Magazine article Sunset

Colorado's Quiet Slopes

Magazine article Sunset

Colorado's Quiet Slopes

Article excerpt

travel * recreation

Small, friendly ski areas keep winter sports accessible and affordable

* Vail this, Aspen that, Telluride the other-pick up the tabloids this time of year and Colorado's fabled ski resorts seem to be on every celebrity's winter ski-and-be-seen list. That's all well and good, but if your goal is just to get out on the snow, be it for family fun or some serious slope-busting, Colorado's best skiing isn't only at the megaresorts.

Often overlooked are the state's statistical small fry-- mountains with relatively few lifts relatively small acreage, and relatively modest verticals. Measure them bay what they don't have-in terms of lifts and lodges-and you miss the whole point. Ask the regulars and you'll find these areas stand as tall as Jack's beanstalk in all the things that skiers and snowboarders really care about.

Colorado's smallest operations are ski areas-not ski resorts. They have free parking and simple base lodges that sell inexpensive food. Folks are welcome to bring their own snacks too, and in special "brown bag rooms," parents parcel out brought-from-home lunches to hungry youngsters. Instead of high-speed chairlifts, the areas' double, triple, and only occasional quad chairs allow time to chat and admire the scenery during the ride.

These are destinations that don't know the meaning of "trendy," places where infrequent skiers - those who go just once or twice a winter - can feel at home. The prevailing fashion statement tends toward warm and functional clothing, vintage or not. Comfortable, broken-in boots, skis with a few dings on the top surfaces, and poles whose baskets don't match won't elicit haughty stares.

While most areas are geared toward families and beginners, a few cater to experienced skiers and snowboarders looking for challenging terrain and fewer crowds. And though skiing is never cheap, prices at most keep the cost of a family weekend escape manageable-even when adding lodging in a nearby town.

Colorado's small ski areas are ideal for people-whether beginners or experts-who rue the gradual disappearance of old-time skiing, who don't give a fig about fashion and like to experience the sheer joy of sliding down a snow-covered slope without breaking the bank.

Good places to get started

You'll find lots of good family skiing at Ski Cooper, Eldora, Powderhorn, Sunlight, SolVista, and Loveland Valley, the smaller component of the Loveland Ski Area. …

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