Beat the Blues: 11 Inspiring Intermediate Ski Runs in Colorado

A view from one of the excellent cruisers at Vail.
A view from one of the excellent cruisers at Vail. Miguel Vieira
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Let’s admit that fast cruisers are beloved by every type of skier or snowboarder. A swooping blue trail can comprise the ultimate adrenaline rush for beginners, make any average skier feel like a boss and offer a carving castle of freedom for experts who have otherwise been abusing their joints all day. Here are 11 Colorado cruisers that you absolutely shouldn’t miss.

Vail

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Avanti: Accessed from the top of Chair 2 of the same name, this run is ideal for cruise lovers who like to push themselves to the next level. (Vail trail maps can be found here.) After a big powder dump, the skier’s right side of Avanti is often left ungroomed and the entire run swoops over a series of rollers, offering a serious opportunity to catch air (or yard sale) if you’re going fast enough. About halfway down, the run turns black over a steep face before flattening out as it flows across a cross trail intersection under the Chair 2 lift line.

Simba: Situated on the frequently forgotten far side of Vail’s front off and accessed by Pride Express Chair 26, Simba is a time-tested favorite among families and up-and-coming beginners. Hugging the west-side ski area boundary, Simba begins just under Adventure Ridge and meanders in a consistently wide slope with a reasonable but not excessive pitch all the way down to Lionshead.

PoppyFields: Nearly devoid of trees, it’s not easy to imagine this sea of gleaming white exploding in wildflowers in the summertime. Situated in China Bowl and accessed just under Two Elk Lodge, this bowl run is at its prime on a sunny day. It’s ideal for skiers that don’t mind taking a few lift rides to find velvety bliss. The west PoppyFields trail jets down a mild slope of China Bowl, and super-wide carving turns come naturally on the curved corduroy. It gets busier as it funnels into the valley leading to the Orient Express Lift.

Beaver Creek

Cresta: Sure, Bachelor’s Gulch is the famous blue run haven of Beaver Creek, and cruise fanatics could be perfectly happy gunning down Gunder’s and Grubstake all day long. But if escaping the crowds and carving from top to bottom are your priorities, make your way to Arrowhead to find Cresta. Beginning at the summit of Arrow Bahn Express Lift, Cresta swoops down 1,500 vertical feet to the base of Arrowhead Village, where you’re likely to befriend a local or two on the way back up the lift.

Red Tail: Another unsung hero of the blue persuasion, Red Tail is the broad slope to the right of the Centennial Express Lift summit. The top part of the run pushes the boundary of steepness for a blue and would probably be labeled a black if it weren’t so refreshingly wide, stretching the full length of the slope, on one side bordered by the bump-filled valley ending the true expert runs from Birds of Prey and Grouse Mountain. It ends at Talon’s Restaurant and the stadium area that hosts the annual World Cup races.

Keystone

Spring Dipper to Sante Fe: Yes, Spring Dipper is one of Keystone’s most popular and prominent runs, but for good reason. Unload to the left of River Run Gondola or Summit Express Lift and launch onto the gentle Dipper. Groomed at least twice a day and open for night skiing, Spring Dipper offers a consistent slope. Maintain the line with a better gradient and avoid the crowd by staying to skier’s right at the junction, veering onto Sante Fe as the trail splits. The glade here is a hit with kids thanks to the bite-sized freestyle jumps and tree trails. Take a sharp left to avoid the base area, heading back up at the gondola’s mid station.

Prospector: You might feel you’re in gold mining territory on this lonely run that begins at the top of North Peak. Accessed from the Outpost Gondola, Santiago Express, or Wayback lift, Prospector offers a groomed sanctuary amid islands of pines before it rejoins civilization in the valley that becomes Mozart run. Ideal for a breath of fresh air and ogling at tree skiers across the way in The Windows glades.

Porcupine: True, reaching The Outback involves several lift rides, but it’s worth it for anyone who prefers carving away from the crowds. The Outback offers a handful of sweet, wide cruisers amid the steep tree runs, and Porcupine is the cream of the crop. Accessed to the right off of Outback Express Chair, the run is south-facing and best hit early before it gets too soft.

Breckenridge

Briar Rose: If a mild pitch appeals to you and you’re venturing into blue territory for the first time, Breckenridge’s Briar Rose is the perfect stepping stone. Accessed from the top of Peak 9 from the Mercury SuperChair, follow the lift line from the top and find Briar Rose opening into the woods to your right. Narrower than more frequented Peak 9 blues like Cashier and Bonanza, Briar Rose maintains its gentle slope and consistently soft groomed snow from top to bottom.

Pioneer to Swan City: Quite possibly the world’s cruising hot spot, Peak 7 is the place to camp all day for great groomers in every direction. Unloading to the left off of Independence SuperChair, the slope to the bottom features a collection of large rollers. Soaring over one after another truly gives one the sensation of flying. Start on Pioneer but hang a left on Swan City to claim a piece of corduroy to yourself before the runs converge again near the Peak 7 base.

Lincoln Meadows: Another Peak 7 standout, take a right off of Independence SuperChair and find Monte Cristo to your left after cruising around a handful of pine islands. Although the bottom of the run becomes the thoroughfare for the Peak 6 mass exodus at the end of the day, Monte Cristo offers a glimpse of groomed solitude in the morning, along with a peek at Lake Dillon and Keystone in the distance.

Originally written for Vail Resorts.

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