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Add these perfect winter destinations to your travel list this season.
Tucked in a small inlet of Prince William Sound not far from the Gulf of Alaksa, the tiny, rocking hamlet of Valdez is the ultimate Alaskan adventure playground.
Credit some of that reputation to the ridiculous powder dumps that blanket the mountains ringing the town that draws skiers and riders from across the planet. Known as one of the premier heli-skiing destinations in the world, Valdez also offers easy to access ski lines you can walk to, plentiful fat biking and year-round paddling. If you love ice and want to follow in the footsteps of climbers like Conrad Anker and the late Jeff Lowe there are untold numbers of first ascents awaiting ice climbers here. The town also hosts two raucous annual festivals sure to get the adrenaline flowing. The Valdez Ice Climbing Festival on February 15-18 attracts some of the top climbers in the world out to conquer multi-pitch routes in Keystone Canyon and otherworldly climbs on the numerous frozen waterfalls that surround the town. During the Chugach Fat Bike Bash on April 5-7, you can try something distinctly Alaskan, by downhill fat bike racing on slopes that have been used in the World Extreme Skiing Championships. But to truly try something different during the Fat Bike Bash you can join a cross country race that will take you over icebergs and weaving through ice-walled alleys at the toe of Valdez Glacier. When it comes to loding, you’ll find diverse options here from B&Bs to a Best Western to the newly reopened Totem Inn, which offers a refined spot to rest your head after a long, Alaskan day out.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass has become a household name across the globe and offers access to some of the world’s top winter resorts. For the first time, dedicated skiers and boarders have an opportunity to embark on an epic Southwest Colorado road trip that connects two of the nation’s most authentic, historic and picturesque mountain ski towns: Crested Butte and Telluride. New for the 2018-2019 Winter Season, Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) and Telluride Ski Resort have partnered with the Epic Pass, offering holders multiple days of skiing at each resort. Individually known for their historical western culture and legendary inbounds terrain, Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Telluride Ski Resort have both topped the wish lists of skiers and snowboarders for years. Located a quick three hour drive from one another, this season, plan your own Epic road trip that includes plenty of time to experience the wonders of both resorts.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort is a Colorado legend serving up steeps alongside a family-friendly vibe and authentic ski-town heritage. Here’s how to maximize your time when you visit.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort features 542 acres of world-renowned inbounds expert-only terrain known as the Extreme Limits. Primarily accessible off of the High Lift and North Face T-bars, the Extreme Limits Terrain are notorious for the steep, technical chutes in Banana and Staircase, plus the wide open powder fields of Headwall and Hawks Nest. If you truly feel that you’re ready to test your mettle, point it to the top of Rambo, North America’s steepest cut run that caps at a puckering 55 degrees. After your first turns down the thrilling terrain at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, you’ll understand why some of the country’s first extreme skiing competitions were held here.
In addition to the Extreme Limits, CBMR offers skiing and riding suited to all ability levels. In fact, over 83 percent of the mountain is comprised of beginner and intermediate terrain, catering to never-evers and families. Whether cruising the beginner runs off of the Red Lady Express or the long intermediate runs around Paradise Bowl, there is something for everyone. For families looking for a little guidance, CBMR’s Ski & RIde School (skicb.com/lessons-rentals/ski-ride-school) offers programming for all levels. Beginning with the Cubs program, children ages three and older are encouraged to get out on the slopes to launch into a lifelong passion.
CBMR is situated at the end of highway 135, surrounded by National Forest and some of Colorado’s most beautiful scenery. While Crested Butte may be a little further down the road, you won’t waste time in lift lines here. And once in Crested Butte, the convenient proximity of lodging properties, restaurants, activities and a vibrant downtown encourages guests to cache the car and immerse themselves in their vacation.
Powderhorn Mountain Resort
All Coloradans should be able to ski and ride. That’s the philosophy at independently owned Powderhorn Mountain Resort. To help get Centennial State residents on the slopes the forward-thinking resort has launched its Mission: Affordable program.
First, Powderhorn cut the price of its season pass in half–when was the last time you heard of anyone cutting pass prices? Then it rolled out a free learn-to-ski program that equips beginners with free rentals, lessons and access to the beginner lift. If that isn’t enough, Powderhorn still offers one of the state’s cheapest day passes at $71 per day. Lording over the northern edge of Grand Mesa, Powderhorn offers stunning views of the entire Western Slope, over 1,600 acres of terrain and a healthy 250 inches of fresh powder each season. Plus, the glades here deliver the goods, with copious stashes of untracked hidden among the pines and aspens. With its close proximity to amazing agriculture, Powderhorn sources most of its menu from local and regional products produced throughout Colorado, concentrating on the Western Slope. From local beef to local beer, you can toss in visits to vineyards and choice distillers nearby and any visit is sure to be rewarding.. Oh, and don’t forget your mountain bike: Singletrack in Fruita and Grand Junction is just down the road.
Grand Targhee, Wyoming
The snow that blankets Grand Targhee (more than 500 inches of Teton gold every year) is what draws most people to this resort that dishes out a lot of bang for your buck, but the culture and community keep locals and visitors returning for generations.
Fifty years after swinging its first chair, Grand Targhee stays true to its roots with incredible powder skiing in a low-key environment. Built by locals to highlight the western side of the Tetons, the resort has grown into one of the premier spots to ski in the West. It boasts 2,602-acres of terrain where you can spend the day exploring away from the crush of crowds that flood other high-profile resorts. There’s amazing, challenging hike-to terrain, and, best of all, endless lines brimming with secret stashes. Toss in powder skiing demos, untracked cat-skiing, and an expansive system of nordic, snowshoe and fatbike trails and you have the perfect winter escape. Best of all, Targhee offers numerous ski-and-stay deals to ensure that a visit does not leave you wondering where all your cash went. And if you are really looking to make a big splash on the slopes, book a trip for spring. The resort often gets walloped with deep late-season storms and in March it hosts the Teton Surf Classic, a surf-inspired, snowboard-only event that kicks off a calendar of spring events.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is skiing and snowboarding’s hallowed ground, the promised land for those who embody the mountain life. The diehards who know and love the place will rave about its dramatic drops into chillingly tight couloirs or the innumerable powder stashes they seek out like hidden Easter eggs. With 450 annual inches of snow, it’s one of the most reliable gems of the American skiing scene, and the resort deserves all this praise it gets. But there’s more than legendary terrain here: Jackson’s also home to world-class facilities, programs and a wide range of on-mountain amenities. And this is the real West: Nestled in the heart of Wyoming’s Teton Range, the resort sits in the heart of Cowboy country. The region’s down-home feeling is essential to Jackson Hole’s DNA—Stetson hats mingle alongside stocking caps. When it comes down to it, Jackson Hole is a bucket-list experience for any winter lover. Isn’t it about time you immersed yourself in this scene?
New This Year
Accessible to those in ski school, the state-of-the-art Solitude Station Learning Center just opened in 2018. Located mid-mountain it allows professional instructors a spot to work with beginners away from the crowds at the base area, while giving more advanced folks a base camp when taking lessons. You can rent your gear here, eat in a private dining area or just relax while waiting for the kiddos.
There are a variety of lodges, hotels, and cabins to choose from in the Teton Village. Plus, the town of Jackson Hole with its B&B’s and hotels is only a short shuttle bus ride away. Taking the family to Jackson Hole has never been easier hanks to the resort’s outstanding Kids Ski and Rent Free Program. If you rent a condo or home for four nights, you get 10 percent off lodging, and for,each paying adult, kids 14 and under ski free and pay nothing for their rental equipment.
Fly into Jackson Hole on 12 non-stop flights arriving daily on three different airlines. If you book your airfare, lodging and lift tickets through the resort’s website, you can grab a $200 per person air credit per ticket.
Between town and the resort village, you can run the gamut from tacos to Thai food to local elk, trout and bison. At the resort base, the legendary Mangy Moose boasts spicy margaritas and live music on the weekends. The newest après addition, RPK3, is opening its doors right next to the iconic aerial tramway that ferries skiers and riders up 4,139 vertical feet. It features decks, a large menu and excellent craft beers on tap.
Venture out of Jackson’s inbounds bowls via numerous marked gates for access to steep chutes, untrammeled glades and colossal hucks. Just be sure you have your avalanche gear, proper training and obey all closures.
YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado
This is not the YMCA gym and swim of your youth. Snow Mountain Ranch is one of the premiere family and fitness spots to visit this winter. The sprawling property offers over 100 kilometers of groomed trails for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking on 5,100-acres nestled in the mountains in the heart of Grand County. While that should be enough to keep most folks busy, there’s still so much more here: Families can ice or roller skate, hit the indoor climbing wall, tour in a sleigh, frolic in the indoor pool and more.
A diversity of facilities and an impressive fleet of winter rental gear suited for any age (including tow-behind ski chariots for toddlers) make Snow Mountain Ranch the perfect place for sharing the beauty of the Colorado winter with the entire family. Beyond the incredible snow sports, a day pass or a stay at Snow Mountain Ranch gives a family access to the indoor pool, the craft shop (crafts range $1-$25), the library and the Kiva recreation center (roller skating, volleyball, basketball, badminton, tennis, pool, ping pong, etc.).
Every day the ranch offers both group and family private nordic ski lessons to boost your time on the trails. If you are just starting out the learn-to-ski package gives you trail access, rental gear and a group lesson for just $50 (adults) or $40 (kids). If you want to explore the ranch with a guide, sign up for periodic free skiing and snowshoe excursions that will fulfill your adventure itch.
Trail passes run $25 for adults (ages 13+), $10 for children (ages 6-12) and free for children ages 5 and under. If you’re staying overnight on Snow Mountain Ranch property, your trail passes are included with your stay! Or, purchase a multiple day Nordic trail pass. Snow Mountain Ranch also offers up a five-time punch pass for $85, and it can be shared between family members.
Snow Mountain Ranch offers a wide range of lodging options. There are three on-site lodges with multiple rooms, private cabins that can fit the whole family or rustic yurts that will give you the feel of wilderness (just make sure you bring an extra warm sleeping bag).
The gentle rolling terrain of Snow Mountain Ranch provides the ideal training ground for those interested in learning to backcountry ski. Intro to Backcountry A/T Skiing is offered throughout the winter and is an un-intimidating experience for those who want to learn about skiing in the backcountry.
Loveland Ski Area
Just 53 miles from downtown Denver, Loveland Ski Area offers skiers and boarders the chance to shred the steeps with no hassles and no poseurs. Loveland is beholden to no one but the snow gods. Located just before (and above) the Eisenhower Tunnel, the fiercely independent ski area offers a nostalgic, homegrown vibe that fits better with Colorado’s venerable skiing history than crowded, corporate resorts. With an annual snowfall of 422 inches, 1,800 acres of terrain, free cat skiing and one of the best ski and ride schools in the state, it’s the perfect place for any level of enthusiast. Plus, nothing’s finer than ripping runs above the interminable I-70 traffic stacked up on the highway below you.
New This Year
Big news—you can sneak off to fresh powder even faster this season with Chet’s Dream, Loveland’s first high-speed quad. Named for the area’s late patriarch, Chet Upham Jr., the new chair operates on the site of one of the first lifts in Colorado history. It will maximize your time here since you can now lap up runs on the 1,000 vertical feet from the top to the base in no time.
Nestled into its own separate nook, the Loveland Valley area offers families and beginners the perfect spot to master the skills needed to tackle the steeper slopes up mountain. It’s a quick shuttle bus ride from the base area and has its own parking area.
Easy accessibility to the slopes means more that just a great location at Loveland: The independent resort also offers one of the most affordable tickets in the Front Range with a day pass costing $79. But, the real deal is the 4-Pak—just $169 online or $159 at fall sales events. It offers you four transferable days of fun at less than $43 a day.
The best all-encompassing learn-to-ski-or-ride deal you’ll find, Loveland’s 3-Class Pass gives you three days of rental gear, three lessons, and a full season pass when you complete the lesson. That’s ridiculous. Prices start at $399.
In an effort to offer the best value to its loyal fans, Loveland has partnered with the Powder Alliance and several other areas. All told, pass holders get a whopping 96 bonus days at other resorts including Monarch and Purgatory in Colorado and Grand Targhee, Wyoming. It also includes spots further afield, such as Marmot Basin in the Canadian Rockies and La Parva in Chile (where you can ski in the austral winter).
No visit to Loveland would be complete without a stop in the world-famous Rathskeller. Here, you can sip cocktails and eight diffrent beers on tap, including Loveland’s very own (and very tasty) Pine Bough Pale Ale made in collaboration with the Tommyknocker Brewery located just down I-70 in Idaho Springs. It’s one of the best places in the state to watch a Broncos game with rabid fans.
The always affordable Loveland Sport Shop offers custom boot fitting and top-tier demo gear to try out on the mountain. The Hat Trick Package lets you check out three demos for one low price. And the Daytripper Package is perfect for visitors, including a lift ticket, gear and a complete clothing rental (pants, jacket, gloves, hat, and goggles) for a price far cheaper than a day ticket at the mega-resorts.
If you are seeking untracked lines, make sure to sign a waiver at the ticket office for a free Cat Pass. Then head towards Gate 1 off Lift 9 where the Ridge Cat will pick you up. From there, enjoy free snowcat skiing along the Continental Divide and explore some of Loveland’s most exhilarating terrain. Take in the amazing 360 degree views as you are whisked along the north side of The Ridge in the comfort of an 18 passenger snowcat. Click in your bindings and you can enjoy the steeps and chutes at nearly 13,000 feet with access to big-mountain, often untracked lines on Field of Dreams, Velvet Hammer, Tickler, 13,010 and Marmot (when conditions permit). And remember, these expert shots can only be accessed via the RIdge Cat, not the lifts, which means they hold new snow longer. Ridge Cat access is provided on a first-come, first-served basis when conditions permit. Skiers and riders are required to have a valid season pass or lift ticket in addition to a Ridge Cat Pass. Want to earn your turns? Pick up a free Uphill Access Card, and you can skin two designated uphill routes on the mountain. Just remember, uphill access is not permitted during Lovelan’s operating hours (8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
Sitting on top of the Continental Divide, Ski Cooper came into existence as the training grounds for the historic 10th Mountain Division during World War II.
With a base area topping out at 10,500 feet it’s easy to see why the ski area ended up here since the place gets blanketed with enough all-natural powder that Cooper has never needed to use snow-making machinery. The lift lines are non existent and it’s possible to actually ski or snowboard alone on a run here mid-day. For those wanting to get deeper, the Chicago Ridge Snowcat will take you into 2,600 acres of backcountry for a day of guided adventure. Included in the excursion are powder skis, avalanche beacon, lunch, snacks and drinks from Katie O’Rourke’s Irish Pub at the end of the day. The views of Mount Elbert and Mount Massive from the Ridgeview Cafe and Mounaintop Yurt at the top of the resort are stunning. Once a month, you can even dine in the Mountain Top Yurt at night, when it’s accessible via snowcat transportation for a special reservation-only event. But, the best part of the resort is the fact that it has one of the cheapest lift tickets in the state—a full price adult lift ticket here is only $56, while kids aged 6-14 pay just $35.
Boulder Adventure Lodge Boulder, Colorado
The Boulder Adventure Lodge, or A-Lodge for short, is Boulder’s home away from home for the adventure traveler. Pumped up with a beautiful, recently completed renovation of the historic lobby, the A-Lodge now serves craft beers on tap at the front desk, and offers the comfort of a fire pit in the beer garden as well as a meeting room to host your next retreat or holiday party. Located just five minutes away from downtown Pearl Street’s shops and restaurants, the A-Lodge serves up an easy, refreshing vacation. Founder Asa Firestone calls his creation a cross between an urban boutique hotel and climber’s hostel. What else would you expect from the brainchild of a National Geographic Young Explorer and a restaurant management aficionado? Voted one of the top ten hotels for under $150 by USA Today, the A-Lodge offers everything from luxury campsites to bunk rooms to suites with full kitchens. With a stunning location along Fourmile Creek, the lodge is minutes from hiking, biking, rock climbing, fly fishing and Eldora Mountain Resort. It’s also become a community hub, hosting outdoor adventure film nights on a giant 25-foot screen, yoga classes and more. It’s an ideal basecamp for the Front Range’s world-class outdoor experiences.
The A-Lodge offers a wide range of accommadations that will appeal to all budgets and temperaments Start with Boulder’s only hostel room. Its sturdy, comfortable, rustic-pine bunks sleep 12 youth travelers in three connecting rooms and a connecting common area. And climbers and mountain bikers get a 15-percent discount when booking it direct. Just show your gear when checking in to receive the discount. Private rooms include standard and deluxe doubles and queens, a wheelchair-accessible queen and a deluxe queen suite. All have pet friendly (and pet-allergic) options and feature Jeremy Collins adventure artwork. Looking for romance? The Jacuzzi Queen Room is ideal for the Colorado adventure couple: It features a large in-room jacuzzi tub for two, a queen bed, private bathroom, mini-fridge, microwave and a front porch near the Fourmile Creek. Located on the second floor, The Adventure Suite provides the best view at the A-Lodge and features a private queen bedroom, a living room with a pull-out couch and a full kitchen—great for a small family or a group looking for a room to have as a central gathering place. Perfect for a for a large group or family, The Sunset Cabin includes three private bedrooms, a living room, a full kitchen and dining area, a private bathroom and a private yard with a grill. The lodge also hosts the only camping and #Vanlife site options within five minutes of downtown Boulder.
This is advenutre central: The front desk will book tours ranging from snowshoeing to backcountry skiing to fly fishing. During the winter, guests can purchase discounted lift tickets to nearby Eldora and hop a shuttle to the ski resort on weekends. Like yoga and being outdoors? Come up to the A-Lodge Saturday mornings at 9:30 a.m. for outdoor yoga by the Fourmile Creek!