It’s All Uphill
At Monarch Mountain in Salida, Colorado, several uphill runs have recently opened. Yes, you read that correctly. The sport is also known as “skinning” or “ski touring.” Basically you hike up the hill you want to ski, no lift ticket required. (You can also hike to the Continental Divide on skis with special gear—bindings that free your heels and climbing skins that grip the snow.)
Aspen Snowmass has published an uphill guide and offers lessons and rentals to encourage skiers to head north, literally.
At Four Seasons Vail, you can hoof it to the top before the slopes open. Its Dawn Patrol program pairs guests with a guide for a pre-sunrise ascent and return downhill to breakfast at the resort. Note that not every mountain has embraced this trend; some actively discourage it. Look for a resort that has an established policy.
In Telluride you can skip the liftlines by hopping in a chopper, sort of the opposite of earning the hill by hiking it. The three-day Heli-Ski Camp combines two days of heli-skiing training at the resort and one day of taking on the remote slopes and bowls of the San Juan Mountains. You don’t need to be a double-black-diamond monster to join in the fun, but you do need to be able to ski any typical blue run, be comfortable on all types of terrain and, most important,
be in great shape. Price tag for the three days is just over $2,000, massages for sore legs not included. tellurideskiresort.com
Here Kitty, Kitty
Colorado ski resorts have the largest concentration of snowcat skiing in the U.S., but Steamboat Springs gets the nod as “best cat skiing” by the go-to skiing site Powderhounds. Skiers head into backcountry via a “cat,” which is a large grooming-style machine. Steamboat gets over 500 inches of powder annually, and these Powdercats will get you steep and deep. They promise that you’ll get at least eight runs in at around 12,000 vertical feet. Breakfast, lunch and a photographer (so you can impress your Instagram followers) are all included.
Cost is $600 for a seat, $6,000 for the entire cat, which holds twelve guests. steamboatpowdercats.com
At Copper Mountain you don’t need snow to work on your tricks. If you’ve been looking to take your freestyle or snowboard moves to the next level (let’s be honest, we’re most likely talking about your kids), check out the ultimate sports training center—Woodward Copper Barn. Having just undergone a huge renovation, the Barn’s indoor trampolines, jumps, foam pits and ramps will help you kick your skills up a notch—safely. The Barn offers a variety of programs for all ages, from weeklong camps and private lessons to day passes and drop-in sessions. woodwardcopper.com
Traveling in and out of snow country can have its bumps.
The new Winter Park Express train from Denver’s Union Station to Winter Park Resort (the closest ski resort to Denver) cuts out the dreaded mountain drive. The Amtrak-operated service runs on weekends and holiday Mondays through March 26. The roughly two-hour ride one-way (from $39) means you can make it a day trip and be back for a 7 p.m. dinner reservation. Or stay for a ski week and train it back to the airport. The historic ski train started in 1912, but stopped in 2009 when the train was sold. Service was just relaunched last November. amtrak.com/winterparkexpress