We are all longing for deep, glorious snow. And ready to renew our relationship with that fickle and oh so ecstatic form of precipitation this winter at the spot dearest to our hearts, our local resort. So we asked local Colorado authors/ski bums to write us a love letter to their favorite place to make lovely turns for our Ski Resort Guide. And resort marketing people, pay heed, we hope these heartfelt paeans at least earn them a season pass.
I love you, Breckenridge, because you are always there for me. Not figuratively. Literally. Staring me in the face, beckoning me with your stashes, reminding me there is always a better option than work. I never take that for granted, feeling like I am perpetually welcome. More than your physical features and gorgeous looks, it is what I appreciate most about you.
It doesn’t matter if I am first in line for the Lake Chutes on a 20-inch day, or if I only make it out for the last hour of hardpacked bumps on E Chair. Skiing your runs centers me. When people complain that you are too crowded or too cold, I laugh inside. Do I wish I had a ticket to the front of the line every time, or that we could get just a few powder days a year without your stinging high-alpine wind? You bet. But that would be like asking for a wife who doesn’t fart or a mom who doesn’t worry. Imperfections are inevitable. If we are being true to ourselves and to the mountain we love, we must accept them as we accept midweek powder days that last until our legs quit.
If I had to pick one of your features as my favorite, it would be this: You are wide open like the ocean. There are few resorts in North America with more terrain above treeline, a fact that translates to freedom. When friends lament your merciless wind and insult you as Breckenfridge, I say, “Yes, but wasn’t it nice to get a fresh foot of windload, without it snowing a natural inch last night?”
Then I remind them that if it gets bad up high, steal away to the north-facing trees just beyond that one short bootpack, take a few deep breaths, look around at the landscape, and plunge into a world of lonely face shots, if only to remind yourself there is no such thing as a completely tracked-out hill in the West.
You’ve seduced me again. Even though there are other places to ski around you in Colorado, I still only ski you. I even grew up skiing you and now even though I’m much older, I keep coming back for more. But I am here to give up my secrets about you.
Let me tell you exactly how I love my dear Copper. It starts early. If there is powder and enough snow first thing in the morning, I ride up the Super Bee and ski Cabin Chute. Because it’s east facing, it gets more sun in the morning, so if I ski you early, the snow is just right. I kow your moods, If it’s early-season, I ski Triple Treat off of Alpine Lift. That way, I can get some bump-runs in before the season has gone on for too long. And we like our bumps, don’t we, Copper.
How do I love thee? Let me put it in ski beta: once you ride up the t-bar lift, ski to the left. There’s Spaulding Bowl right in front of me—the steeper stuff is to the left, and the more mellow runs are to the right. If I stick to the right, I can ski a snowy run to start you off, and then tree runs to finish. I ride Resolution lift at the bottom, it’s a slow triple that takes me to your peak, where I can relax and think about what just happened. Then it’s decision time on what I want to ski next.
I will tell more secrets. On the other side, I go up American Flyer in the singles line, that way, I beat all the crowds. I get you all to myself. When I get to the top, I ski over to Sierra Lift and take that up. Then ski down Revenge or Endeavor, and if I want a real challenge, ski Little Trees.
At Solitude Station, below Excelerator, I have lunch with you. I brown-bag it outside, and catch some rays of sun. Once I get skiing again, Super Bee is not that crowded after lunch, another spot where it’s just you and me, Copper. Let’s do a few laps, and when it gets crowded, I head over to Sierra Lift. The skiing is better if I take a run down, so I ski Looking Glass. Once at the bottom, I’d take American Flyer up, and then ride Sierra lift for the rest of the afternoon.
Copper Mountain, you are odd. They used to name your runs numerically, and chairlifts alphabetically, which is why things are named like Too Much and Super Bee.
So there you have it: those are the reasons why I still, after all these years, ski you- and you alone. I could ski A-Basin, or Beaver Creek, but I don’t know them as well as I know you. I know your tricky spots to ski, and I’ve let some of them out, so don’t tell that you read them here… I’d get in trouble.
Hey there big guy. I missed you. Remember the last time we were together? Wow. Closing day last season. I was staying at the Arrabelle, a last-minute splurge. So worth it—for the master suite alone. Sushi for dinner from Matsuhisa. The little balcony overlooking Lionshead Square. Those lenticular clouds in the sky. That’s how I knew you were thinking of me. Sure, I was there with my husband, but you had me with those whispy trails in the sky.
When the 6 a.m. snow report said 17 inches, I jumped out of bed and practically galloped to the line at the Eagle Bahn gondola. I suppose that’s the opposite of “hard to get,” isn’t it? Makes me blush just thinking about it. And to this day I remain grateful that my husband understands this “thing” you and I have.
After enduring the immature twerps in the gondola line (do all kids these days have a smartphone in one hand and earbuds in their ears?), I pushed my way into the first car with a handful of eager, loud boys wearing brightly colored, baggy apparel. Young bulls. You, my love, are an old bull, in every sense of the word.
The ride ended, the doors opened, and we were as alone as we were going to be. I jumped into my skis and waded through the knee deep, dropped the ridge and then it was really on the entire drop to Chair 7, Game Creek Express. One turn and a face shot. Another turn, another shot.
Naturally, we were just getting warmed up. As we climbed out of Game Creek Bowl, I made my little back bowl plan.
Darling, I know your backside as if it is my own. As you know, I’ve been skiing it for over two decades. That day I dropped the fall line in Sundown Bowl, skated through the empty line to Chair 5, then went far skier’s right to our special place: the aspens on Widge’s Ridge. I had my pick of untracked and I managed one more thigh-burning blissed out powder run down the Headwall in Sun Up Bowl. Again, you blew my mind.
But of course, eventually I had to share. Your legions of admirers are strong, and when I found myself riding a lift with two other women gushing about your secrets (“the cornice off Lover’s Leap on Blue Sky! The trees at the top of Tea Cup Bowl!”) I resigned myself (as I so often have to) that you extend your bounteous love far beyond just me. I waited my turn at the base of Chair 5 and then left the women and the young bulls in the bowls. I wanted a little more alone time with you.
No, no. I’m not jealous. It’s just that sharing you is a work in progress for me. You know that. Thank you, by the way, for the Epic Burger at Two Elk Lodge. I went to our old stomping grounds, the trees between Rogers and Highline and took some long, fast runs for old times’ sake down some of the stashes you saved for me. Thanks, sweetheart.
The truth is I miss you, even though I know you’ll never be all mine. I’m coming up to see you soon. I hope you’re as excited as I am.
How have you been? I just wanted to let you know that I’m getting stronger every day. I can’t wait until we are together again. We’ve been apart for way too long. I heard from friends that you had a really nice spring. I’m happy for you. I came by a few times, but you were busy and I didn’t feel well. We never really had a chance to hook up, but there’s always tomorrow.
It’s been a rough couple of years since, well, you know… you broke me. I just wanted to let you know that I’m not upset at all. I know it was my fault. I had it coming. I had become careless with what we have and you hurt more than my feelings.
I deserved what I got. I know that.
I neglected you and I’m sorry. I just got carried away. I was having so much fun with you that I forgot to pay attention to your feelings. What you wanted. I should have checked in with you, but I got excited and careless. You can understand that, right?
We have had so many good times together that I forgot you had a dark side. We all have one. I wasn’t paying attention to yours and got sorted out for it. It was a lesson that almost ended our story. I learned, at great cost that your beauty is only matched by your cruelty. A wise man once told me that the universe doesn’t give us challenges that we cant face. I know it’s up to me to bounce back. It’s just taking a lot longer than I thought.
I’m still here and I will always love you. I miss our days in the winter sun with the blackbirds surﬁng the breeze as it sweeps across the divide. I miss the fresh face you put on when we have company over. I know it’s just makeup; your beauty is so much deeper that that. I miss spending time with you in the early morning when the world seems like it’s brand new. I miss hanging with you in the springtime when the party is almost over and it seems like the sun will never set.
I miss you so much it hurts.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s just us. I know there are others, but I don’t care. I don’t expect to have you all to myself. I just want you back. I took you for granted and I’m sorry. When I’m with you, it feels like time is standing still… that is until the lifts close. You’ve shared more secrets with me than I could ever tell. I don’t care for a minute that you can be a cold-hearted bitch when you’re not feeling good. I’m cool with it; there’s always tomorrow.
You may have broken my back, but you could never break my heart. We will be together soon. Until then, know that my heart is with you.
The days are getting shorter, crisp air now greets me each morning as we are heading toward winter. I know it’s not snowing yet, but—oh, my beloved mountain—I wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten you. Actually, I’ve been thinking of you each day since April when I last swished and swooshed over your sweet slopes. Days pass where I sit in Salida, look in your direction and pine for Old Man Winter to take hold so I can once again strap on my skis and caress each nook and cranny of your amazingly diverse terrain. Fall is just a waste of time! Oh, how I long to carve turns in your huge sunny bowls, plummet down your skinny, steep chutes, and cruise your wide open, groomed runs.
Cherished peak, you give me so much and yet you don’t ask for anything in return. And now that I think about it—you give an incredible amount to each person, big or small, young or old who ventures onto your milky white slopes. Thousands come to visit you seeking adventure, challenge, face shots, fun times, a place to learn and nobody leaves disappointed. Perfect slopes for first timers, pristine steeps for advanced skiers and riders, a terrain park for tricksters, a family-friendly atmosphere, astounding views in all directions and non existent lift lines. Somehow you do it all. Perched on the Continental Divide, you provide an exceptional experience regardless of age, ability or sport of choice. You must be the most selfless ski and snowboard resort around. Your generosity—just one more reason I love you so.
I am also enamored by your natural style, darling Monarch. No need for ridiculously fancy lodges or fake snow. Your old school feel, super friendly staff, varied topography and abundant champagne powder, draw countless admirers back year after year. And though I love every snow-covered inch of your 800 acres, the magical Mirkwood Basin holds a special place in my heart because it’s where you show a different side of yourself. I love that after just a short hike from the lift, I can drop into the extreme, double-black diamond part of you where I get to navigate through sheer cliffs, glades, chutes, rocks and trees. Here is where you push me and really get my adrenaline pumping. After I’ve wasted myself in Mirkwood, I can always head back to your softer side to the softer caresses of runs like Little Mo, Lower Hal’s Alley, Turbo, Freeway and Curecanti.
One final thing, sweet Monarch. It’s time for me to come clean… I have cheated on you in the past. I have dropped a knee in other chutes and I have dragged my knuckles in other bowls, but these were mere trysts and didn’t mean a thing. I have realized the error of my ways and will not stray from my hometown resort ever again. I will never again trade your sweet slopes, non-existent lift lines and easy access for another, flashier resort. No other resort meets my needs like you do and to you I will always return.
It’s easy to fall in love with a little ski hill like Ski Cooper, whether it’s puppy love as a kid, or a newfound passion for small family ski areas after sitting in traffic and bumping butts with yuppies in lift lines on I-70 for 20 years.
Nope, there’s no Bluetooth ear pieces found on your graceful slopes. No white ice either… it’s only nature’s finest for your lovely hills and curves. I love the fact that I’m more likely to encounter Boy Scout troops winter-camping in your parking lot than Audis, more likely to park next to pickup trucks with beat up Tele skis in the back than SUVs with the latest alpine-touring gear that doesn’t actually leave the resort.
And, oh, do the dogs run freely in your parking lot. Your beautiful, open-air, free parking lot. You are what skiing should be about. Families with sack lunches, tailgate parties, where it’s always 4:20 and no one is in a hurry to fight the crowds because there are no crowds.
Sure, your lifts aren’t the fastest or the fanciest, but that’s ok, it’s not a race. Since you don’t have any lift lines, there’s no rush. A lift ride is a great place to meet a new friend or catch up with an old one. And since cell phones are safely back at the car in the parking lot, there’s plenty of time for taking in the natural world and wildlife gracing the trees and slopes.
I think I really fell in love the day I was riding your backside lift, on an all-natural powder day, and the lift attendant was playing mandolin with his bare feet up on the control panel in the lift shack… that pretty much went straight to my heart.
Now, I’m not saying I’m ready for a committed relationship or anything. I need to ski other people, I mean places… but I’ll always love you for what you are.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways… all 489 of them, to be exact, which is the record inches of snow that fell in 2008 (it would have eclipsed 500 had you stayed open a day longer). That’s the reason I’m smitten with you, Steamboat. After living in Telluride, patrolling at Winter Park and working the World Pro Mogul Tour, involving visiting a veritable Who’s Who of resorts, I moved to your tree-filled terrain in 1992, much to the chagrin of my more vertically inclined friends in the San Juans. You might not have the adrenaline-addled steeps, but you’ve always had the snow. There’s a reason the term Champagne Powder was coined here, complete with its little circle R.
When the rest of the state is driving up P-tex stocks, you’ve been there for me, picking up eight here, nine there, and even storms topping out the twenties. I know full well that when I call the 5 a.m. snow report and hear “three inches at mid mountain” it could well be 18 up top on a mountain named for a ski hero (local and three-time Olympian Buddy Werner, the first non-European to win the Hahnenkamm downhill, was killed in an avalanche in Switzerland in 1964).
You have epic trees, which let your minions see in the worst conditions, and you let us rack up 16,000 vertical before hitting the desk at 10 a.m. You serve up backcountry access into Fish Creek, whose glades harbor powder days after a storm, and hand out humble pie by cliffing-out the unaware. You haven’t turned your back on telemarking, with your undulating terrain well-suited for quick free-heel romps, and your western orientation and roots—which draws cowboys to ski in chaps in the annual Cowboy Downhill —spells sunshine instead of northern, flat-lit darkness.
And there’s far more to you than Mount Werner. You were a ranching town way before a ski area. Just a year ago some drunkard rode a horse into City Market and a string of bars. Howelsen Hill, the oldest continually operating ski area in Colorado, lets my kids ski home off the backside after school, assuming they survive the spring-loaded poma. It also hosts a race series where you can pit yourself against ex-World Cuppers, and Olympic-caliber Nordic jumps that, yes, the public can soar off on “locals night,” complete with flask-handing starters. At Winter Carnival, kids ski-jour behind horses, leaving parents to wipe the manure stripes off their jackets, marching bands play tubas on skis, and the Lighted Man fires Roman Candles from his back while stem-christying down the slopes.
Come spring, you can kayak, fly-fish and ski all on the same day, or skin up to a dance-filled happy hour followed by twilight turns back down to town. Top all this off with two natural hotsprings, one in town and another where clothing’s optional after dark, and I’m as glad to call you home as I am to call the ski report every morning… knowing full well that the three-inch report is another white lie.