Any globe-trotting skier or snowboarder who claims serious credibility has tackled the Colorado resorts. Despite skiing nearly all my life, I had somehow missed out on this essential skiing experience.
I’m combining a classic Colorado road trip with a ski safari to four resorts around the state to discover why each is special, how they differ and why Colorado has passionate skiers and boarders from Australia so keen to return to experience some, or all, of its 28 winter ski resorts.
It all starts (and finishes) in Denver, the Mile-High City; the perfect way to acclimatise to the altitude, while staying, shopping, dining and enjoying western culture and art in high style.
Steamboat’s Western heritage and history began with natural hot springs along the Yampa River and a strong ranching community and identity. The ski resort developed later and is now the jewel in the Alterra Mountain Company-owned IKON pass. It retains the genuine Western flavour and traditions of the township and has added some of its own; a rich training ground yielding 96 winter Olympians. More than any other town in North America. For mere mortals, it boasts the best (and only) trademarked Champagne Powder and is famous for unrivalled tree and glade skiing.
Visit the F.M. Light & Sons store in town for authentic cowboy gear with a serving of history. Watch (but do not try this at home) the wild and crazy skijoring events in town which combine both skiing and cowboys on fast horses for thrills or nab a ringside seat to watch the Olympians train. After skiing or boarding on Steamboat’s wide-open groomers, half-pipes or tree runs ‘til you ‘cain’t no more’, relax with the locals in the heavenly Strawberry Park Hot Springs, located near the town.
Best for: real western flavour, families, Olympic tragics, glade skiing. Easy air access via regional Hayden (HDN) airport.
New: the largest resort redevelopment in its history with a transformation of the base area and on-mountain expansion over the next two years.
Stay: in high western style at One Steamboat Place.
Aspen & Aspen Snowmass
Four mountains, over 2,225 hectares of terrain and a vibe as famous as the faces (and brands) you may see around town and on the slopes. Aspen Mountain, Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk; a single pass is all you need to ski these Colorado resorts, with terrain for any type of skier. Seek out, or happily stumble upon, some of the many ‘shrines’ scattered around Aspen Mountain. From Elvis to John Denver, the Grateful Dead to Hunter S. Thompson, from cats to 9/11, this glimpse into the historical layers of Aspen is part of its unique charm.
In the town, born from the silver boom mining days in the 1880s and now fully-fledged as a celebrity and tourism mecca, art, culture and high couture blend seamlessly with historic accommodation, notable dining and a melting pot of billionaires and who’s who from around the globe. The hype is real, high-energy and hypnotic but if you concentrate on the skiing and boarding, these four mountains have it all.
Aspen Mountain rears impressively from the centre of town with steep groomers and gravity-defying gladed runs for the more advanced levels of skier/boarder.
Or base yourself in Snowmass for the luxury and variety of dedicated 95 per cent ski-in, ski-out accommodation. Snowmass is larger than the three other mountains combined, offering groomers for days, steeps, jumps and bumps for all ages. A dedicated ski village satisfies dining, non-ski activities, ski equipment and clothing needs.
Aspen best for: après, culture vultures and inspiration; anyone with a floor-length mink wanting a whole lot more than skiing or boarding; sustainability and green energy initiatives; community vibes.
Snowmass best for: families and groups, learners and intermediate level skiers/boarders; variety and amount of terrain. Easy access to Aspen & Snowmass from Denver International Airport (DEN).
New: the famous Aspen logo is reworked; get into gear with the new luxe AspenX skiwear label. Newly renovated Viewline Resort, Snowmass.
A 12,140-hectare cattle ranch belonging to legendary US fashion designer Ralph Lauren is the landscape’s rugged red carpet into fairy-tale Telluride Ski Resort. The resort is set in the jagged and relatively newly formed San Juan Mountains.
Perhaps the most fervently loved by Aussies of all U.S. ski resorts, Telluride feels a little like visiting the promised ski-land. It has a historically well-preserved town deep in the box canyon and a dedicated ski Mountain Village which was developed further up the slopes and connected to the town by a breathtaking free gondola ride.
Like its arguably most famous promoter and well-known resident, the indefatigable ‘Telluride Tom’ Watkinson, the boutique resort is personality and character in overdrive. But the small resident population is keen to keep Telluride for the locals and lucky discerning tourists who have come to see what the fuss is all about, and then want to stay. And no wonder!
Best of Telluride: Every lift or chair offers both advanced and blue or green runs to the village and to the town so access to the whole mountain is possible for every level of skier/boarder. Enjoy backcountry skiing without the backcountry hazard, included inside resort boundaries and patrolled. Try a snowmobiling tour to Alta mining ghost town and the best gondola ride (and views) ever. The variety of on-mountain dining. Easy air access via Montrose (MTJ) regional airport.
New: The Madeline Hotel Telluride has completed a major renovation and now has The Timber Room, a new dining experience.
Stay: Hotel Fairmont Heritage Place- Franz Klammer Lodge, Mountain Village. Alta Lakes Observatory cabin.
More information: colorado.com
This article was produced in partnership with Colorado Tourism Office. colorado.com
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