With so many mountains expanding their hike-to terrain, the Colorado resort experience goes far beyond the goods you can lap off the chair. Here’s a guide to the best ungroomed, off-piste runs located within the boundaries of four of our favorite resorts. Though they may feel like backcountry escapades, these areas are typically patrolled and mitigated for avalanches, and because the ski lodge is nearby, they don’t require a hike out
Note: Objective hazards and avalanches can still present a danger, even inbounds, so use good judgment and couple it with appropriate gear and skills. Even on patrolled expert terrain, you should have some knowledge of avalanche safety and travel. Obey all closures and carry the equipment required by the resort. Check in with patrol if you are unsure about the terrain or your abilities.
Head for: Highland Bowl
Why We Love It: With runs that range from 38 to 48 degrees at their steepest, there’s nothing mellow about this sweet spot. Since there are over 20 ways to tackle this 2,300-foot descent, you can pick your poison here. Like tree skiing? Hit the North Woods or drop down the channels known as the “G’s.” Want massive open vertical? Plunge down the bowl’s gut via Ozone or Be One. No matter how you slice it—narrow tube, vast glade or dense forest—your legs will burn and your lips will curl into a permanent grin when you finally reach the bottom.
Access: Ride up Exhibition Lift and Loge Peak Lift. It’s a 30- to 45-minute hike to the top of the bowl at 12,392 feet. Or grab the free cat shuttle.
The Way Back: Follow the cat track to traverse back to the Deep Temerity Lift.
Après: Enjoy happy hour, live music, dinner, a soak in the hot tub and a solid night’s sleep at the Limelight (limelighthotel.com), a smart boutique hotel where you can even test drive an Audi Q7.
Go Guided: Ski like a local with Aspen Alpine Guides (aspenalpine.com). They’ll sniff out the deepest pow and lead you to runs that match your on-mountain skills.
CRESTED BUTTE MOUNTAIN RESORT
Head for: Third Bowl
Why It Rocks: The home of one of the nation’s oldest extreme comps, CBMR delivers countless lift-accessed, adrenaline-inducing runs. But, add just a short hike and you can ditch most of the wannabe Warren Miller stars and find yourself wading through knee-deep pow amid 75 acres with a true backcountry feel. With 1,200 feet of vertical, Third Bowl’s 45-degree drops, tight chutes, steep trees, airy cliff bands and open fields make you feel like a rock star.
Access: Ride the North Face lift and hike 10 to 20 minutes to the entrance.
The Way Back: Hit the cat track at Third Bowl’s base. A five- to 10-minute ski or hike dumps you back on Black Eagle Trail.
Après: For a killer slopeside après experience that includes classic meals, luscious bevvies—most notably full-strength milkshakes—live music and a sweet deck, hit Butte 66 (skicb.com/information/butte-66). Afterward, rest easy at The Lodge at Mountaineer Square (skicb.com/lodging/mountaineer-square), where you can shake off that hangover just steps from the lift.
Go Guided: The North Face Guides Program is a group tour that helps guests make the jump to extreme skiing and riding while exploring the ominously named ‘Extreme Limits Terrain’ off the High and North Face Lift (skicb.com).
Big Secret: On big storm days, ski patrol may implement a “beacon policy” where it allows the first 50 people with beacons to enter the terrain before anyone else. Patrol then allows others, alternating those with beacons and those without, to enter.
Head for: Mirkwood Basin
Why It Rocks: Monarch’s most challenging terrain comes in the form of an 130-acre playground that holds snow on vertical lines (think mid to upper 40-degrees steep). Runs dropping off the 11,952-foot top of the basin keep advanced skiers and riders stoked. Mirkwood Bowl holds varied terrain with tight chutes, huck-able cliffs, dense trees and wide open slopes. If that’s not enough of a draw, how’s this? Mirkwood consistently receives (and restocks) more snow than the rest of the resort—thanks to the wind—so even if it’s not dumping, you’ll likely find pow.
Access: Take Breezeway Lift; hike 15-25 minutes along a groomed track to the bowl.
The Way Back: Coast to the base area and back to Breezeway Lift for more laps via a cat track.
Après: Grab a combo of sophisticated small plates or a hearty burger or sandwich at The Fritz (thefritzsalida.com), a relaxed bistro in downtown Salida. Top it off with a unique, hand-crafted dessert and a well-paired beer or glass of wine at the newest addition to the town’s burgeoning culinary scene, The Biker & The Baker (thebikerandthebaker.com). Then stumble down the block to the historic Palace Hotel (salidapalacehotel.com) and recover from your epic day with a sweet night’s sleep.
Go Guided: Before dropping in Mirkwood, feast your eyes on Monarch’s cat skiing zone, which sits just to the north of the bowl beyond the resort boundary. Book a day of guided skiing and explore this 1,000-plus-acre expert-only treasure full of untracked clearings and bowls with Monarch Cat Skiing (skimonarch.com).