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Gold Pass

Graduate from occasional skier to powderhound this season

Tamara Susa


There are two types of skiers and riders. The first sleeps in, meanders over to the ski area, eats a leisurely breakfast in the lodge and boards the first chairlift around mid-morning. The second has been chasing first tracks and shredding powder runs since dawn.

Most of us start as the first type of skier, especially when we’re learning to ski or ride. What’s the rush? But as you progress in the sport and start to set higher goals, you start to notice the difference between the occasional skier and the powderhound. They’re more comfortable on their skis or board, faster down the mountain or through the trees, and more adventurous. They always aim for the hike-to terrain that might be host to some hidden powder stashes from the last storm. And when a new storm hits, you can be certain they’re heading for the mountain.

Does this sound like the type of skier you’d like to be? If you’re ready to transition from a sometimes skier to a full-fledged powderhound this season, here are some steps to making your dream a reality.

1) Get a pass

If you’ve been content to buy a 4-pack or snag a lift ticket at the window here and there, graduating to a season pass will be your first step. Although the lowest prices of the season are behind us, there are still plenty of ways to secure affordable skiing and snowboarding this year. You can check out the most current prices on the Season Pass page. And don’t delay – season passes may continue to go up in price, and don’t stay on sale all season.

The Gems Card, offering two buy-one-get-ones or two 30% discounts on lift tickets at 11 mountains around the state, is the powderhound’s ticket to ride. It offers flexibility to make it to the mountain where the storm hit the hardest and the snow is deepest. And these ski areas are off the beaten path, so the powder won’t be skied off by the time you get there. The Gems Card should be at the top of any powderhound’s Christmas list.

2) Sign up for the snow report

Do you wake up in the morning after a big snowstorm, pack up the car, start the engine and just pick a ski area at random? Of course not. The aspiring powderhound will be checking the CSCUSA Snow Report to see which mountain has the most new snow, the deepest base, the most runs open, and the best weather in the forecast. This trusty tool, updated every morning to reflect 24 and 48-hour snow totals, is a powderhound’s best friend. Have it delivered straight to your inbox so you never miss a storm.

3) Secure your skiing buddies

Having an awesome ski crew can make or break a season. Unless you’re dead set on being a solo powder chaser this season, it’s a good time to start asking around and getting your group together. Ask around at work, check with your neighbors, or consider joining a meet-up group in your area.

On the wish list:

  • Someone with the same pass as you, or at least some overlap on access to the same mountains. If one of you has the Gems Card, you’ve got two-for-one lift tickets, so you’re all set.
  • Someone with the same schedule as you, or a flexible schedule.
  • Someone with a vehicle that can power through to the mountain after a storm – 4WD or AWD and snow tires are highly recommended. In some conditions, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s traction laws will require it.
  • Someone willing to drop everything to chase the powder.

4) Finesse your schedule

Don’t forget to get your schedule worked out well in advance of winter. Hopefully, you’ve been saving up your paid days off all summer. We don’t officially condone calling in sick when the “powder flu” hits, so we recommend talking to your boss now.

The script might go something like this. “Hey boss, as you know I care an awful lot about this job, but winter is coming. What’s the policy on impromptu powder days? Can I move around my schedule as conditions change? How about switching to a 4-10 schedule for a few months so I can take a day off when a big storm rolls in?”

Otherwise, the script later might go: “Hey boss, I’m sick.” (Cough, cough)

5) Set a goal number of days

Nobody ever got 50 days on the mountain by accident. If you’re an occasional skier and you’re looking to challenge your powderhound friends in days on the mountain, it’s time to make a plan for the season. What days each week are you going to hit the mountain? How many Colorado mountains are you hoping to ski or ride? Are you planning any out-of-state trips? A skier’s season bucket list can be great motivation to score extra days.

Now that you’ve got a season pass, a subscription to the snow report, ski buddies, a flexible schedule and a goal, there’s nothing left to do but to get after it.


Kathryn Robinson is a native Floridian who transplanted to Colorado for graduate school and never looked back. She learned to ski for the first time in her early twenties and now she counts down the days until winter. When she’s not on the slopes, she’s working full-time in Denver, hiking, kayaking, or playing with her dog Riley.