Colorado’s ski and snowboard resorts have spent the summer and fall upgrading the experience with new chairlifts, restaurants, expanded terrain, including new heli-skiing terrain, and discount ticket packages.
There’s something for everybody to enjoy, whether you are a beginner, expert or in between.
Life should be downhill in winter, so here’s what’s new in Colorado Ski Country, alphabetically by resort, because that’s the only fair way.
This locals favorite will fully open its 468-acre terrain expansion into the Beavers and the Steep Gullies, including the new four-person Beavers chairlift.
A-Basin opened approximately 371 acres of terrain last season to give a “preview” to excited skiers and riders. This summer, A-Basin operations crews constructed 97 more acres of tree skiing (glades) and continued improving the rest of the terrain with grading, glading and installation of the chairlift and picnic areas.
Terrain in The Beavers will include two new intermediate groomed runs, allowing more “blue” skiers and riders to enjoy this scenic, north- and west-facing terrain.
The Steep Gullies are approximately 91 acres of extreme (double-black diamond), steep, couloir skiing. These runs will remain hike-back for the true advanced skier or snowboarder looking for some of the most challenging terrain in Colorado.
Or, you can get a taste of back-country steeps and freshies on Palavacini, one of the most famous in-bounds runs in the Rockies. I’ve gotten down it without wiping out, which is a major accomplishment.
Important eco-news first – The snow may be white, but Aspen Snowmass is going green, as all food and beverage outlets will go straw free.
Aspen Skiing Company is well underway on the Snowmass Base Village Development, a $600 million mountain-resort development of lodging, residences and amenities including a central public events plaza with an ice-skating rink, fire pits, children’s pop-up fountains, shops and restaurants.
The new village includes the new Limelight Hotel Snowmass – sister to the Limelight Hotel Aspen (where I stayed last season). The new Snowmass hotel is a ski-in/ski-out hotel adjacent to the main Elk Camp Gondola, with 99 hotel rooms and 11 for-sale condominiums, a new restaurant, a children’s game area and a five-story climbing wall.
At Buttermilk, families and children can enjoy Fort Frog, a new wooden, frontier style fort with lookout towers, a jail, snowball launcher and swinging bridge. This is a great option for skiing and nonskiing families alike.
Also new for the 2018-19 season, The Aspen Snowmass App gets an upgrade to provide rewards and enhanced functioning of year-over-year stats and tracking, allowing families, skiers and nonskiers to track on-mountain movements.
Cooper’s new Moonlight Mountaintop Yurt dinner series at the Ridgeview Café features a ride to the mountaintop after hours in a warm, cozy snowcat in the light of the full moon. This event is perfect for a special gathering with four dates during the 2018-19 season, with a menu choice including flame-grilled salmon, stuffed portabella mushrooms and New York strip steak.
There are two new chairlifts, American Flyer and American Eagle, both out of Copper’s Center Village. The American Flyer will now be a high speed six-person chair with bubble enclosures to protect from wind and cold, the only active bubble chair in Colorado. The American Eagle will be a high-speed combination lift that features both six-person chairs and eight-person gondola cabins. Both will significantly increase uphill access from the base area and reduce wait times.
Copper Mountain also debuts a new base area restaurant, Downhill Duke’s. Named after a beloved dog, Downhill Duke’s will welcome guests and their four-legged friends to unbuckle their boots, take in some sun and enjoy lunch or après cocktails on the south-facing patio.
Echo has a new tubing hill serviced by a covered conveyor lift offering family-friendly fun for skiers and those who just want to play in the snow. Echo also expands the beginner learning area, increase snowmaking capacity and now offers RFID access gates for direct-to-lift access on several ticket and pass options.
A special feature at this family-friendly mountain is the Ambassador coaching program included in a day lift ticket purchase. As part of the program, employees are available throughout the mountain to offer tips and suggestions to help guests who are learning or looking to progress their ski or snowboard skills.
A year after installing the Alpenglow high-speed six-person chairlift, Eldora’s first-ever high-speed lift, the ski area further modernizes this season with RFID pass technology. There also are new glading projects and more frequent early-season and mid-week events and activities.
During the 2018-19 season, Granby Ranch is offering groups the opportunity to rent Granby Ranch’s East Mountain for the evening. Guests will have full access to the East Mountain night skiing terrain from 5pm-9pm in a unique option for groups to highlight a special occasion or host a private event.
New this season is a natural ice-skating experience with pond skating, just south of the ski lodge with stellar views of the rugged San Juan Mountains. The ski area also will offer nighttime skating events on the pond throughout the winter season featuring a DJ, bonfire, hot cocoa, star gazing, and lots of family friendly fun.
This season, Loveland unveils the largest single capital improvement project in the ski area’s history with the installation of a new lift, Chet’s Dream. It is the areas first high-speed quad and is named after the ski area’s longtime owner, Chet Upham Jr.
There’s a brand-new tubing park along with new gladed tree skiing, upgraded WiFi, chip readers at all sales terminals, self-order kiosks in the Gunbarrel Cafeteria and handheld order-taking technology.
Mission: Affordable is a new steeply discounted season pass program with discounts and special programs for first-timers and beginners. This is a great, small area with an old-fashioned lodge and easy-going vibe.
New this season is year-round access to the Inferno Mountain Coaster, a new gravity-fed ride that zips through aspen groves revealing incredible views of the San Juan mountains. It’s a great option for families with non-skiers or those seeking a break from the slopes, The Inferno Mountain Coaster is almost a mile long, including 300 feet of vertical drop, nine switchbacks and speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.
Also new for the 2018-19 season, Purgatory Resort will offer a free season pass for all children in Fourth Grade or younger, with no blackout dates and no parent purchase required. For more information, visitwww.skipurg.com.
This experts-only mountain begin the 2018-19 season on November 24 with brand new heli-skiing terrain, “Zone 8,” which features diverse high-alpine terrain and great early-season snow.
Silverton also has expanded its Unguided Season Pass offer to include a 150 percent increase in available ski days to the unguided season, 45 free days at partner ski resorts, and a $39 heli drop. Unguided skiers and riders must wear an avalanche beacon.
There are two new dining experiences for the 2018-19 season. Timber & Torch, a new base area restaurant and bar experience, will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring a new outdoor heated patio, two indoor/outdoor bars, an exterior fireplace. The new outdoor BBQ. The Taco Beast, a unique new on-mountain, roaming snowcat, will serve carne asada and al pastor trail tacos with trailside service in both winter and summer seasons.
And, of course, Steamboat continues to offer the chance to ski with Olympic champion and skiing legend Billy Kidd, who has traded his signature cowboy hat for a standard ski helmet.
Sunlight Mountain Resort will honor the effort and sacrifice of firefighters and first responders with the new Firefighter Fun Days. The ski area will offer free skiing and riding to all active firefighters and first responders each Wednesday of Sunlight’s 2018-19 season. There’s also a new on-mountain food stand for walk-up skiers and riders to refuel at the top of Sunlight.
The Meadows, Telluride’s popular beginner area, has been upgraded with a new 320-foot covered surface lift and an improved terrain-based learning program. Skiers and riders will also find an expanded grooming fleet to enhance the groomed terrain across the resort, as Telluride continues its multi-year, multimillion-dollar venture in snowmaking upgrades and technology to improve efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint.
Telluride is also has a new smartphone app with such features such as up-to-the-minute lift status information, snow reporting, trail status, an interactive trail map, push notifications and more.
There’s a brand new 10-person gondola, the resort’s first new lift since 2007, which will reduce wait times by 15 minutes during peak season. The gondola will serve a new daily Mountaintop Sunset Après at the Lodge at Sunspot from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Foot passengers can ride for free without a lift ticket beginning at 2:30 p.m. each day.
Snowmaking system has been upgraded with the addition of new energy efficient compressors and new high-tech snow guns. A Zephyr Plaza upgrade in the Winter Park Village will create a free-flowing plaza with stage area, fire pits, and sundeck for general gathering and small events and concerts.
The Winter Park Express train service from Denver to Winter Park returns for a third season with additional Fridays added, as well as a lounge car for food and beverages.
A brand new high-speed, detachable quad, Charity Chairlift, is the 10th lift in Wolf Creek’s current lift system, and named for Charity Jane Pitcher, the resort’s previous owner. The Charity Lift is the third chairlift in the spacious 900-acre, Alberta area. Fifty-five acres of previously underutilized terrain will now be available to beginner and intermediate skiers.
There’s also a new on-mountain grill, and a new point-of-sale system in rentals, retail and all restaurants mountain wide.
This information is from Colorado Ski Country, the association representing most of the state’s large and small resorts..
Vail Resorts is not a member, so when we get information about what’s new at Vail, Beaver Creek, Crested Butte, Keystone, we’ll add it to this report.