As any proud owner of the Gems Card will tell you, there are endless options for exploring Colorado’s hidden gem ski areas with this discount card in hand. Gems resorts offer down-to-earth prices and world-class terrain, without the crowds or the long lift lines. Our team of weekend warriors set out from the Front Range for a Gems Card Weekend, and we’re here to tell you how to make it happen.
Thursday Night – Echo Mountain
A Gems Card Weekend is the perfect excuse to make an early escape from the work week. If you can arrange to take Friday off in advance, you’re scot free on Thursday afternoon. If not, it’s time to lay the groundwork for a sick day – start the fake coughing just after lunch and cross your fingers your boss sends you home by 3 p.m. Perfect timing.
With all your gear already packed into your car, head directly for Echo Mountain, just 35 miles from Downtown Denver. You can be lacing up your boots before the rush hour traffic starts, and Echo offers night skiing until 9 p.m. After a few hours of carving turns under the lights, duck into the renovated lodge for a burger, fries and a local craft beer.
With your ski legs back under you, it’s time for to get some rest and prepare for the weekend ahead. We recommend one of two options here: Snag a place in nearby Idaho Springs, or push ahead to Leadville to get in good position for the morning. A hotel room, an Airbnb or good old-fashioned car camping are all options here, depending on your budget.
Friday - Cooper
Invigorated from the night skiing at Echo, wake up before the sun for first chair at Cooper. Depending on your lodging choices on Thursday night, you’ve either got about an hour drive or you’re just a few minutes from the lifts.
Spend the morning on Cooper’s all-natural snow and groomed cruisers and enjoy the non-existent lift lines and stunning views of some of Colorado’s highest peaks. After lunch at Katie O’Rourke’s Irish Pub, spend the afternoon in the glades finding powder stashes from the latest storm.
Before you know it, it’s time to move on – But be sure to watch the sunset over Mt. Massive before departing for your next destination. We recommend settling in for the night in either Summit Country or Georgetown. Again, a well-constructed car campsite or a ski bum friend’s couch work just as well as a hotel room. You’re not here to sleep, you’re here to ski.
Saturday – Arapahoe Basin
On Saturday morning, enjoy the scenic drive up Loveland Pass on your way to Arapahoe Basin. You'll beat the Front Range traffic by a mile, allowing you to take a few expert runs on the Pallavicini lift while everyone else is still in the parking lot. After a mid-morning break and a Bacon Bloody Mary at the Black Mountain Lodge, ski through lunch in the groomers and glades of the Montezuma Bowl.
If you’re an expert skier or snowboarder looking for a challenge, spend the afternoon trying your skills in the Beavers, A-Basin’s brand new terrain for the 2017-18 season. After a few 15-30 minute hikes back to the base, your legs are gonna be tired and it’ll be time to retire to a hot tub or a hot bath. It’s the last night of your Gems Card Weekend - enjoy it.
Sunday – Loveland
To celebrate the end of the weekend in style, spend Sunday at Loveland Ski Area. Loveland boasts 1,800 acres, free snowcat skiing along the Continental Divide and a laid back local vibe.
For the advanced or expert Loveland skier, we recommend starting at Loveland Basin and making your way from Lift 1 to Lift 8. Getting all the way across the ski area will give you the opportunity for high-elevation bowl skiing, double-black diamonds, tree skiing and traverses. By the time you take the access tunnel under I-70 back to the base area, you’ll be ready for a hot meal and cold beer in the Basin Lodge.
On Sunday afternoon, it’s time to head for the hills and make your way back to the Front Range. After all, the Gems Card Weekend is over… isn’t it?
Monday Bonus – Eldora
After four incredible days at Gems resorts across the state, some skiers and riders might be ready to hang up the towel and head back to work. But for the die-hard powder chaser, Monday morning is the best bonus of the weekend – Early runs with no lift lines at Eldora. Located 21 miles west of Boulder, Eldora is a Colorado skier’s weekday paradise.
With the brand new high-speed six-seater Alpenglow chairlift, lift rides are fast, getting you more runs with even shorter lines. Enjoy something for everyone - steeps, bumps, glades, terrain parks and groomed corduroy for cruising. Leave Eldora by mid-morning and make it to your 12 p.m. meeting, just in time to regale your co-workers from the tales of your epic Gems Card weekend. Try to hide your smile.
Gems Card Weekend Pro Tips: Bring a friend. The Gems Card offers a two-for-one lift ticket deal that gets you more for your money, and bringing a friend helps cut down on lodging costs. Plus, your friends will never believe how awesome your weekend was unless you have a witness. Another tip: Start the longer leg of the Gems Card weekend by visiting the furthest resort first. You’ll get the longest drive out of the way and have more time for après ski adventures later in the weekend, plus a shorter drive home.
Do you have an epic Gems Card Weekend tale? Tell us in the comments. And stay tuned for the Central and Southwest Gems Card Weekends.