Elevation:12,700 feet (lift-served); 13,010 feet (hike-to) Vertical
Drop: 2,100 and 2,410 feet (respectively)
Acres: 1,265 (plus 100 acres hike-to)
Snowfall: 400 inches
Getting There: Loveland is 53 miles west of Denver on I-70 (Exit 216).
Info: 800-736-3754, skiloveland.com
Beta: Not long ago, Loveland was where Broncos fans skidded turns with their kids before catching the game and a Silver Bullet buzz. But Chair 9—the highest quad in the world, which opened in 1999—changed all that, depositing skiers at 12,700 feet atop the Continental Divide on "The Ridge." Here, more than 400 acres of moderately steep bowls and chutes await. Loveland's still family-friendly, but the wedgers now share chairs with a rapidly growing freeheel tribe. There are no high-speed quads, condos, or sushi joints. What Loveland does have is a rare mix of hike-to powder, snowplowable groomers, and a we're-all-in-this-together vibe.
Chair 9 won't likely be running during big storms, so make for Chair 4, which sits below The Ridge on the area's north end. The Sunburst Chutes offer enough fresh lines for a morning. After that, ski the north-facing steeps on Over the Rainbow and Avalanche Bowl off Chair 1.
3 Days Later
This is your powder day. Take Chair 9 to The Ridge and drop in anywhere. Patrol Bowl is usually one of the first to open. As the runs near the chair get munched, hike farther south to the Summit Ridge for rock-bordered snowfields.
Marquee route: Hike south on The Ridge (through Gate 3 south) and drop off the 10-foot cornice into Wild Child, a small bowl that gives way to one of Loveland's longest sustained pitches. The two large rock outcroppings midway down make a nice powder trap.
Off-Broadway: Hike north on The Ridge to its highest point (near Gate 3 north), then hit the short, steep slots of the (mostly unnamed) Rock Chutes before heading back toward Chair 8.
Hiking OB is generally not allowed. Your best option is nearby Loveland Pass, where a parking lot accesses north-facing, mostly open glades of almost 1,000 feet. Avalanche info: Colo. Avalanche Information Center, geosurvey.state.co.us/avalanche.
"At most ski areas, the top of the lift is the end of the line," says Eben Mond, USTSA telemark competitor and tech for Loveland's demo center. "But here they let you hike from the lift and access all sorts of untracked terrain."
High and exposed, Loveland gets hammered by winds from the north. January's typically the best snow month, with a 160-inch average.
February 14: The 13th Annual Valentine's Day Mountaintop Matrimony (get it—LOVEland?). Last year, 60 couples got hitched.
Need more than a burger and a beer? You're in the wrong place.
It's dark and smoky, but the Rathskellar bar at the base serves New Belgium beers on draft till 6.
The cafeteria at the base is all you've got, but its made-to-order subs and homemade soups are fresh and tasty.
Up all night
For spirits with the locals—not necessarily skiers—Grumpy's Roadhouse in Silver Plume (just east on I-70) is a snow-clogs-are-for-sissies kind of bar.
The Georgetown Mountain Inn ($67—$110 per night; 800-884-3201, georgetown mountaininn.com) and the Four Points Sheraton in Silverthorne ($79—$169
per night; 970-468-6200, silverthornefourpoints.com) are each about 12 miles away.
Put the squeeze on a 40-mile-per-hour icy north wind with a slathering of Proderma Windscreen, which "seals" your skin to keep out the bluster and, naturally, moisturizes with a dose of aloe. ($8; 800-447-3035, 19thholeproducts.com)