Just minutes up the hill from Boulder, and a mere hour-plus drive from downtown Denver, lies the lesser-known ski “resort” of Eldora.
Famed for its less expensive lift tickets and “Just Say No to I-70” slogan—which encourages people to avoid the crowds and traffic at bigger, more popular resorts along the I-70 corridor—locals have long loved this little family ski area, affectionately known as “Eldo.” Just 47 miles from Denver, the ski area sits at 9,200 feet, boasts 680 acres of skiable terrain, and is accessed by three main lifts, with an additional seven across the mountain.
And while the powder days at Eldora Mountain Resort can be somewhat scarcer than those at a larger resort, it’s still well worth a visit by local snowsport enthusiasts, with surprisingly powerful snowmaking efforts ("100 percent coverage of groomed terrain", it claims), a welcoming, no-attitude vibe, and more wallet-friendly passes than some of its pricier cousins (day tickets max out at $89 this year compared to $165 at Vail; see the resort's website for all of its pass deals, including the Rocky Mountain Super Pass this year.)
Eldora traces its history back to the 1950s, when it was a summer playground for cabin owners in the Indian Peaks area. In 1962, it opened for skiers, having been through multiple ownerships over the years like most ski areas in the fight for profitability.
In order to maximize the ROI on your season pass or day ticket, you need some insider tips on attacking the hill. RootsRated tapped into some well-known locals to get the beta on how to ski Eldora.
Which Runs to Choose?
On a powder day, while the interstate is full of carloads of eager skiers, Eldo's proximity to Denver means you can be heading up the mountain while other are still battling traffic. Here's additional intel on how to plan your day.
“On a powder day at Eldo, take first chair up and hit Around the Horn to Upper Ambush," says Nederland local James Brooks, a former Eldora ski patroller. "Stay skier's left and merge back onto Around the Horn to get back into the Corona Bowl area. Take one lap each on Corona Bowl and Brian’s Glades to Muleshoe on skier’s left before they drop the rope.”
For skilled skiers, Brooks then recommends heading skier’s left from the top of the Corona lift out the gates to the double-black diamond terrain called Salto and West Ridge; both of these runs/bowls are steep and expert-only. Moose Glades holds snow until later in the afternoon, especially the second and third “fingers” of the glade, says Brooks.
Placer Glades, off of the Indian Peaks (central) lift, also tends to hold powder until the afternoon, especially mid-week. “After Indian Peaks lift closes, ski Jolly Jug Glades before taking your last run down on La Belle as a cruiser, or take Psychopath, if your legs can bump it out,” Brooks says.
That has you working your way from west to east across the mountain, hitting the steep and deep first and skiing bell to bell.
Where to Fuel Up
Brian Biggs, a local and former snowboard instructor at Eldora, also recommends Muleshoe, especially the left side where the wind doesn’t blow the snow away. “Jolly Jug trees on the front side are a nice way to wind down the day with good afternoon sun,” Biggs says. “And I like to get gnarly in the Trick Ditch.”
At some point mid-morning. you’ll most likely want to warm up at the top of Corona lift/Corona Bowl at The Lookout. You’ll find soups and sandwiches, a grill (sometimes), snacks and beers, all served up protected from the wind at 10,800 feet above sea level with pano views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, where the Continental Divide begins its cascade down to the Front Range.
Down at the base, head up to the Corona Bowl Bar on the second floor of the lodge, where you can get a Dale’s Pale Ale and an elk bratwurst.
Cross Country Options and More
A bonus about Eldora? The flexibility offered by its world-class Nordic center and trails. Because there are so many windy days up there, it’s especially nice to have the option to go cross-country skiing in the trees and out of the wind, especially if there are lift closures. Last year, Eldora changed its policy that previously allowed regular season pass holders to also ski the Nordic Center trail system. Now, you are required to buy a separate Nordic season pass for $309 (adults).
However, if you are into cross country/Nordic skiing, whether light backcountry, classic, or skate, and even snowshoeing, locals highly recommend getting the Nordic pass in addition to the Alpine pass. This opens up your terrain and sport options at a local ski resort that really does have it all. You just have to know where to find it.