The latest dispatch from our awesome junior correspondent, Maya Olson. Read on for her insider guide to spring skiing in Colorado.
The best time of year to grab a few pairs of skis for the family and head to Colorado may very well be in spring. I love to ski in the winter, but spring skiing is a hidden treasure that gives you the slopes without all the crowds.
You may totally think of skiing differently after you hear the perks of spring skiing: Wake up whenever you feel like it (even the “die-hards” can sleep late in spring, the snow is best if you wait), throw aside your hand warmers (you won’t need those!), and prepare for the day in your not-as-expensive-as-February condo.
When you step outside, the warming sun reminds you that you won’t need all those layers (hallelujah!), and when you pull up to the first row parking, you won’t need to pay because there isn’t anyone else there. Not one person in line. During my recent trip, I took a huge, soft groomer and didn’t see anyone else on the entire run. While everyone else may complain about the harsh winter and how skiing is too cold, you’ll prove them wrong! "Oh gosh, there’s a snow storm in my future! What will I do?" I guess I’ll just have to ski the sunny day with winter snow alone, since there will be no crowds to ski the butt-deep powder with me!
Here's my family guide to the mountains off I-70 Colorado.
Best Part: Where do I start? The best part about Breck is probably the fact that it has enough terrain skiers of different levels, all looking to spend time together and still ski at their own pace. There are plenty of family-friendly options (there are five peaks!) and a great ski school, but there is also more than enough crazy stuff for experts. Oh, and Breck always gets a lot of snow.
Lookout for: Crowds and prices. This mountain is a big hit, and you’ll see why!
My Secret: To me, Peak 9 has the best ski school. Also, avoid lines by not eating lunch with everyone else any time between 12 p.m. - 2 p.m.
For the Die-Hards: Intermediate skiers will never get tired of the perfect groomers on Peak 8 and Peak 9, but you absolutely must go to the top of the Imperial Express, which is the highest chairlift in North America, and ski the amazing bowls off to its side. Some of the best trees are on the sides of Peak 10. On a powder day, head out to Peak 6 and drop into Intuition Bowl. Still, my favorite skiing is off of the E-Chair or the 6 Chair.
Best Part: The best part of Beaver Creek is that, in my opinion, it is the best mountain for families. Maybe it’s the lady greeting you with complimentary warm cookies at the end of a great day, or the fact that it’s all so easy for kids with the ski-in/ski-out access, or maybe even the fact that it has the best ski school — and they keep the crowds off pretty well. Besides, Beaver Creek has some of the best grooming of anywhere, and is known for luxurious accommodations.
Lookout for: High prices!
My Secret: You absolutely should take a ski lesson. The instructors are so amazing!
For the Die-Hards: I love the trees at Beaver Creek, but since Beaver Creek hosted the Audi Birds of Prey Cup, you may want to check out that area.
Best Part: Always pretty quiet, always good snow! There’s so much to explore and good snow to find. My personal favorite mountain.
Lookout for: A-Basin is not as high-tech and modern as some of the other mountains,
but that’s what keeps the crowds off. Also, their best terrain is extreme, so it may not be the perfect fit for your family, and it tends to be colder and windier. Also, A-Basin has winter-like conditions longer than the other mountains — they have been known to stay open until July 4th!
My Secret: A-Basin is the best mountain for a powder day. It always gets a lot of snow, and it’s super quiet.
For the Die-Hards: On the drive to and from the airport, you can stop by A-Basin since it’s right on your way, and get a few runs in. Oh, and did I mention the Pallavicini chair and A-Basin’s hike-to and sidecountry terrain? Don’t forget to check out the East Wall, and Montezuma Bowl is a powder pig’s dream. Besides, if there is a powder day while you’re in Colorado, the best place to go is A-Basin, because it seems like they have an unlimited snow supply.
Best Part: A really great family mountain, super high-tech, great terrain parks, and so many runs. There are a lot of things for kids to do to make sure they have a great ski day.
Lookout for: the snow conditions, and the crowds. Because of all the crowds, sometimes Keystone gets icy or slushy, and can have very long lift lines.
My Secret: there’s night skiing (which is a lot of fun for older kids, and little kids if they have made it through the tiring day), and sometimes as you are night skiing there are fireworks that you can watch as you ski! An unforgettable experience for the whole family.
For the Die-Hards: Since Keystone is a very family-oriented mountain, and there are plenty of groomers on the front side, so the best terrain (and snow) is in the trees off the Outback lift, or the terrain you can access if you take a ride on the snowcat that they offer.
As you may be able to tell, the best conditions are in spring! I hope you now know all the secrets of my favorite mountains and how to navigate your way around them successfully. Nobody’s skiing so the crowds are gone, and the weather is at it’s best. I don’t know why people complain about skiing when skiing means soft snow, no lines, lower prices, and the best time for your family!
Stay tuned for Breckenridge and Beaver Creek destination reports, or check out our other favorite Colorado ski towns below.