Colorado ski and snowboard resorts are kind of like a piping pot of popcorn, exploding with an accelerating frenzy of improvements, each trying to outdo the others. And we’re the lucky beneficiaries, who get to pick and choose the flavor of the day to suit our moods. Here, we provide a rundown of what’s new this season at winter resorts throughout state. Scan the list to see what to expect at your favorite haunts, or to get ideas for new slopes you might want to explore. Now bring on the snow.
Arapahoe Basin has spiffed up its base area to celebrate its 70th birthday (yep, the ski area opened in 1946, when $1.25 would let you ride the rope tow all day). A few things have changed since then, but the down-home feeling remains. Hit the slopes on the mountain’s anniversary weekend, December 9–11, 2016, and get yourself a lift ticket for just $46.
Snowmass is feeling the love this year. Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant got a total facelift and more than doubled in size. Grab a burger at the café or settle in for a white-linen lunch of elk medallions or seared tuna salad. When your legs start to burn, kick back at the new après spot, the Lynn Britt Cabin, which opened last spring and keeps the beat with DJs and Woody Creek gin.
If you like to do laps on Breckenridge's peaks 6 and 7, soon you’ll have a place to nosh at the top of the Independence Super Chair. Pioneer Crossing, a 490-seat restaurant with an historic mining theme, will start serving upscale campfire food in December.
Copper Mountain has a couple of new eateries. On the Rockies, next to the American Eagle chairlift at the base, pours Colorado craft whiskeys and craft beer to go with casual fare. If barbecue is more your bent, head to the brand-spanking-new Eagle BBQ in the Copper Junction Building.
People seek the steep runs at Crested Butte, but what about when you need a breather? Now you can pop up to the Umbrella Bar at Ten Peaks, a round restaurant with a retractable roof at the top of Painter Boy. Dig into some chile, sausages, or fondue as you soak up the 360-degree views. Or skin up for a full-moon party.
Utah-based Powdr bought Eldora earlier this year and dumped some coin into the place, upgrading the base area with better bars and bathrooms, and free wifi. The resort also cut three new runs between Mule Shoe and Corona in Brian’s Glades. But the real talk of the town is uphill touring. Now on weekdays, during resort business hours, you can skin uphill following a designated route. A day pass or season-pass add-on is required.
In keeping with its family-friendly roots, Keystone has transformed its Mountain House base area to make it easier for those with tots in tow. Perks include free parking with easy access to the family zone.
Loveland is keeping mum on a big project it expects to announce next year. For now, the mountain is touting a boost to season pass benefits, adding three days at Utah’s Powder Mountain (in addition to the usual Crested Butte, Monarch, Powderhorn, and Purgatory days). The mountain is also fixing to offer some guided ski tours in Dry Gulch east of Chair 8. Stay tuned.
Just three hours from Denver outside of Salida, Monarch is the place to escape I-70 traffic and bask in bountiful snow. New this year, the mountain is allowing uphill skiing on set routes during operating hours (in addition to when the lifts stop). And in its cat-skiing terrain, Monarch now has a yurt where powder hounds can take a load off during cat tours.
Purgatory took out some trees for hazard mitigation, creating some sweet gladed terrain on the front side near Styx. The resort also cut a new expert run called Dirty’s Secret on the backside, and installed two surface lifts at the bottom of the Legends area to make it easier to get back to Lift 8 (no more tucking and traversing). Also big news: the mountain’s owner bought Colorado’s largest snowcat skiing operation, Purgatory Snowcat Adventures (formerly San Juan Untracked), adding access to 35,000 backcountry acres in the San Juan Mountains near Durango.
Ski Cooper, a low-key spot on Tennessee Pass outside of Leadville, has added a mountaintop yurt so you can grab a bite without going to the base.
Steamboat has replaced the Elkhead Chairlift with a high-speed quad to reduce a bottleneck at lunchtime and the end of the day. On the music front, those who like noodlely tunes should note that Winter Wondergrass, the annual bluegrass festival that used to be in Avon, is moving to Steamboat in 2017. Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Elephant Revival, and The Infamous Stringdusters are a few of the acts that will play February 24–26, 2017.
Silverton turns 15 this season and is celebrating with a new set of steps leading to the base yurt and a new wood-burning stove. Let’s just say Silverton is about simplicity—and we like it that way. The mountain is also increasing its guided skiing by 20 percent, starting with opening day on December 29. Unguided skiing will be an option only in late spring.
If you’re not familiar with Sunlight Mountain Resort, just outside of Glenwood Springs, you might be surprised to learn that this is its 50th year. A hot ticket this season is a ski-springs combo, which includes lift tickets and Iron Mountain Hot Springs passes for four people for $199.
Don’t let the long drive to Telluride deter you. You can fly. Allegiant Airlines has added flights between Denver and Montrose, with fares as low as $44 one-way. You won’t even need a car—the Telluride Mountain Village Gondola system, which turns 20 this year, provides seamless connection between the resort and downtown.
Chair 17 haters, you’re going to love this: Vail’s painfully slow Sun Up Lift has been replaced with a high-speed quad (now chair #9), allowing for faster laps in the back bowls. Of course, this change will up the ante on powder days, when early risers make haste to be the first to lay tracks. For Epic Pass holders, there’s more good news: Now you get five days at Whistler to add to your slew.
Winter Park’s big news is the return of the ski train after a seven-year hiatus. The train hits the tracks January 7, 2017, and will run weekends and holiday Mondays through March 26. Hop a choo choo from Denver’s Union Station at 7 am and you’ll be on the slopes by 9 am. Ski all day and then enjoy après on the way home, departing Winter Park at 4:30 pm.
Laid-back and low-key Wolf Creek Ski Area added a lift from its base to a teaching area, and also upgraded the parking lot so you’re less likely to get your boots muddy.