Every ski area has its own atmosphere, its own vibrations and feel. Every hill in Ski Country is a different place, a different soul.
It might sound silly, but the truth is the bond between a ski area and a skier can be incredibly powerful. Within that bond can be something akin to friendship, or even family. Every trip to the hill is a trip to greet a good friend, to catch up and reminisce over good times. And for those of us lucky enough to have a “home” mountain, a place where we feel as welcome as our parents house, a place where we first strapped planks to our legs, where we first tasted sweet fresh powder, or hit our first jumps and rails, it is a magical thing.
My home mountain is Loveland Ski Area. As a child of the Denver Metro Area, Loveland offered me (and by extension my parents) a close-by area that offered an extensive ski school program, great advanced terrain for my parents and older siblings—all at an affordable price—and with an atmosphere of down-to-earth brilliance that is rarely matched in the modern ski world.
It’s not a rare story in Colorado to be a product of Loveland’s slopes, especially in the Denver area where many have fond memories of learning to ski there, or spending precious winter break days gliding through its fabulous glades and steeps by using their acclaimed 4-Pak ticketing system. Loveland was where I first skied by myself, where me and my friends would trek up early in the morning on Saturdays in high school, only to spend hours hiking the terrain park.
In college, Loveland has morphed into a mountain that offers a perfect trifecta of advantages to me: the broke, sleepy college skier.
First things first, Loveland is close and affordable, the closest resort of its size to Denver. On a clear weekday morning, I can make the commute from my house near DU to Loveland in less than an hour. This closeness makes it incredibly accessible for a college student. My Freshman year of college for example, I had a class scheduled 8-10 a.m. on Thursdays, and was able to leave directly from class and be on the slopes by 11:30 a.m. For those in the Denver area at least, nothing can beat that. The resort also offers deep discounts for those in the college age range. The transferable 4-Pak offers four tickets for $169, an amazing deal, but Loveland also offers a discounted young adult season pass at a great discount. Loveland is also included on the Colorado Gems Card, so skiers and riders can get either two 2-for-1 lift tickets or two 30% off lift tickets at the resort.
Second thing, Loveland has great, quiet terrain. Loveland is a mountain of surprises and hidden corners. The skiable area of the resort is much larger than it looks from a car window on I-70, and the natural bowl setting of the resort—plus its location on the continental divide—lends itself to deep and common powder days. The terrain offerings are varied, everything from steeps to trees and all that lies between (including a small but innovative terrain park). Much of its best terrain hides in plain site, concentrated greatly on the north-side of the area, where snow blows into the deep chutes and bowls that sit under the gaze of the continental divide. The north side, served by lifts 4 and 8, can hold prime, untracked snow for a days after a storm due to its relative seclusion from the rest of the resort and the windblown powder that sifts into the trees and hidden turns of the area. Of course, one can’t talk about Loveland without mentioning the Ridge. Served by Lift 9 which reaches up to 12,700 feet, the Ridge offers steep, bowl skiing at the literal top of the continental divide. The view is just as good as the skiing.
The third advantage Loveland offers to me and other Colorado college skiers and snowboarders is—for a lack of better words—vibe. Loveland seems like a slice of the past, a resort where regulars are greeted with warm smiles and words of endearment by a staff that recognizes them. It is in spirit a mom-and-pop resort, one of the few family-owned and operated independent areas in the state, where skiing is the main attraction. Loveland is a place where everyone is a local, a person who is treated like family.
On a recent Friday off from school I cruised up to Loveland bright and early, (at 9:30 a.m. to be exact, after three successful snoozes of the alarm). It had stormed the last three days and I was stoked to try to find some goods in the trees and chutes on the north-side of the mountain. Immediately on my first lift ride, I fell into a lovely conversation with a older skier who told me he was about done for the day, never mind it being my first run. Our conversation was cut short by the quickness of Loveland’s newest lift, Chet’s Dream, which deposits skiers at the top in under four minutes. After making my way over to Lift 4 and then by cattrack to Lift 8 (the premier terrain), I spent the next couple hours lapping 8 and chasing untracked snow. Off Lift 8, the slopes are mainly open bowls and light glades, with the exception of one groomed run. They all lead to a beautiful section of open glades that provide both challenging and relatively easy tree-skiing. On a day like the one I was having, these glades are full of the echoing whoops and hollers of fellow skiers. The friendly vibe of Loveland permeates across the mountain, as if its is instilled within the granite and dirt of the hill itself. I especially felt this close-knitted spirit as I took run after run with different groups of people, or other solos, enjoying each others company both on the lift and on the hill. Later in the day, I warmed up by the wood-fed stove inside Ginny Lee, a slopeside cabin named after Virginia Upham, matriarch of the resort and wife of Chet Upham, which Chet’s Dream is named after. Inside the cabin, skiers have a camaraderie that transcends time, a camaraderie of skiing that has existed since the first people took to Colorado’s hills. Hot-dogs and beers are traded to people who earlier in the day were complete strangers, logs are fed into the stove as people drape their face masks and gloves in front of its flames. It's an intoxicating warmth of camaraderie, one that Loveland prides itself on.
Loveland offers a mountain that welcomes all with open arms. Its gracious terrain offerings, friendly local vibe and affordable prices make it a no-brainer for any college student (and honestly any person in the state). No matter where I go in life, I always hope to spend at least a couple days a season ripping the wide open bowls and tight glades of Loveland, and I hope that whether it's this season or next, I’ll see you out there with me.