The first year Boulder resident Mark Harrison skied on Christmas morning, a white out at Breckenridge made the snow like a dream, he said. The next Christmas, at Keystone, was a bluebird day, and the snow was untracked corduroy.
But no matter the conditions, Harrison is excited about Christmas skiing again this year for one simple reason: He's planning to zip up and down the mountain relatively alone.
"There's beauty to being one of the few people on the mountain Christmas morning," said Harrison, a graduate student at the University of Colorado. "It's definitely a cherished aspect of being Jewish on the Front Range. You cruise in and it's a ghost town. It's almost eerie at 8:30 in the morning how few people are there."
Having the mountain to yourself is uncommon, so Christmas Day's empty slopes and small -- if any -- lift lines are a well-loved phenomenon among the few skiers and snowboarders who get to enjoy them.
(A telemark skier from Boulder who chases powder every year on Christmas Day begged a reporter not to write about how good the skiing is. He asked to remain anonymous so he wouldn't be "that guy who let the secret out.")
Eldora Mountain Resort spokesman Rob Linde said Christmas is one of the best days of the year to ski and ride.
"The people that are lucky enough to be able to come up on Christmas Day always have a great time, because they have the slopes to themselves," he said. "Then of course the 26th, the day after, gets quite busy."
Jennifer Rudolph, spokeswoman for Colorado Ski Country, said that while her organization doesn't keep statistics on ski-area visitors for Christmas day, it's not a secret that the slopes are relatively empty that day.
But attendance picks up quickly after that, she said.
"A lot of folks are on vacation, a lot of destination travelers that week," Rudolph said. "And there are lots of events at resorts that week -- parades, Santa skiing."
Rudolph added that Santa makes an appearance at many Colorado ski areas on Christmas Day.
"The Grinch showed up at Crested Butte last year and took a run with Santa," she said, adding that the Grinch apparently snowboards.
Anne Fiore, of Lyons, either backcountry skis or goes to Eldora most Christmases with friends. For backcountry destinations along the Front Range, parking at the trailhead is always easier that day, she said, and the resorts are more empty, too.
"The times that we've gone to Eldora at Christmas, you don't even have to wait in line," Fiore said.
Harrison said an added benefit if you're driving to the high country from Boulder is that the roads are empty all day, too.
"Last year, we left (Boulder) at 8 a.m., and we were at Keystone at 9:15," Harrison said. "On the way home, it's the same thing."
The empty slopes don't last all day.
"People come out late morning after they open their presents," Harrison said. "Around noon it gets a little crazier, and that's generally when I call it a day. But by that time I've taken like 12 runs.
"When I lived on the East Coast, my Christmas tradition was Chinese food and a movie. I moved here, and it's become skiing. And Chinese food."