C ollege is all about experimenting.
Er, experimenting with new skiing and riding haunts, that is. (At least that’s what you will want to tell to those folks footing the bill for your tuition).
We’re talking about heading off the beaten I-70 path for snowier pastures, or at the very least, different ones. Come on, live a little. You might see an actual buffalo on your way, Buffs.
From Steamboat’s notorious powder to Telluride’s swank and steeps to Wolf Creek’s minimal services and maximal powder potential, there’s a lot of variety and character out there… and you might happily escape the crowds, too.
Travel time: 6 hours from Boulder
Wolf Creek is a ski area, not a resort, with 1,600 acres of skiing joy. The Navajo Trail run is the area’s longest, at two miles, and this area receives more than 450 inches of snow each year, “the most” in Colorado, according to the folks at Wolf Creek.
The area has a pretty even split for skiers and riders at all experience levels: 20 percent beginner, 35 percent intermediate, 25 percent advanced and 20 percent expert.
Plus, you can ski or ride Wolf Creek on the cheap. Hotels are reasonable in South Fork and Pagosa Springs, and lift tickets are only $56 on any given day — but keep an eye out for sales to go for less.
Travel time: 5 hours from Boulder
Or as the 5-year-old in you likes to call it, “Crusty Butt.” Moving on.
Crested Butte has 1,547 beautiful skiable acres, 15 lifts and 121 trails divided in 27 percent beginner, 57 percent intermediate and 16 percent advanced. The mountain gets 300 inches of snow each year, making it well worth your trip — though some come here to huck big, regardless of the annual snow totals.
The Cascade terrain park gets lots of afternoon sun and sits near mountain operation headquarters, which means it’s snowcatted to perfection throughout the day. Cascade is also home to the park’s 18-foot superpipe.
Travel time: 3.5 hours from Boulder
The resort is actually a mountain range. Mount Werner, Sunshine Peak, Storm Peak, Thunderhead Peak, Pioneer Ridge and Christie Peak comprise its sunny slopes. Steambaot has 165 trails to choose from, 14 percent beginner, 42 percent intermediate and 44 percent advanced, so it leans toward the more difficult side.
The mountain has 16 lifts and receives 349 inches of snow each year. If you’ve got the time, make a weekend out of it and hit the hot springs to soak the weariness out of your legs.
Head to Steamboat on the fly after a storm for maximum enjoyment of the powder there — that much-touted “champagne” pow. Wouldn’t hurt to enjoy champagne for apres, too.
Travel time: 7 hours from Boulder
Telluride is a trek, but definitely a “must-see” before you leave Colorado for good. The town sits in a gorgeous box canyon, and in some places, the runs weave through fancypants slopeside homes. The resort boasts 18 lifts, 125 trails at 23 percent beginner, 36 percent intermediate and 41 percent advanced and a 4.6 mile run named “Galloping Goose.”
And in true ski-town style, lifts rise right out of town… and town is small and upscale but accessible. Stop in Smuggler’s Brewpub for a microbrew to double check Telluride’s down-to-earthness, though.
Travel time: 7 hours from Boulder
Silverton is an odd bird but an awesome one. The ski area is a young one, opening for business in January 2002.
It has one chairlift that takes you into what’s basically the backcountry. The terrain is tough, they recommend being on the advanced or expert level. For most treks, you’ll have to hang with a guide.
This only means a very limited number of folks on the mountain at one time, which is good for you (skiing serenity!), and the area receives more than 400 inches of snow each year — very good for you.
Guided groups consist of eight or fewer people, so gather together seven friends to secure a guide just for your group. Otherwise, you’re taking your chances: You could meet new, cool ski buddies who are just as crazy as you. Or not.