Nov 06, 2008
Snowmass is one of the four resorts of the Aspen Snowmass group and one of the largest ski resorts in North America. Snowmass has a vertical drop of 4,406 feet, most vertical in the USA.
The term “champagne powder” was coined in Steamboat Springs, and the town boasts more Winter Olympians (63) than anywhere else in the country. Coincidence? No, sirree. The two big hills (Mount Werner and Storm Peak) gather some of the fluffiest, most consistent snowfall in the state, like this year’s 105 inches in 11 days.
The experience is more heli-skiing than resort skiing, but instead of dropping $800, you ride an old double chairlift all day for $99.
Keystone deserves more props. Overshadowed by mega-neighbors like Copper and Breckenridge, its miles of corduroy and tree shots are often ignored. But Keystone’s 2,870 acres and three peaks offer everything from the tame to the teeth-rattling. Hate crowds? Head to the Outback, 906 acres of tree runs and snowcat-served chutes and bowls. Like night-skiing? Cruise groomers and schralp fun boxes under Dercum Mountain’s high-wattage bulbs. Prefer the sauce? Then take it to The Goat or The Snake River Saloon.
Powder Day From the Outpost Lodge on North Peak, boot-pack 25 minutes up the cat road to Keystone Peak and drop into 40-degree (up top) Erickson Bowl. Later, hike farther to J.B.’s, a rock-strewn gully on the wind-loaded southeast face.
Three Days Later At the top of Dercum Mountain, follow the cat road to the densely wooded steeps in The Windows, where a 15-minute hike skier’s left of the Outpost gondola gets you to the 33-degree tree shot Crap Game.
Park and Pipe The manager of the A-51 Terrain Park is a sick welder. Check out his double-M and roller-coaster rails. Then hit the 20-foot walls of the superpipe. Too freaked? Try out the beginner-level Incubator park right next door to A-51.
Backcountry Access Expert backcountry skiers can slip through Keystone’s lone access gate, on the ridgeline above Erickson Bowl, and tour 40 minutes to Independence Mountain for cliff bands, cornices, and glades. (Check avalanche.org before you go.)
Weather Each spring, systems from the Northwest roll over the Continental Divide and dump big ones here. March averages 45 inches and late-April storms are common.
Après Watch the multitudes and quaff some Kickapoo Mountain Joy Juice (a secret mixture containing rum and pineapple juice; $5) on the deck at Kickapoo Tavern.
Fuel Channel Tom Selleck at the Inxpot and order the Magnum P.I., a bagel sandwich with egg, turkey sausage, avocado, and pepper-jack ($7).
Up All Night Keystone’s dive bar The Goat claims more Pabst Blue Ribbon sales than any other bar in Colorado (they’re not alone). Snag a Barcalounger and catch acts like The Dirty Dozen Brass Band while you shout, “PBR me, ASAP!”
Digs Save some bills and stay at the pet-friendly Inn at Keystone, a two-minute stumble from The Goat and The Snake River Saloon. Basic rooms start at $105 a night (keystone.snow.com).