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W ith about 30 downhill ski resorts in the state, Colorado is the ski capital of the continent.

(Shh, don't tell Utah or California or Canada we said that.)

Though Boulder itself isn't a ski town, it's a pretty quick drive to the mountains from here. A short trip gets to you our local hill, Eldora, and a slightly longer jaunt lands you in the skitastic middle of Summit County.

For those looking to hit the slopes, here are some options:


The closest chair lifts

to Boulder are a mere 20 miles up Boulder Canyon, just past Nederland, at Eldora Mountain Resort.

Not famous for steeps -- and infamous for wind -- Eldora is a locals-only hill. (Friends don't let friends drive I-70, as the slogan goes.) But last winter after a big upslope storm, the powder was flying and the people were driving into Eldora -- so many they closed the parking lot. Get there early on an upslope day.

Also, the miles of tough trails for classic and skate skiing at Eldora's Nordic Center might provide the best winter workout in the county. Look out for CU ski-teamers blazing past you in cardiovascular glory.




The next closest bet is

Loveland Ski Area, a 45-mile drive to just before the Eisenhower/Lincoln tunnels.

Loveland competes with Arapahoe Basin every year for the honor of being the first resort to open in Colorado. (October skiing is not an urban legend.)

Loveland's still a locals hill, but for Denver and beyond. The skiing here is more wide open than Eldora and the lifts are newer and faster. Lifts 1,4 and 8 access the best terrain. There's also some challenging hike-to terrain.

At the summit of the Front Range, Loveland can also get extremely windy.

If you'll only ski or ride a handful of times over the winter, Loveland's four-packs might be your best bet for a great deal.


Arapahoe Basin

A-Basin has a legendary springtime party scene at "The Beach" portion of their parking lot. But no one would be there if the steep skiing didn't deliver.

The highest-elevation ski resort in the state, A-Basin opens earlier, keeps its snow longer and stays open later than most resorts -- in 2011, it closed in June but re-opened for weekends late in the month and over the Fourth of July.


Winter Park

Winter Park Resort and its sister hill, Mary Jane, are a 75-mile drive from Boulder. These areas are known for bump skiing...and have more acreage to cover than Eldora and Loveland.

Winter Park's neighboring town, Fraser, is an authentic, funky little mountain town with a sense of history (including 100-year-old buildings) that some ski resorts lack.

By the way, historical note: Mary Jane was named after a local 19th-century madam.



If you make the effort and drive through the Eisenhower Tunnel, you can stop at Breckenridge, Keystone, or Copper...or you could cruise on a little further to Vail, about a 100-mile drive from Boulder.

Vail's vast terrain boggles the mind, but some locals like to go just a tad further still to enjoy crowd-free slopes (and warm cookies passed out to skiers and riders by the staff in the afternoons) at Beaver Creek Resort.