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Hiking at Arapahoe Basin

We’ve had a few questions about the GEMS card and just announced that the 2009-10 Colorado GEMS card is now for sale, and have already sold a handful of them. They go for $10 each and the money collected from sales of the card goes right back into the GEMS program. The GEMS is its own unique little program within the Colorado Ski Country USA organization and the GEMS resorts have a somewhat cultish following.

I’ve never been in a cult but I’ve skied all the GEMS before. Last season I had the chance to ski 6 of the 9 in one winter and I can tell you, they are each very different, and rightfully worthy of their devoted skiers and riders. I love being a GEMS frequenter, or cult member if you will, I feel like I’m in this little club and we all secretly know the inside scoop on the GEMS. We know that they tend to be smaller in skiable acres, but they ski big. We know that they are smaller in crowds, but they are big on guest service. And we know that they have the same tasty snow that falls on the rest of the state.

Here is what I think makes each of the GEMS unique. Arapahoe Basin and Loveland have the spotlight to themselves for about a month with all the hype around opening day. And it’s a global spotlight, people talk about Colorado being open for skiing and riding around the world.

Echo Mountain has night skiing and one of the most unique vibes of any resort. It’s a combination of the terrain, music, and base area. And don’t be fooled, it is not just a big terrain park for snowboarders and freestyle skiers.

Eldora will pleasantly surprise you with Corona Bowl. Standing at the top of the bowl you will forget that you are just outside of Boulder when all you see below is ungroomed fresh steeps peppered with glades and framed by fantastic views.

I can’t say enough about Monarch, it is such a well run resort, could be because most of the people running the place are women. Gail, the head backcountry guide is my hero; I might have a girl crush on her. She rips and has a smile that sparkles (probably because she is always ripping). Melissa has been the CFO for 13 years keeping the resort in the black. I have a crush on her too since I can’t seem to balance my checkbook. Lynn has been the sales / tickets manager for 20 years, and Corrie is the head driver for their Snowcat tours, been there for 10 years. I have crushes on both of them too.

So every resort has a view, but none have a view like what you look at from the top of Powderhorn.

View from Powderhorn

View from Powderhorn

Pictures don’t do it justice either. You feel like you’re on an island, surrounded by white snow, and you’re looking into the depths and vast expanse of the Grand Mesa Valley. And they have sweet tree skiing to boot.

SolVista Basin, or SolVista Basin at Granby Ranch as it is officially called, is all about the children. I would love to have a playdate at SolVista where the kids can all ski together and parents chill at the base lodge by the outside fire pit. Every run ends back at the base so unless your kid is Waldo, you will always know where he is.

Ski Cooper is like going to grandma and grandpa’s house, it’s literally over the river and through the woods. It’s like coming home and sleeping in your old room, in your twin bed, looking at your posters on the wall and trophies on the shelf. It’s familiar, everyone is so happy to see you and wants to help you or feed you. It takes you back to a happy place and time when skiing, and life, was simple.

I had the thrill of skiing Sunlight with the general manager, a really sweet guy named Tom. Tom is a gentleman of a certain age and showed me one of the best days on snow all season. He knows the mountain like the back of his hand and he took me to some of his favorite stashes. We skied The Heathen which has a 52 degree pitch and could be the steepest lift served run in Colorado Ski Country.

Each of these great resorts has put their own special offer and or deal on the GEMS card. The card allows skiers and riders access to free lift tickets at some resorts and unbeatable discounts on skiing and riding at many others. The only thing is that the card is available in limited quantities. No other ski pass in Colorado gives so much for so little. Buy a card, join the cult, let’s come up with a handshake and hit the slopes this winter. For more information, or to purchase a GEMS Card, please visit Cards are available now and will be mailed to purchasers in September.