Posted: January 31, 2012

Bring on the powder!

Ski resort traffic steady if not spectacular this season

Maria Martin

TRAVEL_feb12.jpg

Die-hard skiers might be a little frustrated by the lack of snow in 2011, but not enough to keep them off the mountains, say the pros in Telluride, Vail, Winter Park and other towns.

While conditions aren't ideal, the traffic up I-70 has been steady, according to reports from communications directors at resorts around Colorado.
Though final figures weren't in for 2011, Colorado Ski Country communications director Jennifer Rudolph says she's heard it's been a mixed bag for resorts around the state.

"The weather certainly plays a significant role," says Rudolph, adding that the trade association represents 22 resorts. "Some are breaking records; others are holding their own."

The kinds of deals and discount packages that resorts have been offering to lure skiers up to the mountains during hard times are still in place, she says.

"Those vacation specials really helped them."

Those deals have certainly helped keep vacationers flowing into Breckenridge.

"We've seen roughly the same number of visitors as we had the year before, or even slightly more," says Rachel Zerowin, with the Breckenridge Resort Chamber. "We're looking forward to February and especially March, which is one of the snowiest months in Colorado. We're expecting those to be good months."

And if the snow conditions get you down, she says, there are still plenty of reasons to head for the hills.

"It's been unseasonably warm, and the weather has been simply beautiful, so it's a good time to get outside," she says. "Even if you're not skiing with the same fervor, Breckenridge is a great destination."

Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras and spring break all draw crowds to resorts up in the mountains, and for the savvy consumer, there are plenty of deals out there.

Winter Park Resorts draws families who return year after year for lodging deals and free activities, says Mistalynn Lee, communications manager for the resorts.

"We have a free daily activity through the season," Lee says, listing activities like smores by the fire and music. "You have powder, sunshine, and in the spring warmer temperatures that draw families outside."

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Valentine's Day brings some sweet deals at mountain resorts. Stay at the Lodge at Sunspot in Winter Park, for instance, and you can sign up for champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and a romantic gondola ride for two for $25.

If the specials on room rates and the skiing discounts aren't enough to entice you up to the mountains, festivities and events might be the extra push you need.

In Breckenridge, the International Snow Sculpture Championships, held this year Feb. 1-5, always draw big crowds, as do the town's Mardi Gras festivities, held Feb. 18-21.

In Vail, the Winter Teva Mountain Games, Feb. 10-12, feature competitions in ice climbing, mountain cyclocross, dual slalom biking, Nordic and telemark skiing, ski mountaineering and snowshoe racing.

At Keystone, Kidtopia, held March 10-14 and 17-21, will draw families with events like a giant snow fort with a maze and a slide, disco tubing and ice skating.

If you're new to skiing and have made "learn to ski" a resolution for 2012, many resorts offer great deals on lessons.

Winter Park's Ski & Ride School is celebrating 65 seasons of operations, and offers professional instructors for all levels of skiing and riding.
Trails for beginners and intermediate skiers are mostly all open in Vail and Breckenridge, says Kate Lessman, spokeswoman for Vail Resorts.
If you're a seasoned skier, several resorts in Colorado offer perks for the pro.

At the Little Nell in Aspen, the "Inside Tracks" program allows guests access to Aspen Mountain before the lift is open to the public. It's an especially prime perk for experienced skiers, who appreciate fresh powder, says Sally Spaulding, public relations manager for both the Little Nell and the Limelight in Aspen.

For skiers who appreciate going off the beaten path, the Peaks Resort & Spa in Telluride is home of the helitracks (heliskiing and heliboarding). Take off from the resort's heli-pad and take off for untouched powder.

While Telluride has received more snow than many other parts of the state, The Peaks Resort's communications manager can point to an attraction or two that even non-skiers will appreciate.

"Our spa is ranked high up by Conde Nast," says Brittanny Havard. A fully equipped fitness center with Pilates and Yoga studios, a three-lane lap pool, an indoor water slide, an indoor climbing wall, steam rooms, saunas and an outdoor heated pool help earn the spa its reputation, Havard says.

"It's really Telluride's best après-ski spot because we're facing west, and you can't beat the view of the San Juan mountains" she says.
Like many resorts in the state, it's child- and dog-friendly.

The Limelight in Aspen is also ideal for families, Spaulding says.

"We're seeing a lot of families from Denver," she says. "We've added a fleet of snowshoes at the front desk for folks who want to take a break from skiing so we're not so ski-centric. And we do family films on Wednesday night."

If you're ready to splurge, however, Spaulding suggests indulging in the Little Nell in Aspen. Deals now offer guests up to two free lift tickets included in the room rate.

"At the Little Nell, ski concierges will spoil you," Spaulding says. "It's Aspen's only five-star resort, and it's an amazing experience to stay there."

RESORT INFORMATION

Following is a list of some of the largest ski resorts in Colorado. For a more inclusive list of resorts around the state, visit www.coloradoski.com  

The Limelight Lodge in Aspen,
(970) 925-3025 or visit
www.limelightlodge.com

The Little Nell in Aspen,
(970) 920-4600 or visit
www.thelittlenell.com

The Peaks Resort and Spa in Telluride, (800) 789-2220 or
visit www.thepeaksresort.com

Winter Park Resort,
(303) 316-1564 or visit
www.winterparkresort.com

Breckenridge Ski Resort, (888) 672-5715 or visit breckenridgedestinations.com
Vail Ski Resort, (877) 650-9747
or visit www.vail.com
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Maria Martin is a freelance writer.

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