For the avid skier or snowboarder, college offers four years of nearly unparalleled time and freedom to enjoy the offerings of Ski Country. Those four years can be used to explore a wide range of the state’s winter sport offerings, and to do more than take that same run, at that same resort, time and time again. To help the fearless college student make the most of their time in Ski Country, here's a bucket list of things to do before you (unfortunately) graduate and have to get a real job.
1. Ride Chair 9 at Loveland
Chair 9 at Loveland Ski Area, which serves the Ridge, is one of the highest lifts in the world. Topping out at 12,700 feet, the Ridge offers incredible bowl skiing, as well as insane views of Summit County. You can also check another bucket list item off by riding the Ridge Cat. The Ridge Cat offers free snowcat skiing along the continental divide, and some the most exhilarating terrain in ski country
2. X Games at Aspen
The annual competition takes over Buttermilk mountain and all of the Aspen Snowmass area every January, and especially in recent years, has grown into something of a destination event for Colorado college students, and for good reason. Beyond the ability to see some of the top skiers and snowboarders in the world compete it out for gold, X Games (which is free to attend) also offers free entertainment and ticketed top-tier concerts. X Games is the perfect excuse to relieve those Winter Quarter blues, and to explore the Aspen Snowmass area.
3. Mary Jane at Winter Park
Mary Jane has a reputation, well-earned, for its ferocious bumps and tree skiing. Offering such intense terrain, and having such a long history, Mary Jane is kind of a barometer of just how “Colorado” of a skier you are. In a way, it's a rite of passage, and one every college student should make.
4. Do a Pond Skim
Nothing says goodbye to ski season better than gliding (or trying to glide) across a pond of ice-cold water in the warm sunshine of spring. Pond skimming is a cultural institution, and while not entirely a painless activity, is absolutely worth trying. Just keep your tips up and you’ll be fine. Besides, wet boots dry quickly in the sun, as I personally learned during my one and only ill-fated pond skim attempt.
5. Ski Champagne Powder at Steamboat
Steamboat doesn’t mess around when it comes to snow. Their trademark (and I mean that literally, its trademarked) Champagne Powder is considered some of the finest, lightest, fluffiest, and just all round greatest powder in the world. Combined with their amazing terrain and terrific glades, chasing the Champagne Powder at Steamboat is a worthy use of one’s time in college, and its location far from the Front Range makes it a perfect mini-road trip.
6. Join the Party at the Beach at A-bay
There is really nowhere with as much of a reputation for blatant après-hedonism than the “Beach.” This stretch of prime real estate, located in the Early Riser lot at Arapahoe Basin, backs up against the three lower mountain chairlifts, and offers a zoo-like atmosphere of cordial partying. While the Beach is always going, it really is at its best in late spring, and especially in the late-late season, like June, when A-bay is the only ski area still open. The Beach is a Colorado Ski Country pilgrimage, and is basically an excuse for skiers to relieve their college days, so why not join them?
7. Switch Sports for a day
The animosity between skier and snowboarders is thankfully a thing of the past. Nowadays, nobody really cares about how you get down the mountain, and this means we all have friends of both persuasions. Spending a day taking the other way down the slopes is a great way to look at the mountain differently, and is something that is easier to do in college, when it's easy to find people who do both sports, and importantly have the gear necessary.
8. Skip Class for Powder
Picture this, its Tuesday night, they’re calling for a foot of snow inches in the mountains, and you're in your dorm room dreading your next day with class starting at 8 a.m. It’s truly a nightmare situation, and one most college students know well. But, it can be remedied. The cure? Skip class. You’re only a college student once, and—if it's deep enough—you might just run into your professor on the slopes.
9. Take the Winter Park Ski Train
The Winter Park ski train is a Coloradan institution, running nonstop from 1940 to 2009. Luckily, the train returned to service during the 2016/17 season, and nowadays one can take the train straight from Union Station to Winter Park from January to March. Not many people can say they’ve taken a train to go skiing, and the beautiful climb into the mountains from Denver makes the trip more than worthwhile. There’s no need to worry about traffic, and you can spend the entire trip there and back relaxing, or having a couple beers in the new lounge car.
10. Gaper Day
There’s no better use of your parent’s outdated ski gear than donning it on April 1 and riding with the rest of the comical crowd during Gaper Day. A worldwide mountain tradition, and one that runs deep in Ski Country (with A-Basin being notorious), Gaper Day is a chance to dress as comically retro, brazen, and stupid as you want, and to party and ski with like minded individuals during the beautiful spring season. Front-range thrift stores are awash with retro ski gear, and costumes can always be reused for Halloween or those dreadful “80s” themed frat-parties.
Justin Cygan is a fourth-year student at the University of Denver, where he studies International Relations and Journalism. Born and raised in Colorado, he learned to ski and snowboard at his home mountain of Loveland, where he still regularly rides today. When not chasing pow he can be found skateboarding, writing, reading, cooking and taking pictures in Denver and throughout the state. Justin is the proud father of a year-old aloe plant. Read more of Justin’s stories .