Ski Weekend on the Front Range

Went to Colorado for a quick (three-day) weekend back in February as sort of a proof of concept. The concept being the reasonableness of going to Colorado to ski for a weekend. I flew in on Thursday night after class, rented a mid-size SUV (Ford Escape as it turned out) “at” the airport, then headed west on I-70, stopping at a pretty awful Super 8 ($89/night!) in a windy, very cold town whose name I’ve forgotten (and now looked up: Georgetown).

Skied on Friday at Copper Mountain, then Saturday at Keystone. On Sunday, I had lift tickets already bought for Loveland, but I was wiped out and it was still cold and windy at that hotel (the mountains were way nicer), so I just slept in, then drove to Denver and walked around Cherry Creek for a few hours before heading to the airport for a 5:00 (or so) flight. I bought a base layer in Cherry Creek at the Marmot store across the street (ish) from the mall.

The old-school Blackjack lift on the back side of Copper Mountain.

The old-school Blackjack lift on the back side of Copper Mountain.

 

Some run at Copper, looking down on I-70 below.

Some run at Copper, looking down on I-70 below.

Really liked Copper. Was mostly locals (the random lift strangers were in very good form), wasn’t super crowded, easy to access off the interstate, a ton of terrain, mostly north-facing, and you can find any kind of skiing that you want. The Super Bee lift was great to lap, especially from the perspective of crowd avoidance. I liked Copper so much that I bought a season pass there for next year. We’ll see how that goes. (Season passes there are stunningly inexpensive — $399 with no blackout days, plus three free days at three other could-visit resorts, Taos, Purgatory, and Monarch.)

Keystone on Saturday started out cold, then got crowded.

Cold.

Cold.

The crowds were mostly (based on a non-zero amount of data) with University of Denver frat boys and sorority girls. Which compromised the day, particularly after about 11:30 in the morning. It has an interesting layout — it’s a series of successive peaks, so that once you get off the first peak, you’ll never see the base area again. The best skiing seemed to be on the furthest peak back, where there’s a hike-to bowl (not much of a hike) and some interesting, officially recognized tree ski runs (tiring, but good fun and better snow than the rest of the mountain, which was a little scraped that day).

Top of the first at Keystone.

Top of the first at Keystone.

On a chairlift at Keystone was also, btw, the first time anyone actually asked me if I was 420 friendly. (“Oh yeah, I don’t care.”) Because he hurt his back in a dirt bike accident.

The crowds got bad enough after lunch that it was hard to ski. And on the drive back, I took Loveland Pass, which is a pretty harrowing snow-covered, insufficiently guardrailed route (and not actually any faster than staying on I-70 and coming via Silverthorne).

Here’s a photo of I-70 through the Front Range:

I think this was on the way home from Copper.

I think this was on the way home from Copper.

The Colorado ski weekend concept sort of worked. Might have been better to fly in on Friday, rest up and acclimatize to the elevation on Saturday, then go hard on Sunday and Monday, flying back Monday night. Staying in Georgetown was okay from the standpoint that it was a little easier to get to from Denver and only about 30 minutes from Copper, but the hotel itself seemed way overpriced for its level of badness (the carpets were worn down to nothing, the draft from the closed front door could be felt from the other side of the room).

Resolutions and observations:

  1. Next time, pay a little more and rent a condo in Frisco or Silverthorne for the weekend.
  2. The midsize SUV was probably the right rental car.
  3. Traffic was worse than you would expect for the middle of nowhere, but was not the 60 miles of bumper-to-bumper that the locals insist is typical on weekends.
  4. The Saturday crowd was bad and it wasn’t a holiday weekend or anything.
  5. It’s amazing how many huge ski resorts there are in that relatively compact area (Vail and Beaver Creek are just another 20 minutes west of Copper, Keystone and A-Basin are on that highway out of Silverthorne, Breckenridge is just east of Copper, Loveland is on the freeway and east of those areas, Winter Park is about, I dunno, 20-30 minutes north?).
  6. Also amazing that most of the skiers I talked to were local — in other words, those resorts get full to the gills with primarily locals as opposed to tourists.
  7. Denver airport itself isn’t bad as an origin/terminus, but the rental car lot that’s a 15-minute bus ride away and its location way to the east of Denver itself are inconvenient truths.

That’s probably enough.

bkd

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