Winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about what’s new this season at Colorado ski resorts. With snow already beginning to dust the Rocky Mountain peaks, many ski areas are in the final phases of completing new improvements, setting season lift ticket and ski/snowboarding school pricing, and opening new dining and shopping options.

Here’s a quick peek at what’s new at Aspen, Copper Mountain, Crested Butte, and Steamboat.

Aspen/Snowmass Resort Complex

Snowy Sunrise in Aspen/Snowmass, November 12, 2012

Instead of driving from Denver International Airport, many people fly into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. The 160 miles car ride will take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours in ideal weather with minimal traffic, but could take considerably longer during a treacherous snowstorm. With an interchangeable lift ticket, skiers and boarders can use four different mountains that have more than 5,000 skiable acres — Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are expected to open November 24th, while the neighboring Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk mountains are expected to open December 10th. If you’ve never been to the elite destination before, get ready for a sticker shock: In a town filled with luxurious accommodations and extravagant real estate, most things will be pricey.

What’s New?

Aspen continues to maintain its brand by allocating millions of dollars to improvements. This year the spotlight continues to be on its Snowmass property. If you find yourself on that mountain, visit the remodeled Gwyn’s High Alpine restaurant at mid-mountain for breakfast, lunch, and fine dining. This 30-year-old establishment just received a $5.9 million makeover.

Meanwhile, first-time skiers and boarders at Snowmass and Buttermilk may want to participate in Terrain Based Learning–a way of teaching that aims to teach skills without the hindering effects of speed. This innovative program builds on last season’s successful introductory year.

This season will also see Aspen Mountain host the finals for the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup (the premiere world circuit of alpine skiing competitions) on March 15 – 19, which marks the first time the event has been outside Europe in 20 years./

Oh, and if you’re not sure where to stay, consider the conveniently located Limelight Hotel Ketchum–a new luxury hotel that’s scheduled to open in December 2016.

Copper Mountain Resort

first_snow-copper-mountain_8-24_2_sm

Image via Tripp Fay, Copper Mountain Resort

Just 2 hours west of Denver, Copper Mountain Resort offers an easy-going ski and snowboarding environment that caters to all levels. The mountain is expected to open November 11th. With over 140 trails spread out on almost 2,500 acres, many skiers and boarders pick this convenient destination for its pedestrian and family-friendly village area, world-class skiing and top-notch terrain park, and easy access from I-70.

What’s New?

The resort is introducing the Copper All Access Pass. It’s the first time that the Woodward Copper Barn activities (19,400 square foot indoor playground with Skatelite jumps, foam pits, skate bowls, mini ramps, trampolines, and a spring floor) are included on the Copper Mountain pass that includes unlimited access to 2,465 acres of terrain.

Skiers and boarders using the American Eagle chairlift will be able to eat at Copper’s newest bar and restaurant, On the Rockies Whiskey Bar. The resturant will showcase sandwiches, salads and other American fare, while the bar specializes in craft whiskeys and beer.

In the mood for Colorado-styled BBQ? Head to the Center Village’s Copper Junction building and look for the Eagle BBQ.

Guests seeking high-end accommodations should consider the new White River Luxury Rentals website. Budget-minded travelers should check out Copper’s One. Two. Free! packages. Book before October 7th for the best deals. 

Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Image via Dave Kozlowski

Image via Dave Kozlowski

Unlike many of the other Colorado ski resorts, Crested Butte doesn’t have immediate name recognition. Expected to open on November 24th, it’s a smaller resort located just outside a former coal-mining town in southwest Colorado. The town has numerous stores and restaurants. And even though the resort is oftentimes associated with extreme skiing, both experts and beginners will feel at home in its 1,547-acre terrain.

In the summer and falls months, Crested Butted is a spectacular 4 1/2-hour drive from Denver. But beware that the trip can easily be twice as long when out-of-state visitors try to navigate treacherous alpine switchbacks during a snowstorm.

What’s New?

Out-of-state skiers and boarders can take advantage of five nonstop flights into the small Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (which is just 35-minutes by car from Crested Butte). And the resort offers free lift tickets valid on the day of the return for individuals able to ski and fly on the same day. Are you ready for this unique challenge?

Crested Butte’s goal is to provide greater value to its guests who visit the “Last Great Colorado Ski Town.” If you’re near the Treasury Center look for Coal Breaker Coffee for made-to-order crepes, breakfast sandwiches, hand scooped ice cream, and coffee.

Another new place to visit on the mountain is the Umbrella Bar at Ten Peaks. It’s located at the top of Painter Boy lift. Guests can relax and enjoy the views while eating a European-styled menu filled with sandwiches, salads, wraps, and healthy snacks.

Updated restrooms also await passengers at the bottom of the Paradise Express lift.

And ladies looking for a half-day guided group instruction lesson should book one of the new Women’s Tips on Tuesdays ski clinics. The two-hour mini-class ends with a glass of wine at the Umbrella Bar.

Steamboat Ski Resort

Everyone at the top of the Hill

Steamboat is located in a remote area northwest of Denver and is expected to open November 23rd. Guest can fly directly into Steamboat/Hayden Airport (30 minutes from downtown Steamboat Springs) or drive approximately 3 hours from Denver. Non-stop flights originate from 12 major airports.

Steamboat’s authentic western charm, family friendly environment, and 150 nearby mineral springs are a draw. The mountain resort is situated on almost 3,000 acres, has one of the best snowboarding/skiing pipes in North America, and is well known for its Champagne Powder snow in the trees. While the mountain terrain appeals to all levels of ability, the majority of the runs are designated for intermediate and advanced levels.

What’s New?

Most skiers and boarders go out of their way to avoid slow chairlifts. Steamboat has taken steps to improve mountain transportation by installing a new Doppelmayr high-speed chairlift in the popular Sunshine and Priest Creek areas. Parents will also be thrilled with the new child-friendly restraint system.

This season Steamboat is also enhancing its snow surface by adding two new grooming machines and making technological improvements in their snowmaking equipment. The resort averages 352 inches of natural snow each year.

Year-round visitors should be on the lookout for the Mountain Coaster located near the Christie Peak Express Lift. During the 3,500 linear feet ride, thrill seekers will experience dips, waves, turns and 360-degree circles in a gravity-driven sled with individual braking systems.

Winter enthusiast in need of more gear can walk over to the new Marmot Store on the corner of 7th Street and Lincoln.

Now that you have the scoop on what’s new at four Colorado resorts, which resort are you heading to this winter? Let us know via the poll below!

Which Colorado Resort Are You Most Looking Forward to Skiing?

Aspen/Snowmass
Copper Mountain
Crested Butte Mountain
Steamboat

Poll Maker

About The Author

Sandy Bornstein

Sandy Bornstein lived as an expat in India. Her award-winning memoir, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, highlights what she learned as the only American teacher at an international Bangalore school. After living abroad, Sandy continues to explore the world and write about her travels. You can follow Sandy's adventures at www.sandrabornstein.com.

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