Last spring, a friend of mine ditched the dirty streets of Manhattan and moved to Boulder, Colo. When she arrived in early May, her first words were, "I'm pissed I missed the ski season. I can't wait for the next one to begin." Relax, I replied. Then I drove her an hour east to Loveland Ski Area, where we found winter to be alive and very well.
When it comes to springtime partying, Loveland loyalists don't go as far as the folks on the other side of the pass at Arapahoe Basin¿you won't find portable hot tubs or snow volleyball at the base of the mountain. But maybe that's because Lovelanders are more concerned with skiing than anything else. With good late-season snow, Loveland can have as much as 1,000 acres of terrain open on Mother's Day.
Still, there's plenty of tailgating going on in the parking lot¿the savory smell of brats and burgers cooking on portable grills can be detected while riding the area's two lower lifts. The friendly, down-to-earth après-ski crowd at the Rathskellar Bar, in the bottom floor of the base lodge, spills out onto a cozy deck on sunny days, but the best post-skiing fun starts in the parking lot an hour before lifts close.
Because Loveland is a day area without any lodging, its local skiers commute from regional population hubs. And you know they're passionate about skiing: many of them are leaving behind 75-degree golfing weather in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins.
Loveland is perched on the east side of the Continental Divide and is blessed with more than 400 annual inches of snow. Much of that snow falls well after April Fool's Day. And though there are plenty of blue-sky days with bright sunshine, the snow is still prime in May because the lift-served terrain reaches an impressive 12,700 feet.
If Chair 9, the world's highest quad, is open, you'll be treated to steep bowl skiing and an incredible 360-degree view of the Colorado high country. If it's not, there are usually plenty of above-treeline cruisers off Chairs 2, 4 and 6, and lots of steeps, glades and bumps near the area's eastern boundary.
"The length of the season is what keeps me here," says ski patroller Pip Baehler, a Loveland skier for 36 years. "We open in mid-October and close in late May. That's about 200 days of skiing per year." And for some of the locals, even that is not enough.
2000 Closing Date May 15
Summer Terrain Depending on late-season snow, up to 1,000 acres can be open in late May.
Lift Ticket Last year, $25, after April 24.
Don't Miss The 41st annual Loveland Derby, April 15-16, the oldest and largest slalom race in North America. Also, check out the local bands playing on Saturday nights at the Silver Plume Saloon, 10 miles down Interstate 70.
Contact (800) 736-3754; http://www.skiloveland.com "> www.skiloveland.com