Opening day for the 2019-20 ski season is happening now or very soon at resorts in Colorado. There have been a lot of new improvements since last season. From added trails and activities for kids to brand new restaurants and thrilling attractions, there’s a little something for everyone. Let’s look at what skiers and snowboarders can expect to see that is new at the Colorado ski resorts this year.
The scene at Arapahoe Basin may be different this season. Resort officials decided to abandon the popular Epic Pass through Vail Resorts in favor of the visit-limited Ikon Pass. Resort officials are hoping the move will slightly decrease traffic on the slopes, thereby improving the overall skier experience. Nobody likes to be elbow-to-elbow on the slopes, so fewer skiers should make A-Basin a more desirable destination, with shorter lift lines and fewer parking frustrations.
On the mountain, it’s the first full season for Il Rifugio at Snowplume, North America’s highest, lift-served restaurant at 12,500 feet. It is at the summit of Copper Mountain and accessible via The Beavers lift. The European-style bistro offers flatbreads, soups, salads, and wine and cheese pairings.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is offering a $25 round-trip ticket from Union Station in Denver to A-Basin on the Snowstang bus service offered by Bustang.
Aspen has its first new luxury hotel in 25 years. The W Aspen opened in September 2019 and promises to be a hot destination this winter. The 128,000-square-foot, 88-room luxury hotel replaces the Sky Hotel on Durant Avenue, only steps from the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen Mountain. According to resort officials, the hotel has a “Mountain Escape” theme and is the second such hotel of its kind. (The W Verbier in the Swiss Alps was the first in the new, exclusive collection.)
The hotel features a Wet Deck, an 8,000-square-foot rooftop area with 360-degree mountain views, a heated pool, hot tubs, fire pits, couches, cabanas and a U-shaped bar. The rooftop pool is a welcome replacement to the previous Sky Hotel pool that was a must-visit for après-ski for many seasons. The Wet Deck is open to the public daily during the ski season. The hotel also has an on-site ski and snowboard shop operated by Four Mountain Sports. The shop rents and sells the hotel’s signature series of snowboards along with other related gear.
At Copper Mountain, the new three-person Three Bears lift will provide access to prime terrain above 12,400 feet that was previously only accessible via skinning or Snowcat. Skiers can explore a total of 273 new acres on Tucker Mountain. The new lift starts at the base near the Blackjack chairlift and rises about 1,100 vertical feet to the summit. There’s also a new ski patrol warming hut in the area.
In its first season under the Vail Resorts banner, Crested Butte Mountain Resort has upgraded its Teocalli Lift for the 2019-20 season. The new fixed-grip quad lift replaces the former two-seater, and should increase uphill capacity by more than 50 percent, according to resort officials. The lift was slightly realigned during construction this summer to move the top terminal closer to the top of the Red Lady Express Lift. The move improves access to Uley’s Cabin and the base area.
At Ski Cooper in Leadville, things continue to grow and progress. A fourth ski lift was approved for construction in Summer 2019 that will open 71 new acres of expert terrain at the developing resort.
Steamboat Springs is unveiling a new $15 million gondola on Mount Werner this season. The new gondola will offer free Wi-Fi and whisk skiers and riders to the summit in about 10 minutes. In total, there will be 137 cabins. The gondola will make its debut on opening day, Nov. 23.
Don’t want to fight traffic? Skiers can ride the Snowstang bus service from Union Station in Denver to Steamboat Springs for $40 round trip, according to CDOT.
Skiers are salivating over 40 new acre of north-facing tree skiing at Telluride. Accessible from Lift 9, the new acreage provides a plethora or challenging terrain marked with several chutes and exciting rock drops.
New beginner terrain at the Meadows area of the resort includes a 320-foot covered surface lift that’s perfect for learning pizza and French fries.
Telluride is also heading into its first season as part of the Epic Pass through Vail Resorts. Epic Pass holders get seven days of skiing with no blackout dates at Telluride. The Epic Pass offers unlimited, unrestricted access to several world-class resorts in North America, as well as resorts in Australia, Japan and Canada. Prime resorts include Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Heavenly, Keystone, Vail and Whistler Blackcomb. Vail Resorts recently added 17 new resorts in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic through an acquisition with Peak Resorts.
Winter Park has installed a new high-speed chairlift that grants access to the Mary Jane Territory at the resort. The new Sunnyside chair has been expanded to six seats and should cut ride times in half. The resort is also celebrating its 80th ski season and has plenty of activities and special events planned all season.
Wolf Creek is another ski resort celebrating its 80th season. As part of the celebration, the resort has revamped the nostalgic D. Boyce poma lift for this season. The classic platter lift was used for many years until the Treasure Lift was installed during the 1982-83 ski season. Over the summer, the lift received a new wire and tower safety circuits and is now ready for skiers who want to relive a piece of Wolf Creek ski history. Resort officials expect it to be a welcome addition to the mountain’s front side.
Turning a negative into a positive, the resort recently cleared terrain destroyed by beetles to make way for a new ski trail. The new run is called Orion’s Beltway and is rated beginner to intermediate. It is accessible via Pitch’s Gate or Serendipity. The trails lead into Orion’s Beltway and continue to Lower Feather Duster and then on to the Charity Jane Express bottom terminal.