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The Ski Season Secrets of the Front Range Weekend Warrior

Photo: Arapahoe Basin

If you’re a resident of the Colorado Front Range, you might be starting to think about the approach of another winter, and another ski season. As the nights get colder and folks in Colorado turn their attention to which resort will open next, what the Farmer’s Almanac says about snowfall this year, and the prospect of another season of skiing and riding from the Front Range.

Being a Front Range weekend warrior requires a certain finesse to your ski season planning, whether you’re a first-time skier or rider who’s ready to dip your toe in this winter, a diehard Denver powderhound, or if you’re returning to the slopes after a hiatus. Either way, you’ll face a unique set of challenges that are very different from your mountain town friends or your family members vacationing from out of state. Luckily, there are some simple secrets to getting the most of your ski season as a Front Range weekend warrior.

Secure your mountain access. Though as a weekend warrior you might not get as many days in on the mountain as the ski town locals, you’re still going to need a season pass. You don’t want to show up at the window and pay full price for a single day lift ticket every time you want to ski or ride. And in most cases, a pass pays for itself after just a few days on the mountain.

There are a ton of options for Colorado ski passes – including some multi-mountain passes, like the IKON pass. Another great option is to buy a season pass to your favorite mountain, and then take advantage of pass partnerships to spend a few days at neighboring ski areas as well. And of course, every successful Front Range Weekend Warrior is equipped with a Gems Card. The most affordable way to explore Colorado ski areas, the Gems Card offers deals and discounts at hidden gem ski areas that are off the beaten path.

Enlist your friends. It’s true, there are no friends on a powder day, and sometimes it’s nice to cruise up to the mountains on your own schedule and have the chairlift to yourself. But most of the time, being a weekend warrior is a lot more fun when you have friends to share the experience with. As you kick off your ski season, be on the lookout for pals who also like to hit the mountains on the weekends. Bonus points if they have the same ski pass as you (or if one of you has a Gems Card for 2-for-1 lift tickets).

Get in the know on snow totals. By subscribing to the Colorado Ski Country USA Snow Report, you’ll be the first to know which ski areas have the best conditions each morning. The Snow Report features new snow totals, mid-mountain snow depth, and the number of lifts and runs open. Use this handy tool to plan which ski area you’ll visit when the weekend warrior urge strikes.

Book a few long weekends. As a weekend warrior, it’s important to make the most of your time – you want to maximize your powder turns and reduce your time spent in lift lines or traffic. The solution is to break out your calendar now and book a few long weekends of lodging near the slopes. By driving up on Friday evening and spending the night, you can get the first chairlift of the day on Saturday without having to wake up before the sun. And if you choose a resort with night skiing, you might even have the chance to take a few laps under the stars the night before. 

Don’t forget about the second shift. As a weekend warrior, it feels like the default option is to wake up before the sun and race to get the car loaded up, coffee brewed, lunch packed, and get on the road before dawn. And there are occasions where this is worth it – powder days, for example. But there’s a second option for weekend warriors, which I affectionately call the second shift. Doesn’t it sound nice to sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast, head up the hill around 11 a.m. and pull right into a front-row parking space that a family with young children has just vacated? Welcome to second shift skiing. It’s the ultimate secret for Front Range Weekend Warriors.

Kathryn Robinson is a professional communicator at the intersection of the outdoor industry and higher education. After transplanting to Colorado from Florida, she learned to ski for the first time in her early twenties and never looked back. When she’s not on the slopes, she’s working with the Outdoor Recreation Economy program at CU Boulder, hiking, kayaking, or spending time with her family.