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There’s a reason Colorado is among the most recognized snowboard destinations in the country, and the reason is Summit County. There’s better freeriding elsewhere in the state, but the caliber of freestyle terrain and general convenience are what set Summit apart. This accessibility and proximity to Denver and the Front Range has also contributed to the traffic and lift lines you should be prepared for during peak season. But only two other places in the country, Utah and Tahoe, rival the variety and quality of terrain parks in Summit, and if you’re looking for the location to experience the quintessential snowboard trip, this fabled county off I-70 just might be the spot. – Taylor Boyd

Getting there

If you’re coming from out of state or outside the country, chances are you’re flying, as opposed to driving, into Colorado. In that case, Denver International Airport will be where you touch down. It’s obnoxiously far from downtown but a great place to indulge in conspiracy theory. Keep an eye out for the spooky murals near baggage claim and the demonic horse statue. There is now a train that will take you from DIA to Denver’s recently revamped Union Station. Located on the west end of downtown, food, drink, lodging, and entertainment options are a walk or Uber away from. Not far from the station lies a skate and snowboard shop called Emage, which is a great to get your gear for the gear for the trip dialed or get a quick tune. But no matter how you slice it, you’ve got to brave the I-70 gauntlet to get to the mountains.

Dylan Alito takes off, airs, and lands in Denver all the time. PHOTO: Dave Lehl

Renting a car

There are advantages to having your own car when you’re on a snowboard trip, and if you’re going to rent one, you’ll take a shuttle from the terminal to the rental car spot. Once you’ve got your car, hop on Peña Boulevard, which will put you on I-70 West, where you’ll stay until you’re in Summit County. If conditions are snowy, and you want a rig with four-wheel-drive, make sure the SUV you book comes with four-wheel, as many of the more budget options—Budget is one of them—will rent you a two-wheel drive SUV without saying a word. You know what they say about assumptions—they make an ass out of the driver who thought he got a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Or something like that.

Matt Ladley with a backside air above Copper’s precision cut pipe.

Taking a shuttle

If you want to avoid the stress of I-70 traffic, or at least not deal with it from behind the wheel, you can be picked up at DIA and driven to your destination in Summit County via shuttle. CME is the most popular option, and one-way to Summit costs around $65. They have WiFi onboard, and the drivers are often relatable skiers or snowboarders.

Where to ride

The ultimate question. Within Summit, there are five resorts. Well, technically four: Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Copper, and Keystone. Loveland is on the east side of the county line. Breckenridge and Keystone are likely the first resorts that come to mind. Thus, they are the most crowded. Both places have a lot going for them, especially in terms of terrain parks, and they’re on the same pass, so you can ride during the day at Breck then take night laps at Keystone. Despite the often excessive liftlines and overbearing ownership—and the Bumblebee speed cops and rules that come with—the parks at these places are top-notch, and the town of Breckenridge is a fun place. But don’t limit yourself. There are other options.

snow 9.10.14 _2
Copper Mountain is beautiful at any time of year.

Copper Mountain
Just a bit further down I-70, but no longer of a drive than the aforementioned resorts, Copper Mountain is one of those options. Typically less crowded, and full of fun natural and freestyle terrain, Copper is, in my opinion, the gem of Summit County. Lift lines rarely exceed the “what the fuck?” mark, the park is always one of the best in the country, the mountain is naturally laid out with steep terrain on looker’s left, gradually mellowing out to the right, and the tree riding is the best in Summit. Typically, their superpipe is open before the rest of the country, so early season is prime time to watch the best pipe riders ripping while you sip a cool one on the sundeck at Jack’s. Or get in there blast out of those perfectly manicured 22-foot walls.

Just fifteen minutes up the road from Keystone sits the legendary Arapahoe Basin.

Arapahoe Basin
Arapahoe Basin refers to itself as The Legend, and it is a bit legendary. Nestled fifteen minutes up the road from Keytsone, A-Basin’s mom and pop vibe couldn’t be further from the contrived resort village down the hill, and your Epic Pass will work here. They always start their season early and stay open late. Don’t anticipate a world-class park, but do expect people drinking beers in Hawaiian shirts behind cars lined up on “The Beach”—the edge of the lot closest to the mountain. Arrive early to get a Beach spot.

Breckenridge epitomizes Summit County. The town is lively, and the resort is large. A convenient gondola will take you from downtown to the base of Peaks 7 and 8, the latter being home to the famed Freeway and Park Lane terrain parks, which boast some of the best-built jumps you’ll ever hit. The mountain is relatively flat and often windy, a slice of pizza from the cafeteria will set you back about $14, and the lines are absurd during peak season, but if you’re looking for the quintessential Summit experience, Breck might be your spot. Nowhere else in Summit do you have a town—not a resort village—right at the base of the mountain.

Jade Phelan enjoying some time at Keystone. PHOTO: Chip Proulx

Like Breckenridge, Keystone is part of the Epic Pass. Their A-51 terrain park is consistently ranked among the top in country—for good reason—and it is expansive. Don’t be surprised to see some of your favorite pros sending the massive jump line below the dedicated park chair. The crowds, costs, and speed control constraints at Keystone can feel similar to that of sister resort Breckenridge. But it’s the only resort in the area that offers night riding, and lapping a world-class park at under the lights is damn fun.

Yet another option lies just before you enter Summit. It’s called Loveland, and the fact that the majority of traffic drives right past is to your advantage if what you’re after is snowboarding in its pure, stripped-down form—sans the luxury resort village and overpriced food, drinks, and lift tickets that subsidize it. If you’re making a day trip up from the city, this is ideal, as you can be in the parking lot 45 minutes after leaving downtown Denver, so long as the roads are dry and traffic is light.

Loveland Pass:
If you want to ride for free, you can shuttle Loveland Pass. Drive past the ski area, and wind your way up to a large and defined lefthand turn with a sizeable parking area on the left side. You’ll likely see hitchhikers here. Park your car, get in the queue and follow suit. We recommend backcountry equipment and knowledge no matter what, but if you’re going to ride beyond the well-traveled trail that follows the fall-line, it’s essential.

Not to toot our own horn, but we like to think TransWorld contributes to the nightlife in Summit County during Riders’ Poll. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Where to stay

Like most places, Airbnb can be your best bet to find a unique place for a reasonable price. Breckenridge, Keystone, and Copper all have traditional lodging options, and your best bet is do your own research to find the best deal. Here’s a breakdown of the scene to expect in each Summit County town.

The epitome of Summit County, Breckenridge, has insane snow, nightlife, and is the perfect spot to watch top level snowboarding. Seb Toots taking advantage of Breckenridge at last year’s Dew Tour. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Breckenridge: Stay here if you want to be in a lively town with plenty of lodging, dining, and nightlife options. Riding Breckenridge will be the most convenient, but you can easily commute to Keystone, Copper, and A-Basin.

Silverthorne/Dillon: Silverthorne and Dillon are divided by I-70, the former on the is on the east side, the latter on the west, but they’re pretty much the same place. They both have a more commercial—as opposed to quaint—feel than other towns in the county but are a great option for affordability, amenities, and close proximity to Keystone.

Frisco: Frisco is the most central of all towns in Summit. From here, Copper, Breckenridge, Keystone, and A-Basin are all a mellow drive away. 10 minutes west on I-70, Copper is especially close. This is a great place to stay if you want to ride there but prefer to stay in a town instead of a resort village.

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Mary Forgione

There’s no perfect science to picking the perfect ski or snowboarding vacation, but ski travel retailer thinks it has a handle on when you should go. After grinding some data, the Colorado-based company says the second week in January may be the sweet spot for a “low-cost, crowd-free, powder-filled” getaway this winter season. looked at vacation prices at popular U.S. resorts such as Aspen and Beaver Creekin Colorado. It found ski package prices Jan. 9 to Jan. 14 as much as 45% lower than December holidays, spring break or Presidents Day weekend, according to a news release.

I decided to test this by checking availability for ski packages at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Prices for the week of Jan. 9 ($1,888 for six nights) were lower than the following week of Jan. 16 (which includes Martin Luther King Jr. Day, $2,221 for six nights). Costs include a one-bedroom condo for two at Mammoth Mountain Inn and lift tickets for two each day.

As for crowds, looked at arrival data for more than 25,000 recent ski vacation reservations and found the Jan. 9 week to be one of the least busy. In fact, the number of people who travel at that time was on average 44% lower than any weekend in February.

But what about snow? OpenSnow forecaster Joel Gratz says early January is a good time to go because resorts have built up their base depths and most of their terrain is likely open, the release says.

But will  Jan. 9 really will be the week of magical skiing? You’ll just have to go and find out for yourself.

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A view of the base at Big Sky Resort in Montana. Summit at Big Sky is the large hotel on the right.CreditJanie Osborne for The New York Times

BIG SKY, Mont. — Stephen Kircher has fond memories of the first time he visited Big Sky Resort, in 1976. A native of Michigan, he traveled to Montana on a reconnaissance mission with his family, the owners of Boyne Resorts. Having passed on opportunities to buy Telluride Ski Resort in Colorado and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming, his father, Everett, was considering adding Big Sky Resort to the company’s growing portfolio.

“Big Sky was a far cry from what it is today,” said Mr. Kircher, now 52 and president and chief executive of Boyne Resorts, which his father founded in the 1940s. The resort had four chairlifts, 70,000 skier visits per year and a gravel road from Highway 191 to its base. “There was one direct flight to Bozeman, and that was from Billings,” he added.

Even so, the family saw promise in the expansive resort, 40 miles south of Bozeman and about 20 miles north of the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. “It was a blue bird day,” he said, referring to the azure sky, “and I remember seeing Lone Mountain as we came out of the canyon. We said ‘Dad, we have to do this.’” And they did, paying $8.5 million.

Forty years later, the Big Sky area is in the midst of a building boom, with an estimated $1 billion in development set to go up over the next decade.

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January 21 2015
Aspen Mountain
Powder day
Tj David
Darcy Connover
Chase Demillner (SB)

Colorado, a long-time leader in the ski industry, may become home to the world’s largest ski resort companies after Aspen Skiing Company’s spring expansions.

In April 2017, Aspen Skiing Company teamed up with KSL-Partners, a Denver-based private equity firm, to purchase Intrawest Resort Holdings and their six ski areas, including Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado. Two days later, they also acquired California’s Mammoth Mountain and three additional ski resorts.

The move made waves through the industry. Most notably, it put Aspen in direct competition with longtime rival Vail Resorts.

Henrik Lampert, the editor-in-chief for Freeskier Magazine, says Vail had been operating as the “lone beast” in the industry for more than a decade.

Freeskier Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Henrik Lampert (left) and publisher Damian Quigley enjoy the snowfall at Whistler Blackcomb, March, 2017.

“And a year ago, we were reporting on Vail Resorts acquisition of Whistler- Blackcomb, which is one of the largest and most celebrated ski resorts in the world,” he says. “Vail was the true leader, they had an absolute monopoly. …  They had no competition.”

But with Aspen / KSL expanding, the majority of resorts in North America are owned and operated by two companies. Vail, with 14 resorts, will have major competition from Aspen / KSL’s 13.

Andy Daly is co-owner of Powderhorn resorts on Colorado’s Western Slope and has been in the ski industry for more than 30 years. He says the competition will benefit some consumers.

“Because I think it’s going to keep season prices low, if you are not a season pass buyer, or user, then it may make skiing more expensive for you,” he says.

Both resorts will also be competing with different multi-mountain passes, where you pay for access to multiple mountains owned by the ski company. Vail has already seen success with their Epic Pass and Aspen will soon be able to offer a similar package.

There are other implications from the consolidation of North America’s ski industry. For smaller “mom and pop” operations, geography may play the biggest role in their survival.

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