With almost every resort officially open for the 2008-2009 season and copious amounts of snow falling, heres a list of some of the tasty new treats on the menu in Colorado to whet your appetite this winter.
1. The latest accoutrement in the transformation of Winter Park is the eight-passenger Village Cabriolet lift that will shuttle 2,800 skiers and snowboarders per hour from the free parking lots at the Vintage Hotel to the base of the new resorts new village.
What you need to know: It saves the long and sometimes slippery walk in ski boots from the car. (Cmon, weve all yard-saled in the parking lot before, even if we dont like to admit it.) Now why cant DIA install one of these to its remote parking lots?
2. Also not to be missed is the new high-speed Sheer Bliss chairlift at Snowmass, which will serve up to 700 acres of black diamond glades and blue cruisers in the Big Burn and Sheer Bliss areas of the mountain. The new upper terminal will be on the west side and above the Cirque Lift bottom terminal providing convenient repeat use of the Cirque Terrain as well as direct access to Sneaky's trail.
What you need to know: The new lift will zip you up the mountain twice as fast as the old one. Maybe they should have named this lift Sheer Burn, because thats what your legs will feel like as youre buzzing off laps below.
3. Crested Butte has developed a new ski school offering called the Adventure Guide Program with Crested Butte Mountain Guides, combining backcountry ski skills and education with guided in-bounds and out-of-bounds skiing.
What you need to know: If you really want to ski like a local, this is the program for you. Its aint cheap (programs range from $380-$1,070) but you get what you pay for.
4. Powderhorn is adding two new expert runs this winter Hooligan and Bear Claw on the resorts western edge. Each is about 2,400 feet long and serviced by the West End lift. The new terrain will give Powderhorn 1,600 acres, making it one of the best little ski areas in the state especially if you live near Grand Junction. New terrain park features and a new magic carpet beginner lift are also new this year.
What you need to know: Powderhorn is one of Colorados unsung resorts, but its just as valuable to Western Slope skiers and snowboarders as Eldora, Echo Mountain and Loveland are to the Front Range and no traffic snarls!
5. Echo Mountain has enhanced its tree skiing in Westside Glades and added more terrain park features. Havent been to Echo Mountain yet? Its just 35 miles from Denver, and its open for night skiing from Wednesday through Saturday during most weeks.
What you need to know: While 5 p.m. usually means happy hour or the end of the work day, it says here that its the perfect time to zip up to Evergreen and spend four hours under the lights at Echo.
6. Aspen Highlands is opening 18 new acres in the Deep Temerity terrain it unveiled a few years ago. The new terrain, between Hyde Park and Mushroom Chutes, will be called Canopy Cruiser.
What you need to know: Even without the new section, Deep Temerity is one of the best pieces of expert terrain in the state. And, as they say, more is better.
7. The first phase of the new Purgatory Lodge is open at Durango Mountain Resort. Its a luxury ski-in/ski-out property and the anchor of the new Purgatory Village, which includes the new Purgys Day Lodge.
What you need to know: This is one swank joint granite countertops, flat screen TVs and killer views in all directions. Its amazing what you can build for $100 million nowadays.
8. Whoever said nobody rides for free hasnt been to Colorado in a while. Both Steamboat and Crested Butte have revived the free skiing before Christmas promotion that Crested Butte made famous for years. The only catch to getting free lift tickets is that you have to pay for a place to stay.
What you need to know: Seriously?! Free lift tickets if you book a place to stay? Thats like telling Denver Broncos fans you can get free game tickets if you wear orange face paint.
9. Its all about progression, dude. Copper Mountain has teamed up with Camp Woodward (known for its skateboard training camps) to create an innovative instructional center that includes an indoor facility with trampolines, foam pits and loads of equipment for onsite video analysis, with all-day programs starting at $199 ($159 for season pass holders).
What you need to know: Time to get your jib on! Progress your skills so the third-grader who lives across the street from you will stop talking smack every time you tell him how much you like to ski groomers.
10. The most anticipated new chunk of terrain this winter is Tellurides Revelation Bowl. Located directly off the back side for Gold Hill and Chair 14, the wide-open, 800-vertical-foot bowl offers steep pitches, breathtaking features (including a massive 2,000-foot rock wall across the valley) and the potential for huge snow. Its part of a 400-acre expansion at Telluride that began last December with hike-to access in Black Iron Bowl.
What you need to know: By mid-January, this should be your priority #1 and a good reason to get familiar with driving Highway 145 into Telluride this winter.
Brian Metzler is a Boulder-based freelance writer who has been skiing in Colorado for 25 years.