The 2014-2015 winter ski season is shaping up to be excellent in Colorado, with some of the state’s best ski resorts making on-mountain improvements to enhance experiences for guests. All travelers will enjoy these upgrades, from the youngest novice “never-evers” to the most experienced extreme skiers and everyone in between.
Fly into Denver and you’re looking at a two-hour drive (or less) to most of these mountain getaways for sublime ski vacations. Here is a look at some of the highlights of resort improvements that will be ready in time for the coming winter.
On-mountain dining gets a huge boost at Winter Park Resort this season, as the brand-new Lunch Rock Restaurant is Winter Park’s largest new on-mountain building in more than 25 years. The new facility will have a 150-seat heated deck, 250-seat indoor restaurant, and a bar totaling 16,000 square feet. That’s five times larger than the previous structure at Lunch Rock, which was built in 1985.
Last season Copper Mountain introduced the mobile app, Sherpa, which gave users real-time information and insider intelligence across the entire ski mountain, telling users what they’re near, where to go, and what to do when they get there. This season, Sherpa 2.0 is open-sourced, so guests can share their own mountain advice and favorite powder stashes. Copper plans to reward the best contributors with swag and lift tickets. (Um, sign us up!)
Ultra-luxe Beaver Creek Resort pampers its guests with heated sidewalks and complimentary warm chocolate-chip cookies every afternoon at the base of the mountain. Beginning this ski season, guests can take home those beloved treats, as they’ll be sold at the new Beaver Creek Cookie Company (for those of you who are familiar with the area, the Cookie Company is joining forces with Beaver Creek Crepes in Beaver Creek Village).
As if that’s not enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, skiers will be able to pop into the new Candy Cabin at the top of the Strawberry Park Express and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts; this shop will sell bulk candy by the pound and custom chocolates.
Cookies at Beaver Creek
In preparation for hosting the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in February 2015, Beaver Creek has replaced the Centennial Express lift with a new high-speed, state-of-the-art combination lift. It includes a series of six-passenger chairs alternating with 10-person gondola cabins. The new uphill carrying capacity will be 3,400 people per hour, an increase of 35 percent.
Vail co-hosts the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships with sister resort Beaver Creek, and spectators who overnight at the Lodge at Vail, owned by Vail Resorts, will enjoy completely renovated hotel rooms (they were done in early 2014). Public spaces at this longtime lodge also recently have received an upgrade.
Meanwhile, the 10th Mountain Division Whiskey & Spirit Company has a brand-new tasting room open in Vail Village. The distillery, named after the 10th Mountain soldiers who trained not far from Vail in the 1940s, crafts spirits from locally sourced ingredients including Olathe corn and Palisade peaches.
Decimo, a pop-up nightclub that debuted last ski season at 10,250 feet above sea level is back for six exclusive nights and accessible only by Vail Mountain’s state-of-the-art Gondola One (also new last ski season) with heated seats and complimentary WiFi.
Fun for families abounds at Keystone, where the Kids Ski Free program continues for the third season. Daily family entertainment offerings, dubbed Kidtopia, are expanded in 2014-2015, with a special Kidtopia Snow Zone for old-fashioned snow play; a Kidtopia Scavenger Hunt; Giant Snowball Launch; Theatre Thursdays; and twice weekly ice cream socials. Camp Keystone children’s ski and ride school facility introduces a new slide, where kids will actually slide from the inside of the building to the outside snow to strap on their skis. There’s also a new ski-through “mine” for children to enjoy in Riperoo’s Forest, a family adventure zone on the mountain.
Viewfinder Tip: For best deals at mountain resorts in Colorado, book your travel for the very beginning or end of the ski season, November and early December or mid-April.
During the 2013-2014 season Breckenridge Ski Resort added more than 540 acres to its ski terrain with the Peak 6 area, representing a 23 percent increase the resort’s skiable acres. In 2014-2015, it’s all about upgrading the Colorado Super Chair (lift) from a four-passenger express to a six-passenger express, providing a 30-percent increase in capacity. In addition, the Peak 9 restaurant, which sits at 11,274 feet above sea level, has been totally remodeled, with a brand-new kitchen.
Aspen/Snowmass is a bit further afield from Denver International Airport; it’ll take you about four hours to make the drive to the chic mountain town of Aspen. Of course, you always can fly into Aspen (the local airport is just 10 minutes from town) or the Eagle County Airport (about 90 minutes).
Personally, I think Aspen/Snowmass is worth the extra effort because the varied terrain here is excellent: Nowhere else can you ski four different mountains on just one lift ticket. New offerings this year are especially awesome for families; I’m most excited about a four-lane, lift-served tubing hill at Snowmass designed for ages 4 to 14, as well as $10 million in improvements at Buttermilk, featuring “The Hideout,” a brand-new children’s center and ski school home-base with direct access to the mountain.
Top photo courtesy Keystone Resort.
What are you most looking forward to about ski season?