Resort Guide 2013-2014: Colorado
Words: Ben Gavelda
Harry and Lloyd weren't crazy for hightailing it to Aspen (although the movie Dumb and Dumber was shot in Breckenridge, both good shred spots nonetheless). Colorado is an iconic region in snowboard culture from old log jib days at Vail to Kingpin films park sessions and current global contests. It's the gateway to riding in the West and regarded for its early season snowfall, bluebird days, friendly locals, massive runs, dry snow, scenic beauty, direct town-to-lift access, consistent parks and, well, being high. Colorado is the only US state entirely above 1,000 meters, and weed is legal so there's that, too.
The most well-known and easily accessible areas lie off the I-70 corridor that stretches from the Front Range foothills westward into the Rocky Mountains. Directly off this main vein lay the spreads of Vail, Beaver Creek, Copper, Breckenridge, A-Basin, Keystone, Loveland, Winter Park, Steamboat Springs and other off-the-beaten path locales. Colorado has 27 total areas in operation across the state, some of which thrive while others simply sustain in relative remoteness, harboring hidden pow stashes, colorful locals and crusty 1980s skier mentalities. It's true, Colorado has a lot of moguls, and it can be boring and flat in places. But there are exceptions, like the thriving Summit County park scene, the rugged San Juan Mountains, highway accessible backcountry, numerous touring huts and deep dumps in the Southwest. Weather is capricious and snow can drop on any given day, but the Centennial State enjoys upwards of 300 sunny days a year on average. Waist-deep Halloween opening days at Wolf Creek are no myth and pros flock to Colorado for early season riding because the parks are some of the earliest up in the country. If you're debating a visit, just remember there's a reason John Denver sang that one song.
Check out the next page for our top 3 freeriding resorts in Colorado…
Top 3 Freeriding Resorts in Colorado
Opening day at Silverton, Colorado, 2013
Silverton Mountain's bare bones "backcountry with a lift" guided and unguided operation is one of the most unique in the country. One two-seater lift, some old delivery vehicles as shuttles, a tattered yurt with cold beer and a warm fire, and a few Zircon storage containers provide all the support needed to tackle the remote, steep, and rugged sidecountry terrain.
Standout Terrain: $150 heli bumps, road-closing storms, no crowds
Don’t Miss: Avalanche Brewery and Café, Montanya Distillery
Average Snowfall: 400+ inches
Poll Overall Resort Rank: N/A*
Tucked away in a pristine, box canyon valley of the San Juan Mountains, Telluride is a beautifully unique cultural concoction of part faded mining town, posh celeb escape, and hardcore outdoor haven. Its massive swath of lifts and runs stretch up into jagged alpine peaks, roll through pine and aspen forests and pour steeply into town like a Euro village.
Standout Terrain: Revelation Bowl and Palmarya Peak sidecountry
Don’t Miss: La Cocina de Luz, Baked in Telluride, Crazy Elk Pizza, The New Sheridan
Average Snowfall: 309 inches
Poll Overall Resort Rank: N/A*
Crested Butte enjoys a subtle isolation from much of Colorado's population that, combined with rugged terrain and snowfall, offers some challenging, and untouched freeriding accessible right from town. Long known for hosting big mountain contests and the infamous (RIP) Naked Ride Day Crested Butte has been a bit of a sleeping giant since the X Games left town.
Standout Terrain: Teocalli Bowl, The Extreme Limit, The North Face
Don’t Miss: Montanya Distillery, Crested Butte Hostel, Teocalli Tamale, Kochevars, Gas Café, Izzy's Bagelry
Average Snowfall: 300 inches
Poll Overall Resort Rank: N/A*
*Too few poll votes for sample size.
Top 3 Parks in Colorado
Breck's early season snowfall means its park builds go up quick and the steady cold temps keep the features fresh and consistent. Four separate parks cover all types of transition and jib creations from beginner to pro, and the 22-foot Superpipe is one of the best in the state. Spring park happy hours operation adds an extra hour of riding, too.
Standout Terrain: Freeway and Park Lane jump lines
Don't miss: Dew Tour, Spring Fever, Throwback Throwdown
Poll Park Rank: 9
Copper Mountain shares Summit County similarities with Breck like early season snow and cold temps, but adds the après and late season activities of Woodward's skatepark, airbags, foam pits, and camps. With five distinct parks, 13-foot and 22-foot pipe,s and a bustling village this high country shred destination is an easy go-to for all things freestyle.
Standout Terrain: 22-foot pipe right at the base, Quarterpipes, BagJump
Don't miss: USASA Nationals, Eenie Weenie Bikini competition, that Thai soup bowl in the cafeteria spoice!
Poll Park Rank: 7
Put on the map by the X Games and celeb activity the mass of four separate mountains that make up Aspen have a lot to offer. The Buttermilk parks are where the heavies throw down, but you can ride there, too. And the pristine builds put up at Snowmass deliver some of the best park riding in the state.
Standout Terrain: X Games setup, Pipes
Don't miss: Belly Up concerts, subs from Johnny McGuire's, Bud Light Spring Jam
Poll Park Rank: Buttermilk: 1 Snowmass: 4
Go to the next page for a few of our insider tips…
Wolfie is one of the few family-owned resorts in the country. It's small, the runs are short, but the place receives the most snow in the state, averaging 456 inches a year. Stashes of hits are tucked away, there're slivers of sweet sidecountry and the hot springs of Pagosa Springs are only a half hour away.
As if the unlimited access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, A-Basin, Eldora plus Afton Alps, Minnesota and Mt Brighton, Michigan weren't enough, the Epic Pass also comes with five days of riding at Verbier, Switzerland and five consecutive days in the legendary Arlberg, Austria. Start planning your shred-cation now.
Maybe it's old Midwest brewery ties, but Coloradans sure are passionate about their barley sodas. So much so that there are too many microbrews to list. The most prominent are probably New Belgium or Dale's, but dip into any liquor store or watering hole and you'll find offerings other than CL Smooth, maybe even some handcraft spirits and wines, which seem to be on the rise.