The Most Iconic and Underrated Trails in Ski Country

Submitted by CSCUSA Staff on Wed, 03/28/2018 - 08:51

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Crested Butte's famous steep terrain on the North Face. 

Have you ever asked a skier or rider for the most famous or well-known runs at their home mountain? Chances are, they were happy to list the most iconic trails, rattling off the crowd favorites and giving you advice on which lifts to ride and why these runs are so popular.

But if you’ve ever asked a skier for their favorite powder stash, hidden gem trail or best kept secret, you probably noticed a different response. Loyal skiers can be pretty tight-lipped about the underrated trails at their favorite ski areas, but we’re here to spill the beans.

According to resort staff, these are the most iconic and the most underrated trails at each of our member ski areas:

Arapahoe Basin

There are several iconic runs at Arapahoe Basin, each one offering a unique experience for skiers and snowboarders. The Pallavicini lift serves some of the steepest terrain in Summit County, including the iconic Spine and Main Street runs. On the East Wall, the hike-to chutes of the North Pole are renowned for being the easiest line among this double-black diamond terrain. And High Noon is well known for being the first to open and the last to close at A-Basin, which has one of the longest ski seasons in the country.

Underrated runs at Arapahoe Basin include the West Zuma cornice and Miner’s Glade in Montezuma Bowl. Meanwhile, according to A-Basin staff, “Faceshot Gully back in The Beavers will be your new favorite run, and Sundance is the best (dark) green run in ski country.”

Aspen Snowmass

Each of Aspen Snowmass’ four resorts hold both iconic runs and underrated secrets. At Aspen Mountain, you’ll find fame surround the Ridge of Bell, but few appreciate the glory of the Bingo Glades. At Aspen Highlands, locals and visitors alike rave about the hike-to Highlands Bowl, but you’ll find underrated skiing at Boomerang Woods or No Name. At Buttermilk, most are familiar with the X Games Park, home to the annual X Games Aspen, but fewer are familiar with the Tiehack Parkway. And at Snowmass, crowds flock to Sneaky’s, Long Shot or the Cirque, leaving wide-open spaces and underrated terrain at the Campground run.

The highlights of X Games Aspen 2018 at Buttermilk.

Cooper

At Cooper, the iconic Trail’s End has the most amazing views of Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive.

Copper Mountain

The most iconic runs at Copper Mountain, Andy’s Encore and Rosi’s Run, are part of the US Ski Team Speed Center training venue. The bottom pitch of the course (Rosi’s) was the location of a world cup race held at Copper in 1976. The run is named after Rosi Mittermaier of West Germany who won two gold medals for women’s slalom and giant slalom.

For the lesser-known runs at Copper, we turn to long-time staff for their secret stashes. According to Mike Looney, Slope Maintenance Manager, "Union Creek Quad zone is highly underrated. Scooter and Easy Feelin’ are two of the best rollie pollie trails on the mountain. It’s pretty easy to make laps with short lift lines and a ton of skiing.  Resolution and Copper bowl are quick lift lines and beautiful views. If you want to hike, Tucker is Copper's big mountain experience." If you ask Janie Merickel, Copper Ski Patrol, "West Ten Mile is a fantastic saunter through the woods. It’s a green run, folks always dismiss it as too easy, but it’s refreshing and happy, and if you’re lucky enough to have some fresh snow it is a dream."

Crested Butte

At Crested Butte, it’s difficult to identify just one iconic run. Beginners enjoy the famous Houston trail, while intermediate skiers and riders cruise the Paradise Bowl and advanced skiers find the most iconic terrain on International. For expert skiers and snowboarders, Crested Butte’s most iconic steep terrain is The North Face.

As far as underrated runs go, the Prospect and Gold Link zone on the mountain offers some excellent intermediate skiing as well as two terrain parks. While these chairlifts may not be the fastest and the vertical rise may not be the tallest, the snow quality (lots of North facing terrain) and sparse crowds encourage families to explore and truly feel like they have the entire mountain to themselves. These intermediate runs offer a great stepping stone for skiers and riders who are looking to take the step into Paradise Bowl and East River but want to get a few more laps under their belt.

Echo Mountain

At Echo, Elsa’s Way to Breanna’s Passage is a lot of fun for nearly all ages and abilities. Meanwhile, EJ’s Glades is a less-visited area, leaving great snow for those who are in on the secret.

Eldora

Eldora’s most iconic terrain is the Corona Bowl, known for its black and double-black terrain. The most underrated area at Eldora is the Little Hawk Family Zone, a great place for new skiers and riders to get their feet under them for the first time.

Granby Ranch

Granby Ranch’s most iconic run is Easy Money, known as a quintessential, variable pitch, groomed blue. Meanwhile, Gettle’s Glade is the intermediate skier’s secret powder stash, with no crowds and great fresh tracks after a snow storm.

Loveland Ski Area

The most iconic trail at Loveland Ski Area, Cat’s Meow off Lift 1, is visible from base area and highway and is known for being steep with challenging bumps. Loveland’s lesser-known, but still incredible, trails include In the Mood off Lift 8. It’s not hard to get to, but takes a few lift rides, and the snow stays good on this run for a long time after a storm.

Monarch Mountain

Since 1939, Monarch Mountain has been home to Gunbarrel, a famously steep run built by the Work Projects Administration, one of the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agencies. Mirkwood Basin is also an iconic hike-to area, with steep all-natural experts-only terrain. Elsewhere on the mountain, savvy skiers and riders can find underrated skiing at the Curricanti Power Line cut.

Powder skiing in the Mirkwood Basin at Monarch. 

Powderhorn

Powderhorn’s most well-known and well-loved run is Bill’s Run, the perfect trail for skiers and riders of all skill levels. This spacious run falls right through the heart of Powderhorn, giving skiers and riders the option to dip off the trail into aspen glades or an easily accessible boulder field. This run is also named after one of Powderhorn’s founding fathers, Bill Foster.

More off the beaten path, Mad Dog Glade is found skiers right of West End. This run stashes powder for days after a storm. This steep grove of widely spaced aspen trees is a spectacular run that will have you going back again and again to stack your turns.

Purgatory

Purgatory’s signature trail is Styx, a black diamond, which follows the natural contours of the frontside of the mountain, featuring steep, classic moguls that will make your legs burn. The most underrated run is Deadspike on the backside. It’s a nice, long run that starts out as an intermediate trail with incredible fall line skiing, and ends at the bottom of Lift 5 as a black diamond with moguls. Deadspike always has great consistent snow coverage and very few people ski the trail, so you can find powder stashes even after a storm has passed.

Silverton

On Silverton Mountain’s experts-only slopes, the Dope Chute is the most iconic run. A steep entrance on a summit snow field from 13,000ft leads to a couloir with rock walls on both sides. You’ll have to hike for it!

Waterfall is the most underrated run at Silverton Mountain. Although it is just off the lift and doesn’t require a significant hike, it is still steep from top to bottom. To avoid the frozen waterfall at the exit, skiers and riders have the choice of super steep pitches like Skid Mark, Waterfall Ramp or TBS. All the exits from Waterfall are exciting test pieces, even for the most expert level skiers or snowboarders.

Steamboat

Steamboat’s most well-known run is Heavenly Daze, a blue trail that runs underneath the gondola. Pioneer Ridge is the lesser-known secret: On almost any day of the year, guests can board Pony Express lift without a line and access a variety of advanced terrain on Pioneer Ridge. It’s great spot to hit on a powder day, when most advanced skiers and riders are headed for hike-to terrain on Mount Werner, as well as on busy days during the holidays.

Sunlight

Sunlight's 2.5 mile Ute Trail, named as one of America's "Top 10 Scenic Green Runs" in 2017 by Liftopia, is the most iconic run at Sunlight. Skiers and riders from around the globe rave about the terrain and panoramic views on Ute. In fact, local news reporter Carla Jean Whitney considers Ute her "go to run." For a secret stash, try the steeps on East Ridge and the glade skiing. But Sunlight staff cautions, "This is a well kept secret, so tell only your best friends. Shhhh."

Telluride

Telluride is filled with iconic runs, but the Plunge takes the title as the most famous, as it was featured in the 1993 Visa commercial. See Forever is the resort’s best-known run, while Double Cabin is the run you’re most likely to have to yourself. 

1993 VISA Commercial featuring The Plunge at Telluride. 

Winter Park

On the Winter Park side, the signature trail is Cranmer, named after the founder of Winter Park, George Cranmer, and one of the handful of first runs created at the resort. Per Cranmer’s wishes, it was intentionally cut wider than most trails at the time and today is a wide-open intermediate trail. On the Mary Jane side, the signature trail is Mary Jane Trail, which actually pre-dates the creation of Winter Park Resort. In the early 1930's, a private ski group out of Denver called the Colorado Arlberg Club built a clubhouse at the base of Mary Jane and began clearing a sheep trail for the purposes of skiing. It is the first man-made ski trail in the western US and today, Mary Jane Trail makes up the spine of the iconic Mary Jane Territory.

The most underrated area is anything off of Eagle Wind Lift.  Eagle Wind is tucked into the backside of Mary Jane and is well off the beaten path, providing some of the resort's most persistent powder stashes. It’s also some of the best tree skiing on the mountain, which is saying something with the iconic tree-skiing of Mary Jane. 

Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek has a rich history and many trail names give nods to influential people that helped make Wolf Creek Ski Area possible, including Kelly Boyce Trail, an iconic beginner run named for the Boyce family, who crafted some of the first runs at the ski area. Tranquility, located off the Treasure Stoke Chairlift, is another well-known run at Wolf Creek that will take you from the top of the Continental Divide to the base area. For the advanced intermediate and expert skiers, well-known runs include the hike-to Horseshoe Bowl and Alberta Peak.

Powder Puff, located off the top of Bonanza Lift, is one of the underrated runs at Wolf Creek. Despite the name, each section of the run offers variety including excellent intermediate pitches and skiable trees on either side. For advanced and expert skiers, the Numbered Chutes are some of the most underrated terrain in the Alberta area. The highlight of the Numbered Chutes is how little the terrain is accessed, making fresh tracks findable a couple days after a storm cycle.

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