the hotel also offers art tours.

Restaurants // Named for the tail number on Ernie Blake’s Cessna 170, the new 192 at The Blake will offer a delicious modern world menu and a perfect bar for bellying up at the end of the day. On mountain, look to the Bavarian Lodge for après in old-world style.

Beyond the Hill // Taos and the surrounding area offer a fresh take on a ski vacation. While here, walk alongside Native American history at Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Herritage Site (35 min away), or soak in the healing waters of Ojo Caliente Hot Springs (one hour away).

SKI COOPER

Situated high atop Tennessee Pass, Colorado, Ski Cooper offers both a family-friendly ski destination and  a glimpse at the nostalgic era of the sport. This authentic little area got its start as a training facility for 10th Mountain Division troops stationed at nearby Camp Hale. In the 75 years since it started operating, Ski Cooper evolved at a pace that’s kept focus on a relaxing but unpampered experience for all.

New This Year // Celebrating its 75th Anniversary on December 31, 2017, Ski Cooper has a season’s worth of special events. While Team USA battles it out in PyeongChang, Cooper skiers and riders can participate in the Cooper Olympiad. In March, the area will celebrate a special 75th Anniversary 10th Mountain Day, and on several Saturdays throughout the season, visitors can try out the new Moonlight Mountain Top Yurt dinners.

Family Friendly // Affordable lift tickets, parking right at the base, zero crowds, wide, easily navigable trails: Every aspect of Ski Cooper exudes family-friendliness. Plus, Cooper relies on 100-percent natural snow so hard-packed granular doesn’t exist here.

Big Adventure // Book a trip with Chicago Ridge Snowcat Tours and experience over 2,600 acres of untracked Colorado high country. Expect deep, cruisy open alpine bowls, glades, and expansive views. Trips include powder ski rentals, avalanche safety equipment, lunch at a yurt on Chicago Ridge, and drinks and apps at Katie O’Rourke’s at the end of the day.

Passes // Ski Cooper aims to be an affordable place to ski. Adult day passes are just $54 and kids ski for only $34. Season passes run just $399 and $175 respectively (starting October 1). No headaches, no crowds, no pretense.

 

The post 2017 Resort Guide appeared first on Elevation Outdoors Magazine.