Silverton Mountain is known worldwide for the unique big mountain skiing experience created by Aaron and Jen Brill
SILVERTON, COLORADO – Aaron Brill moved to Silverton determined to build a new ski area from the ground up. Brill’s vision was for an all-expert ski area with a focus on big mountain adventure. During the 1980s and 1990s, when Brill and his then-girlfriend Jen were dreaming up what would eventually become Silverton, the ski resort industry was in a period of growth, with real estate development at the forefront.
When Silverton Mountain opened in 2001, it was notable as much for what it wasn’t as what it was. Other North American ski areas evinced little interest in expanding expert skiing options because it was intermediate skiers who, by and large, bought the condominiums that buoyed resorts’ bottom lines. The first all-expert ski area in America—with no easy way down, no clearcut trails, no grooming, and no real estate development—Silverton was designed to be, in Brill’s words, “All thrills and no frills.” And that’s how it’s been since the mountain’s inaugural skier ran the gauntlet that is Silverton.
This week, Silverton Mountain announced that it had been acquired by Colorado-based Heli Adventures, Inc., and, after nearly 25 years running and operating their dream mountain, the Brills are looking forward to focusing on their family.
The interview below is excerpted from Aaron and Jen’s hometown paper, The Silverton Standard & the Miner.
Silverton Standard: It’s been nearly 25 years of operating Silverton Mountain, what influenced your decision to sell?
Aaron Brill: It’s been an honor and a pleasure building Silverton Mountain from the ground up. We never thought we would ever sell the ski area, but the volatility of the ski industry has increased year after year, and we realized the ski area really needs a better capitalized owner to deal with that in the long term. We saw so many friends lose their successful businesses during Covid that they had worked at tirelessly for their entire lives; it was an incredibly sobering moment. When the Colorado government in March of 2020 shutdown all ski areas on a whim, it took all we had to keep things going.
Silverton Standard: There have been plenty of challenges over the years. What other notable ones would top the list?
Aaron Brill: Every day is a challenge, and that’s one of the reasons why we love the ski industry! Every day is different and requires problem solving and quick adaptation. Some of the biggest hurdles over the last 25 years would be getting the initial BLM approval for the ski area. This was a Herculean task to convince the BLM 25 years ago that this was a good idea. The BLM did not understand or administer ski areas at the time, and they were not sure what to do when a 27-year-old snowboarder walked into their office with plans for a backcountry ski area. Back then, my vision was simple, so I thought it would be easy: I was going to put a lift on private property adjacent to BLM public land and let skiers access the mountains unfettered.
Jen Brill: The BLM only allowed us 10 skiers a day that first year! How crazy is that?—just 10 skiers a day at a ski area. But that’s what we dealt with. The following year they granted us 20 skiers a day, and then the year after that, 40 skiers a day. Starting a new business is always hard, but we didn’t anticipate those artificial hurdles being imposed upon us the first few years. Nowadays, our BLM relationship is much, much better.
Aaron Brill: There were so many challenges, but perhaps the most unique was when Red Mountain Pass closed due to the Ruby Walls rockslide in January of 2016. The rockslide took out a section of Highway 550 above Ouray, in the narrowest section of the highway. The mountainside was still unstable and CDOT was trying to figure out how best to address the issue, but the highway was the critical corridor to Silverton, and there was talk of keeping 550 closed for the entire winter. I volunteered Silverton Mountain’s unique big mountain technical experience and our heli skiing helicopter, and we were brought into the job. Our role was to climb the mountain each day and dangle from ropes on the unstable bluff, send loose boulders down the mountain, and then to drill and place rock netting on the cliff via helicopter. It was incredibly dangerous work that involved our ski guides, helicopter, pilot, and crew—including myself—and we were literally dodging death each day. We are accustomed to doing dangerous things, but this was all-time dangerous work, and we got it done safely and without incident.
Jen Brill: That’s Aaron’s best skill set: finding ways to accomplish dangerous things in a safe manner. There was also the memorable mega-avalanche cycle in March of 2019, when the road to the ski area was buried under 20 feet of debris that took weeks to clear. The only way to get the guests who drove all the way to Silverton, the long way because Red Mountain was also closed for weeks, was via helicopter. Or the big avalanche cycle of 2005, which tore out the powerline to the ski area. We rented a large generator on a trailer to keep the ski area open, and the truck driver from the flatlands of Albuquerque slid off the road 300 feet into a vertical ravine and put the generator in the creek.
Silverton Standard: What changes have you seen in Silverton over the past 24 years?
Jen Brill: In 1999, there were very few businesses open in the winter. Aaron was living in his car, using the pay phone at the Triangle Motel and the computer at the library to write business plans while he was getting the ski area built. Thankfully, the Brown Bear Café was one of the only restaurants open, and it had a salad bar or Aaron probably would have gotten scurvy as he was eating tuna and ramen every day.
Silverton Standard: What would you consider your most significant accomplishment in Silverton?
Aaron Brill: We are extremely thankful that Silverton and San Juan County welcomed us and have been so supportive all of these years. We could not have done it without their support. We are also very proud of our team, which consists of the very best people we have ever met. We’ve known many of our employee since they were college kids, and now they have their own kids and are homeowners.
Silverton Standard: Long ago, when you first started, there were naysayers with predictions of doom and gloom regarding avalanche safety, but it appears as if the opposite has happened…
Jen Brill: We are really proud of our perfect safety record, and the state of the art snow safety program we developed. And that during our watch, we have been able to avoid any avalanche fatalities. This is a testament to our amazing crew, and our dedication to our guests’ wellbeing.
Aaron Brill: Silverton Mountain operates in a much more challenging snow climate than anywhere else in the U.S., yet we’ve been able to maintain a perfect safety record. This is incredibly hard to accomplish. Unlike other ski resorts which all have some low angle terrain to work with and can keep their steep terrain closed after large storms, 100% of our terrain is steep avalanche terrain that we open every day. We are really proud of that.
Silverton Standard: What’s next for Aaron and Jen Brill?
Aaron Brill: I still love ski guiding and guide every single day of the winter in Alaska. We will continue to own and operate Silverton Mountain Guides Alaska (SMG AK), which is the premier heli-skiing operation in Alaska. SMG AK is the only operation that is open for the entire winter season, from October through May, in Alaska, and I guide every single day of the entire season up there. We have the most terrain of any operation in North America, with more than 25 million acres, and I really enjoy sharing that experience with our guests.
Jen Brill: Because we are out flying every day, all season long, and since this will be our seventeenth season operating in Alaska, we have an intimate knowledge of a massive amount mountains all across Alaska. It’s awe-inspiring.
Aaron Brill: And it’s not out of the question that we build another ski area someday. Silverton Mountain will never be duplicated; it’s such a unique and special place and a legitimate top 5 ski area in the U.S. I get approached regularly by people wanting my assistance to build a new ski area, but I haven’t had the bandwidth. I have had my eye on locations with even bigger mountains over the years, so you never know…
Silverton Standard: What’s the status on the new lift?
Aaron Brill: As much as we tried, the second lift will not be going in this season. Finding the right used lift took more time than expected. I know some people will think the second lift was just about making the ski area more marketable, but Grady and I have been talking internally about putting in a second lift for the past 5 years.
Silverton Standard: What does the future of Silverton Mountain look like?
Jen Brill: Andy Culp and Brock Strasbourger [CEO and president, respectively, of Heli Adventures, Inc.] are energetic, hardcore skiers first and foremost. And we only considered parties with a similar passion for skiing and those who fully believed in our employees. Silverton Mountain is our baby, but our employees’ wellbeing moving forward was a requirement when considering doing this. We rejected other more lucrative offers from people who didn’t have what we felt was the right vision for Silverton Mountain, and we believe that Andy and Brock are the right fit. They have a proven track record and are great with guest services, which will be a huge asset to our ski community.
Photo courtesy of Silverton Mountain
Loveland Goes In Early, (Snow)Guns Blazing
Need Another Reason to Love Loveland? Thanks to elevation & expert snowmaking, their early season conditions are second-to-none
GEORGETOWN, COLORADO – The Loveland Trail Maintenance team has successfully conducted tests on all snowguns, in preparation for the upcoming 2023/24 ski season. The snowmaking teams hopes to start making snow in 12 days and anticipates a late-October to early November opening. Last year Loveland opened on November 3, 2022.
In pursuit of providing exceptional early-season conditions, Loveland Ski Area has a team of expert snowmakers. The team works around the clock to ensure Loveland is among the first North American resorts to open for the season. Their snowmaking team will open the mountain with a full top-to-bottom run, covered tree-to-tree by an 18-inch base.
Photo courtesy of Dustin Schaefer for Loveland Ski Area
Aspen Snowmass Announces Hero’s
New Lift & Terrain on Aspen Mountain Renamed to Honor Those Who Brought this Vision to Light, Especially Jim Crown
ASPEN SNOWMASS — To honor all those who played an instrumental role in the exploration and opening of Aspen Mountain’s new terrain expansion, Aspen Snowmass is announcing a new name for the lift and adjacent terrain. Formerly referred to as Pandora’s, the new high-speed quad and surrounding terrain pod will be named Hero’s to honor all of the people who brought this project to life, most impactfully Jim Crown, whose vision and leadership helped bring this ambitious expansion to reality.
“With Jim’s unexpected passing, we took some time to reflect on the family’s and our company’s enormous loss and the naming of this historic expansion,” says Geoff Buchheister, CEO Aspen Skiing Company. “Jim’s legacy and broad impact in Aspen stretched over 35 years, alongside many others we are also choosing to honor. We felt it was meaningful and appropriate to recognize all of the heroes who are tied to this terrain as we unveil this new project.”
The expansion stays true to historical trail names like Powerline and Harris’s Wall, and it honors many of the heroes of the resort who had significant ties to this terrain. There are runs dedicated to the first female ski instructor Elli Iselin, to 10th Mountain soldier Percy Rideout, and to pivotal ski patrol members like Eric Kinsman and Cory Brettmann. Tim Howe, who originally coined the name Pandora’s Box, will be recognized with a glade named after him as well. In addition, Jim’s family has chosen other trail names that honor his life, loves and amusements.
Hero’s will increase skiable acreage by more than 20 percent on the resort’s flagship mountain. With 1,220 vertical feet and more than 150 acres of new chutes, glades, and trails, this expansion will be Aspen Mountain’s first significant addition since the opening of the Silver Queen Gondola in 1985.
Not only does the addition diversify Aspen Mountain’s terrain mix and offer more skiing on the upper portion of the mountain, but it also acts as a functional hedge against future climate-challenged ski seasons: with its north-facing, high elevation terrain (all above 10,000 ft.), This area is ideal for holding snow in seasons when natural snowfall is less plentiful. The terrain and lift will open this winter when conditions allow.
Photo courtesy of @MattPowerPhotography
What’s New In Colorado Ski Country USA
Colorado Ski Country USA Resorts Debut New Terrain, New Lifts & New Experiences
Riding the snow-mentum from a new statewide skier visit record of 14.8 million during the 2022-23 ski season, the member resorts of Colorado Ski Country USA are gearing up for another fantastic season, complete with brand-new terrain, new lifts, new restaurants, and new investments in housing and childcare for ski industry workers.
“Resorts throughout Colorado Ski Country USA are making significant investments in new terrain, new lifts that move people around the mountains faster, and new restaurants and other amenities that make for an enjoyable family day on the slopes,” said CSCUSA President and CEO Melanie Mills. “It’s time for skiers and snowboarders old and new to plan ahead and prepare to make the most of the 2023-24 season.”
Steamboat Ski Resort Steamboat Ski Resort will celebrate the completion of the most extensive project in the resort’s history. The final phase of the $220 million Full Steam Ahead redevelopment project includes the second segment of the Wild Blue Gondola to the summit of Sunshine Peak. The new segment will make Wild Blue the longest and fastest 10-person gondola in North America at 3.16 miles. The new gondola will increase the out-of-base capacity from 6,000 people per hour to 10,000 people per hour, getting skiers from bottom to top in 13 minutes. Full Steam Ahead also includes 655 new acres of expert-level terrain throughout Mahogany Ridge and Fish Creek Canyon. This north-facing area will be double-black diamond extreme terrain with steep and treed slopes, rocks, and cliffs.
Steamboat wrapped the second phase of Full Steam Ahead last season, including a dedicated Terrain Based Learning beginner area called Greenhorn Ranch, a new food and drink hall called The Range, a new ice rink, and new gathering spaces at the base.
Aspen Snowmass Aspen Snowmass is kicking off the season with its biggest terrain expansion in almost 40 years. The new Hero’s terrain on Aspen Mountain features 1,220 vertical feet and more than 150 acres of new chutes, glades, and trails catering to intermediate and advanced skiers. Hero’s honors all of the people who brought the project to life, most impactfully the late Jim Crown, whose vision and leadership helped bring the ambitious expansion to reality. The expansion stays true to historical trail names like Powerline and Harris’s Wall and honors many of Aspen’s heroes with significant ties to the new terrain. There are runs dedicated to the first female ski instructor Elli Iselin, to 10th Mountain Division soldier Percy Rideout, and to pivotal ski patrol members like Eric Kinsman and Cory Brettmann. Tim Howe, who originally coined the name Pandora’s Box, will be recognized with an eponymous glade. In addition, Jim Crown’s family has chosen other trail names that honor his life, loves, and amusements.
Copper Mountain Copper Mountain will celebrate the season with a brand-new, 25,000 sq. ft. mid-mountain lodge called the Aerie. The new lodge includes Forage and Feast, a full-service restaurant featuring Colorado cuisine at its finest. Guests will enjoy an elevated dining experience during both the summer and winter months at the on-mountain restaurant, with a bar and lounge, a private dining area for events, and a cafeteria featuring 270-degree views of the Gore and Ten Mile Ranges. Copper Mountain visitors can also expect to reap the benefits of ski trail upgrades, updated snowmaking, and the introduction of new snowcats.
New Lifts A total of 5 new lifts will open this season at Colorado Ski County USA resorts:
Aspen Snowmass: Hero’s high-speed quad
Steamboat Ski Resort: Mahogany Ridge Express and Wild Blue Gondola upper segment
Winter Park: Wild Spur Express
Granby Ranch: Sunkid Covered Carpet
Granby Ranch’s new 400-ft covered conveyor, a SunKid Covered Carpet, will open new beginner terrain between the Milestone and Conquest lifts.
Winter Park’s Wild Spur Express, a new 6-passenger, high-speed detachable Leitner-Poma lift that can move 2,800 people up the mountain per hour, will give guests a new way to experience Vasquez Ridge terrain when it opens in late November or early December. The lift will include a new mid-point loading zone, allowing guests to make quicker laps on upper intermediate and advanced trails. The Wild Spur Express is the only lift that serves nearly 285 acres of mostly blue intermediate trails and steeper, more advanced bump runs.
Spinning for their first full seasons are Arapahoe Basin’s Lenawee high-speed 6-chairlift, a fixed-grip triple at Loveland that replaced Lift 6 last season, and Telluride’s Lift 9, a detachable quad that opened in February.
Community and WorkforceInvestment Winter Park Resort is investing $60 million in a brand-new, 330+ bed employee housing complex named Conifer Commons that will open mid-fall. The project is one of the largest workforce housing projects to be completed in Colorado this year. The complex is so close to the resort that residents will be able to walk to work and other amenities, including public transportation.
Copper Mountain’s work with community partners pays off with a new childcare facility for employees and community members opening this season. The center will serve a critical need in the community, providing more than 45 childcare spots for those who live and work within Copper Mountain Resort with designated areas for infants, toddlers, and pre-school aged children.
Steamboat Ski Resort is also celebrating the first full season of The Steamboat Child Care Center that prioritizes resort team members but also offers spots to community members if space is available.
Eldora is working on a new, 12,000 sq. ft. ski and ride school building at the base of the mountain which will also house a state-of-the-art adaptive sports center. The new building will have more space, an accessible roof deck, and its location closer to the slope will make it easier for more people in adaptive sports to get on the snow.
This Season’s Can’t-Miss Extras
Arapahoe Basin’s Black Mountain Lodge is offering Moonlight Dinners, a cuisine series from mountain regions of the world that includes a ride under the stars on the Black Mountain Express Lift, a multi-course, buffet-style dining experience, live entertainment, and specially chosen drinks.
Aspen Snowmass will welcome the best international alpine racers as they battle in slalom and giant slalom at the Stifel Aspen World Cup, taking place March 1-3, 2024.
Ski Cooper is offering a great weekday deal to ski their all-natural snow in the heart of the Rockies: $30 Thursdays from January 11-February 29.
Echo Mountain, the closest ski area to Denver, welcomes skiers, snowboarders, and inner tubers looking to catch a few laps before or after work.
Hesperus, near Durango, offers free beginner lessons with purchase of a lift ticket and rental.
Howelsen Hill Ski Area in downtown Steamboat is the oldest continuously operating ski area in North America and offers Ski Free Sundays throughout the season.
Loveland Ski Area has launched guided snowcat skiing, a full day on 580 acres of open bowl and treed terrain led by experienced guides that know where to find the goods; for intermediate and expert skiers and snowboarders.
Monarch Mountain will open tree skiing earlier in the season thanks to a summer spent on tree trimming and maintenance projects.
Powderhorn Mountain Resort is debuting a remodel of its main lodge, including the Sunset Grill and the Umbrella Bar, where you can enjoy local craft food and cocktails with a view.
Purgatory Resort is featuring upgrades at Dante’s Lodge and Powderhouse, the addition of a second winch cat to the grooming fleet, completion of free parking lot expansions, and new equipment additions to the Rental Shop including Burton snowboards and adult and kids ski boots. Purgatory Resort also joins the CSCUSA Gems ski areas this season!
Silverton is offering the 8th annual Women’s Big Mountain Camp for experienced skiers and snowboarders, a package that includes two guided days and one heli drop in Silverton’s pristine backcountry.
Sunlight Mountain Resort’s new chef spent the summer developing an updated menu featuring exciting new bites and keeping fan favorites to fuel a fantastic family day on the slopes.
Telluride Ski Resort is celebrating the 2023 CSCUSA Ski Instructor of the Year Deb Willits.
Winter Park is giving guests four new pop-up mountain dining spots to meet guests where they are when hunger strikes; they’ll serve up grilled cheese, Philly cheesesteaks, walking tacos, and quesadillas.
And as if that’s not enough… 2024 is a leap year, so February 29 offers all skiers and riders an extra day to hit the slopes this winter!
Photo courtesy of Steamboat Ski Resort
We’re Making Family Skiing More Affordable
Ski More, Spend Less: CSCUSA Passes Give You More Mountains for Your Money
Calling all families who want to ski or snowboard together this season: Colorado Ski Country USA now has passes for teens and parents that work alongside fan-favorite kids’ Ski Passport. The new Gems Teen Pass and Gems Parent Pass are perfect for busy families who love to ski (and ride!) but have other demands on their time during the school season.
“I have high school and middle school students myself, so I know it can be a challenge to fit family ski days in between school, sports, and other activities,” said Sarah Beatty, Director of Communications for CSCUSA. “Our goal is to make skiing and riding more accessible, and our new suite of Gems passes will help get families on the slopes so they can create memories that last a lifetime.”
The new Gems Passes and the Gems Discount Card can be used at 11 CSCUSA Gems ski areas in Colorado: Arapahoe Basin, Cooper, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Granby Ranch, Hesperus, Loveland, Monarch Mountain, Powderhorn, Purgatory, and Sunlight.
choose your discount: BOGO adult lift tickets or 30% off a single adult lift ticket; valid for two (2) redemptions each at Cooper, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Granby Ranch, Hesperus, Loveland, Monarch Mountain, Powderhorn, Purgatory, and Sunlight
Plus, $79 midweek adult ticket (Tuesday–Thursday) or $99 weekend adult ticket (Friday–Monday); valid for two redemptions at Arapahoe Basin
And, thanks to our presenting sponsor Christy Sports, Ski Passport holders also get two free daily junior rental packages with each Ski Passport.
All Gems products and our kids’ Ski Passport share the same blackout dates: December 25, 2023–January 1, 2024; January 13–14, 2024; and February 17–18, 2024.
Want unlimited, unrestricted access to 20 of Colorado’s world-class mountains, all season long?
Consider our Gold Pass. With unlimited, unrestricted access to 20 of Colorado’s world-class mountains, all winter long, the Gold Pass is your ticket to ride (and ski!) in Colorado Ski Country USA. And it’s fully transferable with no blackout dates, so you can go where the season takes you.
New at Loveland: Guided Snowcat Tours
Get Away for a Powder Day
GEORGETOWN, COLORADO – Loveland Ski Area has launched a guided snowcat operation in Dry Gulch, just east of Lift 8, for the 2023/24 season. Loveland Snowcat Tours will offer a full day of snowcat skiing for intermediate and expert skiers and snowboarders. Explore 580 acres of open bowl and tree skiing with experienced guides that know where to find the goods. Guests can expect 8-11 runs depending on conditions and group ability with 600-800 vertical feet of fun.
Photo courtesy of Loveland Ski Area
Capacity Increased for Steamboat Air Program
It’s Full Steam Ahead for Passengers Flying In to Ski Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, COLORADO – Steamboat Ski Resort has announced the 2023/24 winter air schedule. Steamboat (HDN) is the only Colorado mountain destination to feature 16 nonstop airports with service on six major carriers. Capacity will increase significantly this winter with approximately 30,000 additional arriving seats beginning on December 14, 2023. The longstanding air service program is made possible by partners Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation and the Steamboat Springs Local Marketing District.
“We’re excited to share the significant increase in nonstop seats arriving into Steamboat this winter,” said Rob Perlman, president and COO of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. “Premier flight access with a variety of schedules and airfares to choose from is just the beginning in providing a world class experience, and we are proud of the strong airline program that helps our guests start their trips with ease and our local community access the world.”
United Airlines, Steamboat’s largest carrier and CSCUSA presenting partner, will continue to offer nonstop service from all seven of their national hub airports into Steamboat (HDN). Increased capacity highlights this winter include Newark (EWR) on United Airlines going from weekend mainline service to five times per week; Denver (DEN) on United increasing from two daily mainline jets to three daily mainline jets; Atlanta (ATL) on Delta going from a 737 to 757, adding 39 arriving seats daily; and Southwest Airlines service from Dallas (DAL) increasing from Saturday only to daily beginning January 8.
Photo courtesy of Steamboat Ski Resort
Purgatory Prices Can’t Be Beat
Retro Pricing at our Newest Gems Ski Area
DURANGO, COLORADO – Purgatory Resort, one of Colorado’s most family-friendly, affordable ski resorts, is pleased to announce lift tickets for the 2023-24 ski season are on sale now, with prices starting at $9.
Purgatory’s demand-based pricing represents an innovative strategy to manage the flow of visitors, enhance the overall skiing experience, and reward guests who plan ahead with the best deals.
“Our primary goal has always been to make skiing and snowboarding more accessible to everyone,” said Dave Rathbun, General Manager at Purgatory Resort. “By offering dynamic pricing, we’re not only delivering a great value but also a more enjoyable skiing and riding experience.”
Purgatory Resort’s 2023-24 ski season begins November 18, with capital improvements, resort animation, and exclusive discounts to enhance accessibility and enjoyment for passholders and guests.
2023-24 Season Highlights
Purgatory Resort joins the Colorado Ski Country USA Gems program for the 2023-24 winter season. The new Gems Parent and Teen Passes and the legacy Gems Discount Card offer affordable and flexible ways to discover new terrain, drop into the slopeside scene, and experience Colorado Ski Country USA the way it’s meant to be: authentic, laid-back, and free of crowds, lift lines, and hassles.
Significant investments have been made to enhance infrastructure and the resort experience for the 2023-24 ski season, including Phase II upgrades at Dante’s Lodge and Powderhouse, the addition of a second winch cat to the grooming fleet, completion of parking lot expansions begun last year, and new equipment additions to the Rental Shop including Burton snowboards and adult and kids ski boots.
Thanks to an array of new and exciting events and activities, like mountain coaster rides and snow tubing under the Columbine
lights and live music sessions on the ski beach, Purgatory promises an immersive experience beyond just skiing and riding.
Exclusive discounts and deals will be available for both passholders and destination guests. Look for Purgatory’s Power Kids pass, reward programs like the Fun Fund, and multi-day FLEX lift tickets.
This winter, Purgatory Resort is open daily from November 18 to April 7, 2024, and new this year, Friday through Sunday until April 21, 2024 (conditions permitting). Stay tuned as Purgatory continues to announce events and news for winter 2023-24 at purgatory.ski.
Photo courtesy of Scott DW Smith for Purgatory
Bluebird Skies Above. Colorado Blue Columbine Below.
Summer in Colorado means bluebird days, breathtaking scenery, and endless opportunities for adventure. Find your place in the sun this summer at one of our CSCUSA member resorts, and don’t forget the sunscreen!
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area With longer days and those aforementioned sunny, sunnier, sunniest skies, there’s no better way to celebrate summer in the Rockies than with live music on A-Basin’s Mountain Goat Plaza stage. Admission to these concerts are free! Free? Free!
Here are a few upcoming dates to get you shakin’ at the Basin:
Aspen Snowmass Fancy a bike ride? The Aspen Snowmass Bike Park is open June 21–September 4 and features more than 25 miles of diverse, purpose-built gravity trails, ranging from beginner-friendly single track to dynamic and challenging technical descents. Looking for friendly trails that allow you to soak up the scenery? They’ve got ‘em. Steep descents littered with rocky drops to get your adrenaline pumping? They have those too. There may be none of that pow-pow-powdery stuff on the slopes, but the Snowmass Bike Park has everything you love about an on-mountain experience at Aspen Snowmass: lift-accessed fun on some of the world’s best terrain, opportunities to learn from the industry’s best bike pros, time outdoors with friends and family, and the aprés experience you love. Enjoy a delicious meal or cold beverage at the end of the day—no long johns required!
Copper Mountain This summer, June 15–17, the Colorado BBQ Challenge, the state’s longest running and Kansas City BBQ Society-sanctioned cook-off, will move 7 miles up the road from Main Street in Frisco to Copper Mountain. Come for all the BBQ you care to eat, live music, competitions, and community. Stay for Copper Mountain’s slate of summer activities, including the Rocky Mountain Coaster, the Woodward Wrecktangle, go-karts, a climbing wall, mountain biking, a zipline, bumper boats, and more.
Granby Ranch Who doesn’t love a summer concert! Lawn games! Dancing!! Show off your fancy footwork at Granby Ranch’s Summer Nights: Live Music, presented by Sheila Bailey, each Wednesday starting June 7, from 5:00–8:00 pm. The lineup is TBD. The concerts are free. The food, beverages, and extra activities are not. No outside alcohol is permitted. (But who needs outside alcohol when you’ve got your buddies to boogie down with?)
Howelsen Hill & Steamboat Resort Git along, little doggie, to Steamboat, where the skies are a little bluer and the friendships are a little truer, out where the West begins. Grab your hiking boots and take in a the views on a guided hike. Float down the Yampa River or fish an impressive trout out of it. Explore the local farmer’s market. Catch the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo series, a tradition established over 100 years ago. Or, if live music is more your style, catch the Steamboat Free Summer Concert series, a family-friendly gathering for locals and visitors alike.
Powderhorn Resort You have until August to gear up for the Gears & Beers Festival & Downhill Bike Race at Powderhorn, where you can celebrate all the things that make Western Colorado summers great: perfect bike-riding terrain, good food, suh-weet local suds, live music, and as many friends and family as can fit under those Rocky Mountain bluebird skies.
Purgatory Resort Need a little cool down this summer? Catch some fresh, mountain air as you speed down Purgatory’s alpine slide. Care for something a little less speedy? Cruise around in their go-carts or mob down the mountain coaster. Prefer to dawdle? Fair enough. Take Purgatory’s scenic chairlift up and back or partake in a parade of paddleboards on the lake.
Telluride Resort You get a festival! You get a festival!! And you get a festival!!! For over 30 years, the name “Telluride” has been synonymous with its festivals: they’ve got music and movie festivals; they’ve got cultural festivals and culinary festivals and car festivals; they’ve got balloon festivals and baseball festivals, blues festivals and brews festivals. Why, they’ve even got a mushroom festival!
Winter Park Resort Venture Out this summer at Winter Park, starting with The Big Wonderful. It’s a beer fest, a bluegrass concert, and a bazaar all rolled into, well… on big, wonderful event. Keep the summer vibes vibin’ all summer long with a ride in their world-class Trestle Bike Park, a drink or two at Mountaintop Happy Hours, movie nights at the gazebo, and live music every Saturday in Winter Park Village.
The Ups & Downs of Mountain Biking: A First-Timer’s Guide
“Everyone has to start somewhere.” That was my mantra for my first weekend on a mountain bike in Copper Mountain, Colorado. While I wasn’t starting completely from scratch, I’m not sure any of my bike experiences at sea level quite prepared me for biking down a mountainside. Since moving to Colorado, I’ve seen plenty of cars with bikes in tow, and I wondered what it would be like to try it myself.
Since some friends and I had plans to check out Copper’s Mac and Cheese Fest, I made plans to pick up a bike rental and try it out the morning before the festival.
The rental shop at Copper was great. It only took a couple of minutes for the staff to grab a bike and calibrate it for me.
Once I hopped on the bike, I realized I had never been on a real mountain bike before.
I had no idea the mountain bikes would be so fancy! The only function I recognized from bikes I had ridden in the past was the handlebar breaks. I was grateful the staff took the time to show me the bike’s features. For example, the seat height could be adjusted by clicking a button on the handlebar. You could even lock or loosen the frame of the bike by clicking a lever with your thumb.
All of these features are meant to give riders a better experience on more technical terrain. Even on a regular road, you can feel the difference. As I rode across the pavement towards the bike trails on the other side of the resort, it felt more like gliding than riding.
The next step was to select a trail. This was a little tricky for me. The trails that were accessible from the lift were intermediate or experienced trails. I opted for the lower mountain trails which seemed a little more beginner-friendly.
I rode along one of the mountain’s service roads until it connected with the Colorado Trail. The views from the trail were beautiful.
Not going to lie: even with a fancier mountain bike, navigating some of the steep declines and rugged terrain was more difficult than I had anticipated. I was warned by some of the folks at the bike shop that I would spend most of my time hovering over the back of my bike seat, rather than actually sitting. That was true! Standing and hovering helped me to control the bike better, but I had to be careful to center my body over the center of my bike, or else the bike could tip forward.
Even though It was harder than I anticipated, it was worth it. There’s nothing like cruising downhill back to the village.
It was super fun to get out this weekend and “start somewhere.” I’d love to get out again and work my way up to some of those intermediate trails.
If your reading this and thinking that biking sounds fun, but maybe you’re not ready for mountain trails yet, you can always get a road bike rental. There are tons of paved, scenic trails in Copper. In fact, one even goes 6 miles to Frisco, with a bus that picks up and brings you back to the resort.
Whatever your skill level, there’s plenty of trails to try in Copper Mountain.
Katie is a graduate student studying International and Intercultural Communication at the University of Denver. Originally hailing from the Midwest, she still remembers her first-time laying eyes on the Rocky Mountains and falling in love. In addition to exploring mountain trails, Katie enjoys checking out Colorado’s craft breweries and scouting the Front Range for the best scoop of ice cream.