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Colorado Ski Resorts Whirlwind Tour

I am way behind on my reporting here. I’m going to be covering the last 5 resorts we visited in our Colorado Ski Resorts Whirlwind tour in one post. I have no real excuses for my lack or reporting, other than we visited 12 Colorado ski resorts in 15 days.  We would have done  more, but we had worn our sorry ole asses out.  TIRED, sore and whooped but good – we headed home – gladly. We had planned to do 4 or 5 other Colorado ski resorts on this tour – but couldn’t do it. Anyway, here is how the rest of our Colorado ski tour went.

Colorado Ski Resorts

Aspen

Aspen is a great Colorado ski resort.

On our way up the gondola at Aspen.

We weren’t originally planning to go to Aspen when we set up this tour. Lisa has a high school friend, Ron Moorehead, that lives and works there.  We met him and went to lunch at a great place called Shlomo’s, right at the base of the gondola. We enjoyed talking to Ron as he is a very nice person to be around.  He gave us some discount passes for lift tickets, but unfortunately he could not ski with us due to work responsibilities.

We headed up the next day and skied a lot of Aspen. Caught a bus at an external parking lot and it took us almost to the base of the mountain.  Easy access.  What a great mountain!!  Wonderful lifts, fantastic terrain and awesome gnar.  We loved it. We saw evidence of the 14 inches of snow that we had missed out on, having missed it by a few days.  It was easy to see how great it would be to ski here with some fresh powder on the hill. We blazed down the slopes at just under mach speed as the runs were long and the grooming was smooth and nice.

After taking in most of the mountain we decided to head over to Snowmass and check it out. The bus we caught at the base of Aspen took us right there.  (Note: the lift tickets you buy allow you to ski 4 Colorado Ski resorts in that area – Aspen, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. It is easy to catch a free bus trip that connects you to all the mountains.) I need to give you the ratings on Aspen.  Foo-foo is about a 5 – it is definitely there, but they have it blended in well and it is not so “in your face”.  Hoback was about a 1 the day we were there – great grooming, snow was loose and light and skiing was easy.  Gnar is a 7.  Lots of good stuff to ski and some very nice vertical.  This is a place we would love to come back to.

Snowmass

The view from up here is awesome.

Bro at the top, heading out to the Headwall.

Snowmass forces you to shuffle through a village to get to the lifts.  We hate that. It sucks. The mountain itself however, is very impressive.

Snowmass is a very large mountain, with an abundance of gnar.  We skied a few runs and then headed to the top, via one of the longest poma lifts I’ve ever ridden. We got into some nice powder by traversing across the top to a run called the Cirque Headwall. It looked good, but proved to be a bit treacherous, as there were rocks just below the snow surface. We hit a few, but made it out almost unscathed. Bro hit a small field of rocks and got ejected out of his skis. He whacked his right shoulder and one ski got a good sized tear in it, but all survived. Had to stop for lunch and a little liquid refreshment to recover after that.

Dropped into another awesome run called Buckskin that had enough gnar to pucker your pie hole for life. There are a number of these high gnar score runs off several ridge lines at Snowmass and it makes it an awesome resort.  This is another place we would love to come back to and hit on a  fresh snow day.  Foo-foo score here is an 8.  The village walk in and other such things cause this rating. Hoback score is a 1.  Snow was soft and nice and the grooming was very good. Gnar score is at least a 9.  This place has gnar, and lots of it, all over the mountain. More than enough terrain of a challenging level to satisfy the most gnar hungry among us.  Aspen and Snowmmass were among our favorite Colorado ski resorts for their terrain and we are going to have to return for more.

Sunlight

Sunlight is the only resort we went to but did not ski.  We heard about  it at our motel in Glenwood, when the the person at the desk asked us if we were going to ski the local resort – Sunlight. We had time before we headed on to Gunnison, so we went there to check it out.  On the way we talked about what these smaller resorts had to do to attract skiers. One of us mentioned a resort that offered a package where you could buy a custom made ski and get a lift ticket for a set price. It turns out that Sunlight is that resort.  You pay $700 and get a day pass, a day at a local spa and a custom ski made by Meier.   It is all in celebration of 50 years that Sunlight has been open.

This resort is a real old school, skier oriented resort – the kind we love.  It only has 3 lifts, but the terrain looks very nice. Plenty of glade skiing and some steeps that would be awesome with new snow. We checked out the whole place, talked to the friendly people and figured we were going to have to come back and ski this place some day.

Monarch

Monarch is another wonderful Colorado ski resort.

Looking out over one bowl at Monarch.

Monarch is about 40 miles east of Gunnison.  It has a great mountain, with lots of gnar and a very comfortable atmosphere. There are 5 lifts, 4 of them fixed cable doubles and one a fixed cable quad.  Over fifty percent of the mountain is rated black diamond or double black diamond. Plus they have a whole other bowl called Mirkwood Bowl that you can hike to or take a cat to – and it has wide open bowl skiing and glade skiing that looks awesome.

This is a great little mountain and if we lived in Salida or Gunnison, this would be our mountain of choice. Great people, great slopes, great grooming and enough gnar to to keep it all interesting.

We skied a number of runs, and then went in and had lunch in the lodge. Our waitress was very friendly and the beer and food were excellent.

We went out and skied some more and admired the potential of this mountain. Wide bowls and wonderful glades were everywhere.  There are lots of little secret stashes at this place that would be a gas to find and ski if you had the time. This is an old school ski resort that is well worth skiing again. Foo-foo score is 1 – almost non-existent.  Hoback score is 1 the day we were there – and only this high as the powder had been cut up and then some of it had gotten crusty due to the warm days.  Gnar score is 7 due to the steepness of the slopes and the great glades and off piste bowls.

Crested Butte

Crested Butte was a disappointing Colorado ski resort.

Looking up Crested Butte slope from the “Mall”

This was the most disappointing of all the Colorado Ski resorts that we skied.  It does not live up to the hype that we had heard about it.  Whoever operates this mountain is far more interested in making money than in accommodating skiers.

First they force you to walk through their village to get to the slopes. That is a big strike against them right there.  Then there is no real lodge, but more of a mall sort of atmosphere at the base.  There are only three eating places on the hill.  Two of them are very small and not set up to service skiers.  The third is a high class restaurant mid-mountain, called Uley’s Cabin, that has crystal ware at sit down tables where you eat a five course meal.  Whoa! To get something to eat or drink you are almost forced to go to the main base area and walk through the “Mall”  (I can’t call it a lodge – because it isn’t.  You don’t have a Bank and a real estate office in a ski lodge like they do at Crested Butte)

Condominiums and large houses have been erected slope-side, and the emphasis seems to be making these land owners and $500 a night condo stayers happy, but ignoring the regular skier.  Really sad, as it seems that this used to be a great place to come and ski, but no longer.

The mountain has some good gnar for sure – but this gnar requires that after you have ski down you must hike up steep hills for at least 15 minutes to return to the main resort area. If you miss the mid point cut-off and ski the rest of  the way down, the hike is 45 minutes.  The main front side of the mountain is really almost all intermediate terrain, with less than optimum grooming.

A big disappointment really – we will not be going back.  Foo-foo score is a 9 – really bad.  Hoback score is a 2 due to poor grooming mostly.  Gnar score is 7 as they do have it, but once you got it, it requires hiking to get back to the resort.

We had a great trip visiting all of these Colorado ski resorts.  We skied our buns off and wore ourselves out – but we loved it. Have to recover some, and then we’ll get back out there for some more skiing.

Here are some more pictures from our trip. Enjoy!

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2 Responses to “Colorado Ski Resorts Whirlwind Tour”

  1. Bro says:

    My biggest disappointment on the trip came at Steamboat Springs. That place sucked–most expensive to ski of all resorts we visited and had the poorest grooming I have experienced anywhere in the world. Crested Butte was a close second. Arapahoe Basin was my most favorite resort with Monarch a close second.

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